Europe

Georges Loinger: French hero who saved Jews in WW2 dies

Georges Loinger receives the Legion d'Honneur Image copyright AFP
Image caption Loinger received France's top award, the Legion d'Honneur, in 2005

French resistance fighter Georges Loinger, whose bravery and invention saved hundreds of Jewish children in World War Two, has died aged 108.

His death was announced by France's Holocaust Memorial Foundation.

Born in Strasbourg to a Jewish family, he was captured by the Nazis in 1940 but escaped.

One of the methods he used to save children was to take them to the Swiss border, then kick a football over the frontier and get them to chase it.

"I spotted a football pitch that was on the border. It was made up of fences two-and-a-half metres high. I saw that there was nobody," he said.

"I made the children play, I told some of them to lift up the fences and I passed the ball."

Loinger was serving in the French army when he was caught in 1940 but his blond hair and blue eyes apparently concealed the fact he was Jewish from his German captors and this enabled his escape from a prisoner of war camp.

Returning to France during the war he joined an aid agency trying to help Jewish children whose parents had been killed or sent to concentration camps.

Another method he used involved dressing children as mourners and taking them to a cemetery on the French-Swiss border, where they would climb up a gravedigger's ladder to neutral territory.

He is thought to have saved more than 350 children.

Loinger's cousin was another French resistance fighter, the mime artist Marcel Marceau.

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