Serving in the Struggle Against Nazism

Stand for Israel  |  August 14, 2023

Suzanne Spaak
(Photo: Yad Vashem)

Born in 1905 to a wealthy Belgian banking family, Suzanne Spaak settled into a life of privilege in Paris with her husband and two children. But then World War II broke out and the Nazis soon occupied France.

The Struggle Against Nazism

Her world shattered, Suzanne joined the French Resistance in order to stand up against Hitler’s evil regime. Because of Suzanne’s pampered upbringing, the other members of the Resistance at first doubted her ability to help. But she told them, “Tell me what to do…so I’ll know that I am serving in the struggle against Nazism.”

Suzanne’s bravery and heart meant that she was willing to do anything in order to save those – the Jewish people – who the Nazis meant to destroy. She searched Paris for hospitals willing to care for Jews who were in hiding. Her social status reminded those in high society of their duty to fight against the persecution of the Jewish people. She typed and passed out leaflets opposing the Nazis, and worked as an operative for the Resistance’s underground intelligence.

Serving and Saving Jewish Children

But, being a mother herself, Suzanne found herself drawn to the plight of Jewish children murdered by the Nazis. As the Nazis deported Jews – many of them children – to the death camps, Suzanne helped lead an operation with a French pastor. They smuggled more than sixty youngsters to safety, sheltering them in her home and providing them food and clothing.

In October 1943, the Gestapo arrested Suzanne. But before her arrest, she sneaked the list containing the names and addresses of the Jewish children she saved to a fellow Resistance member, saving the children’s lives. Sadly, Suzanne lost her own life because of her selfless actions, as the Nazis executed her on August 12, 1944, a mere week before Paris’ liberation.

Because of the Jewish lives she saved and the brave stand she took, Yad Vashem named Suzanne Spaak Righteous Among the Nations.