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.
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.