Paris: French Resistance hero Georges Loinger, who used his ingenuity and athletic prowess to save the lives of hundreds of Jewish children during World War II, has died in Paris at the age of 108.
A talented athlete and cousin of the famous mime artist and fellow Resistance member Marcel Marceau, Loinger would smuggle the children in small groups across the Franco-Swiss border by throwing a ball and telling them to run after it.
Another of his ruses involved him dressing children up as mourners and taking them to a cemetery whose wall abutted the French side of the border.
With the help of a gravedigger’s ladder the “mourners” would clamber over the wall and head for the border just feet away.
The children saved were under the responsibility of the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a children’s aid society founded in St Petersburg in 1912.
Loinger, who was awarded the Resistance Medal, the Military Cross and the Legion d’honneur, was born in Strasbourg in 1910.
Between April 1943 and June 1944, OSE workers and other rescuers helped hundreds of children escape to Switzerland across the lightly guarded border.
He alone is credited with saving at least 350 children
Recalling his wartime efforts in an interview published earlier this year, Loinger said he would train the children to run before telling them they were going to play ball near the border.
“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 told Tablet magazine.
“After that, the Italians left France and the German came in. It became too dangerous to play ball with the children like this. With the German we didn’t play these games,” he said.