Man leaves fortune to French village that saved Jews in WWII

Erich Schwam who died at the age of 90 left a “considerable sum” to Chambon-sur-Lignon, the only village in France to have received the honorary title ‘Righteous Among The Nations’ from the state of Israel

30 January 2021
A plaque in Chambon-sur-Lignon commemorating the town's efforts to shelter Jews from Nazis
By Connexion journalist

A man of Austrian origin, who died in December, has bequeathed a large amount of money to the village of Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), where he and members of his Jewish family found refuge after fleeing the Nazis in 1943.

The village mayor, Jean-Michel Eyraud said the amount was “substantial for the commune” but did not give the precise number. 

A sum of two million euros has been referred to in the local press.

Erich Schwam, who worked as a pharmacist for many years in Lyon, wrote in his will that he was leaving the money “as a thank you for the welcome given to me by residents during the war.” 

He also made donations to the charities Fondation APICIL, A Chacun Son Everest and the Société Protectrice des Animaux. 

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Mr Schwam, who died without children at the age of 90, wrote that his donation should go towards school activities and funding scholarships for higher education. 

Chambon-sur-Lignon in the Haute-Loire is the only village in France to have received the honorary title ‘Righteous Among The Nations’ from the state of Israel, which gives the title to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

From 1939–1944, the 20,000 inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and surrounding villages, hamlets and farms on the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon hid and looked after around 3,500 refugees, of which about a thousand were Jews. There is no record of anyone ever denouncing a neighbour in what has been called le miracle de silence.

Read more:

Secret history - Chambon-sur-Lignon

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