The Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants, (literally, Work in the Aid of Children, but also known in English as the Society for Rescuing Children), is not originally a French organisation. It was formed in Saint Petersburg in 1912 to help Jewish children whose health had suffered because of persecution. The organisation itself was persecuted and moved first to Berlin, then to France, just before the Second World War.
With the German occupation and the beginning of killings and deportations, OSE expanded its efforts to save children, including two hundred German Jewish children who arrived between March and May, 1939. As the situation became more desperate, every effort was made to try to equip the children with the skills to survive. Many were also given new names and placed with families. There is a quite powerful documentary about one of the OSE orphanages, "The Children of Chabannes", which tells the story.
We visited the headquarters of the OSE in Paris to speak to the archivist for a woman who was rescued as a child, and who now lives in North America. She wanted to trace her brothers, if possible. She had tried searching the records at the Mémorial de la Shoah but, because her brothers were not deported, their names were not in that database. She did not know if they may not have been deported under different names -- perhaps those given by OSE -- or if they had survived. The archivist was able to find their records.
To find someone in the OSE records, write to the Archivist, giving as much information as possible:
- The child's birth name
- Date of birth
- Parents' names
- Siblings names
- An address
- Which orphanage the child was in
It is understood that it may not be possible to provide all of this information and the archivist encourages the inclusion of any memories about people or places, for this may help identify the orphanage. As their goal is to reunite families, there is a certain flexibility in allowing relatives to have access to the records.
The OSE continues as a very active charity providing help to many: the elderly, the handicapped, the homeless. It is possible to make a donation on their website. Click on "Dons".
117, rue du Faubourg-du-Temple
telephone: (+33) 01 53 38 20 20
©2010 Anne Morddel