History | January 30, 2021 6:00 am

French Village Receives $2.4M Decades After Hiding an Austrian Man From the Nazis

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon has a history of protecting those in need

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in France
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in the Haute-Loire region of France around 1950.
Roger Viollet Collection/Getty Images

In 1943, Eric Schwam and several members of his family arrived in the French town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon from Austria, where they had been trying to avoid capture by the Nazis. Residents of the town took them in and hid them from a horrific fate. As The Guardian notes in a recent article, they weren’t alone: Le Chambon-sur-Lignon gave shelter to around 2,500 Jewish people during World War II.

Schwam and his family stayed in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon until 1950, and he ended up marrying a woman from a nearby part of France. Schwam recently died at the age of 90, but he never forgot the town that kept him and his family safe; upon his death, he donated €2 million (or just over $2.4 million) to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. His one request, according to the article? That “the money be used for educational and youth initiatives, in particular scholarships.”

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is famous for its willingness to provide sanctuary to those in need, a reputation it has had for literally hundreds of years. (Stating the obvious: That’s a pretty great thing to be famous for.) A BBC article from 2018 points out how the village’s remote location and its own history helped contribute to its role providing aid and shelter to so many, and the many lives the village’s population helped save over the years.

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