Stand for Israel | October 12, 2021
So many Advocates and Allies of the Jewish people who we learn about rescued Jewish children during the Holocaust. “Aunt Maria” definitely fits this category.
A Jewish Hospital During the Holocaust
Born to a Christian family in Chile in 1893, Maria Errazuriz moved to Paris by the 1930s, where she worked as a social worker. Her responsibilities at Rothschild Jewish Hospital expanded to much more than that of social worker, however, as the Nazis overran France and its capital.
From the Nazi occupation in 1942, Maria made it her mission to save as many Jewish lives as she could. The Germans turned the hospital pavilions into barbed-wire detention facilities. As soon as sick Jewish patients held there recovered, the Nazis deported them to death camps.
Maria began assisting another social worker, a Jewish woman named Claire Heyman, with running an escape network for the hospital’s Jewish patients. The women gave Jews false papers that either allowed them to be transferred to gentile facilities, or for children, to be placed with foster families.
On the morning of July 16, 1942, the Nazis arrested an eight-year-old girl – an eight-year-old girl! – named Betty Fridman. They arrested (and deported) Betty’s father had been arrested the year before. Now Betty and her mother faced the same treatment.
Betty’s mother fell ill while held by the Nazis. Transferred with her mother to Rothschild Hospital, Betty found herself in the care of “Aunt Maria”… Maria Errazuriz. Maria sheltered the girl in the hospital’s infectious disease unit. This saved little Betty’s life. Sadly, the Nazis sent Betty’s mother to Auschwitz, where they murdered her.
But Aunt Maria and Aunt Claire arranged for Betty’s escape from the hospital, and continued to care for her even after the war ended.
Betty never forgot the “aunts” who saved her life. Neither did two other Jewish children, Jean and Andre Frydman, only 4 and 1 when the Nazis murdered their parents, kept in contact with the woman who saved their lives. And Maria Errazuriz’s good deeds did not go unnoticed by the French people or the Jewish people. The Legion of Honor decorated her for her help to the Resistance, and in 2005, Yad Vashem named her Righteous Among the Nations.