On 7 June, the Notre-Dame de Sion Evry Grand Bourg school honoured the memory of one Religious and seven Sisters of Our Lady of Sion who were involved in saving Jews during the Second World War.
“Righteous Among the Nations” is a title granted by the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem to non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust. The title comes with a medal bearing the inscription: “Whoever saves a life saves the whole universe”.
The school named the main walkway of its grounds “Allée des Justes” (Path of the Righteous), as a tribute to the eight “Righteous Among the Nations” of the male and female Notre Dame de Sion congregations.
These people, helped by other NDS members, worked within a network of individuals from all walks of life who were not willing to turn a blind eye to the antisemitic persecution. They acted mainly in France, Belgium and Italy.
At the inauguration event, they were presented one by one by teachers, NDS sisters and others connected with the school.
Mother Marie Magda (Marthe Zech) and Sister Joséphine (Denise Paulin-Aguadich) provided false identity papers and food, hid girls in their boarding schools, contributed to finding safe lodgings in farms and helped people reach Switzerland.
Mother Marie Francia (Gabrielle de Linarès) and Sister Agnes Maria (Emma Navarro) hid children, procured false identity cards and medical certificates in order to send children to safe places for reasons of health, and helped some to flee from Paris. Mother Francia refused to hand children in her care over to the police, and sent them to safe places elsewhere.
Father Théomir Devaux was involved in finding false papers and hiding places for those in danger of deportation, both children and adults, and raised funds to provide food for them.
Mother Marie Dora (Anna Otto) hid children in the Antwerp boarding school using false names.
Mother Marie Augustine (Virginie Badetti) and Mother Marie Agnesa (Emilie Benedetti) sheltered entire families in the NDS orphanage in Rome for ten months. They obtained documents from the Vatican prohibiting searches, and resisted a German attempt to enter the house.
Monsignor Pansard, Bishop of Evry, spoke of the Righteous in the Bible before blessing the path.
Plaques bearing the names of the eight NDS “Righteous” flank the newly baptised Allée des Justes, to remind all those who walk along it, as heirs of the past and actors of the present, to maintain a relationship of truth with history.
Sandrine Bathilde, principal of the school, thanked those who helped create the memorial path. “Evoking resistance to passive submission to an extremist ideology and the responsibility of people who are witnesses to History,” she said. “It awakens consciences to the errors of humanity.”
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion carry out and support educational initiatives to make the history of the Jewish people during the Second World War better known.