One of the heralded heroes of the Holocaust, Georges Loinger, has been credited with saving countless Jewish children during World War II with incredibly creative means. Sadly, the French Resistance hero has passed away in Paris at the age of 108.
According to an interview with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Loinger was born August 29, 1910, and coincidentally was the cousin of fellow Resistance member Marcel Marceau. Because of his incredible athletic prowess, he studied physical education and served in the military. Frighteningly, he was captured and imprisoned, but escaped from Stalag 7A near Munich, Germany.
Loinger loved children and his wife, Flore, served as a caregiver to 125 Jewish-German children at Baroness Rothschild’s Cheateau de la Guette near Lagny, Seine-et-Marne, in France. He worked as a physical education trainer for Compagnons de France, and possessed official government documents that allowed him to pursue his resistance work and travel throughout France.
When Loinger discovered children in need of rescue, he would smuggle them in small groups across the Franco-Swiss border in quite the genius way. He would toss a ball and instruct them to run after it, thereby placing them in a safe zone across the border, reported France 24.
“I threw the ball a hundred metres (yards) toward the Swiss border and told the children to run and get the ball. They ran after the ball and this is how they crossed the border,” he said in the interview with the museum. “After that, the Italians left France and the Germans came in. It became too dangerous to play ball with the children like this. With the German we didn’t play these games.”
Loinger also dressed children up as mourners and escorted them to a cemetery that had a wall sitting right next to the French side of the border. By using a gravedigger’s ladder, the children would quickly scamper over the wall and leap across the border safely to the other side. All of the children he saved were under the responsibility of the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a children’s aid society founded in St. Petersburg in 1912.
From April 1943 to June 1944, volunteers with this group rescued hundreds of children and helped them escape to Switzerland. Loinger alone is credited with saving at least 350 children. For his amazing life-saving efforts of hundreds of children that would have been “exterminated,” he was awarded the Resistance Medal, the Military Cross, and the Legion d’honneur.