Jewish Man Leaves $2.4 Million To French Village Who Hid His Family From Nazis

Illustrative: Nazi soldiers march through Paris, France, October 24, 1940. (AP)

A Jewish man who fled Nazi-occupied Austria with his family during the Holocaust bequeathed a large part of his personal fortune to the French village whose residents saved his family members from the Nazis along with thousands of other Jews.

Eric Schwam, who passed away at the age of 90 in late December, instructed in his will to give about $2.4 million to the remote mountain village of Chambon-sur-Lignon in southeast France. Schwam did not leave behind any children and the sum was a large part of his fortune.

“It’s a large amount for the village,” Mayor Jean-Michel Eyraud told AFP.

In 2004, then-French President Jacques Chirac visits Chambon sur Lignon, the small village that rescued thousands of Jews during World War II.(AP/Patrick Kovarik)

Schwam and his extended family arrived in Chambon-sur-Lignon in 1943 and were hidden by the villagers, along with between 3,000 to 5,000 other Jews. Village residents were later recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in Israel, one of only two locales collectively honored by Yad Hashem. (The other is Nieuwlande, in the Netherlands.)

President Jacques Chirac gestures as he visits Chambon sur Lignon’s former train station, central France, Thursday July 8, 2004. Between 3,500 and 5,000 Jews were hidden by villagers, mostly Protestants, during WWII. Behind is Nazi death camp survivor Simone Veil while at left is mayor Francis Valla. (AP Photo/Patrick Gardin)

The village residents, who have been primarily Huguenot or Protestant since the 17th century, had a history of sheltering those in need even before the Holocaust, including sheltering priests fleeing the French Revolution and Spanish Civil War refugees.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)