In September 1941 the children’s aid organization Union OSE reports on its activities for the months of June, July, and August1Archives de l’OEuvre de secours aux enfants, Paris, Fonds/Tchlenof. This document has been translated from French.
Report by the Union OSE for the months of June, July, and August 1941
The main areas of activity of the Union OSE2See Doc. 231. have remained the same, i.e.:
- Maintaining children’s homes;
- Supporting the organizations helping the displaced population of Alsace and Lorraine;
- Activities in assembly centres;
- Social assistance for refugees and other groups in need;
- Cooperative medical aid;
- Emigration of children to America – which has become a permanent field of our activity.
In addition to the above, a special branch of our activity has been added during the summer months:
- Sending destitute and debilitated children to summer camps and organizing these camps.
I. Children’s homes
Over the last three months, there was considerable movement of children in all of our homes, which somewhat hindered the organizational and consolidation measures that we had been pursuing in order to prepare the children for a new life of work and study. The main reason behind this movement was the departure of a large number of children for America and other countries. On 1 June, 111 children left for the United States, including 71 coming from our homes, and on 1 September, 91 children from our homes left in two convoys of 45 and 46 children, which makes a total of 162 children who left our homes. This departure was felt more keenly because the children for the most part came from our long-standing home in Montmorency and formed the hub of an organized and structured existence.
With the departure of these children, we turned our efforts to replacing them with new children, the majority of whom had recently been released from accommodation centres.3Centres d’hébergement: a reference to concentration and internment camps in France. These children were all in a very bad way physically, and considerably behind in their development. It was therefore not enough to admit them to our homes; we also had to keep a very close eye on them and provide them with special care. Moreover, this is specified in all the annual reports on our children’s homes.
As an example, here are several statistics which give an idea of the changes in the numbers of children in several of our homes during the period which interests us:
Children leaving Children arriving
Broût-Vernet 12 29
Montintin 32 13
Limoges Boarding School 12 16
Masgelier 34 36
Chabannes 26 30
This statistical sample shows the coming and going of children throughout the previous three months. It was not difficult for us to find candidates; the number was much higher than the number of places, and the only difficulty was choosing which ones to take. Nevertheless, there were specific technical difficulties concerning the admission of the children who came from the camps.
Our homes have always guaranteed a primary school education to all the children, and even a secondary school education for the most gifted. All of our children who have taken the examinations have obtained their certificate of study at the end of the school year. We took advantage of the holidays to complete the preparations for teaching physical education in our homes; a special instructor was hired to travel around the OSE homes and the homes which are subsidised by the OSE to train existing staff members as instructors who would be able to continue this task. The results turned out to be excellent. Apart from that, we took the children on big days out, with regular games outside once or twice a week.
Another activity that has developed considerably during the summer holidays is agricultural work. Obviously we do not have the opportunity at the moment to turn our children into specialized agricultural workers. We simply began with the goal of familiarizing the children with farm work, and we should point out that they quickly took to it. Some of the vegetable gardens, most notably those at Chabannes, Chaumont, and Masgelier, were cultivated so successfully that they contributed significantly to the improvement of the economic conditions in the homes and helped with food supplies. Even the youngest children worked energetically and contributed to the good harvest from the vegetable gardens.
Furthermore, the Jewish Scouts have set up a farm school with cattle, sheep, poultry, and rabbits, etc. where the children work with enthusiasm and which has yielded very good results.
In addition, some of the bigger and stronger children have tried their hands at being lumberjacks, not without success.
At the moment, in all the homes, we are getting ready for winter by checking the heating and building up supplies of fuel. The children participate in the work where possible.
Finally, we should mention that the activities of the apprenticeship workshops (leather work, sewing, joinery, shoemaking, etc.) continue as before.
1. OSE homes in the unoccupied zone:
As of 1 September, the number of children in our homes is as follows:
Les Morelles in Broût-Vernet (Allier) 98
Le Masgelier in Grand Bourg (Creuse) 139
Chaumont in Nainsat (Creuse) 94
Chabannes in St Pierre de Fursac (Creuse) 122
Montintin in Château Chervix (Haute-Vienne) 88
Boarding school in Limoges (Haute-Vienne) 56
Villa Mariana in St Raphaël (Var), whence la Feuilleraie was transferred 56
Mas-Jambost in Limoges, which in the meantime has been transferred 45
to Château Le Couret in Jonchère (Haute-Vienne)
2. OSE homes in the occupied zone:
Paris and Bordeaux 110 children
3. Children placed in the Hérault
(under the responsibility of the OSE) 40
4. Homes subsidized by the OSE
(Moissac and Beaulieu Homes) 300
Nursery of the medical assistance service in Limoges 53 353
total 1201 children
Comparing this number with that in the previous trimester’s report,4See the Union OSE’s activity report for the months of April, May, and June 1941: Archives de l’OEuvre de secours aux enfants, Paris, Fonds/Tchlenof. which was 1,109, we note an increase of 92 children.
The number of empty places on 1 September 1941: 190. These places are reserved for children from the accommodation centres, who will be admitted in September. We have already obtained the necessary authorization to admit eighty children, and others will follow shortly.
To fill the empty places temporarily, we admitted to our children’s homes refugee children from the main urban centres who were in need of rejuvenation in the fresh air and of additional nourishment. These children were taken in during the summer holidays and stayed in our homes for four to six weeks. In this way we welcomed 19 children from Marseilles, 21 from Toulouse, 22 from Lyons, and 80 from the Haute-Vienne and Dordogne, making a total of 142. Other children will be taken in in September.
C. Profile of the children
Few changes occurred during the period under consideration. The children from Central Europe who left our homes were replaced by children who for the most part came from Baden and the Palatinate,5See Doc. 252. released through our efforts from the Rivesaltes and Gurs camps.6The Union OSE attempted to secure the release of children who were being held in the camps on their own or with their families by offering to accommodate and care for them in children’s homes. Many of the children thus admitted have parents; this brought down the number of orphans, which now stands at just 12 per cent.
We therefore have:
- Children who are refugees from Central Europe and have no contact with their parents 270
- Children from the accommodation centres 282
- Polish children whose parents have disappeared or are in the occupied zone 325
- Orphans and half-orphans 132
- Children whose parents are in the free zone but are unable to feed them 192
The series of tragic cases encountered during the last quarter has continued, and we have often been obliged to admit to our homes on an emergency basis children whom our welfare service has picked up practically in the streets. In the majority of cases they are alone in the world, without support or resources, and it is impossible for us not to take them in.
D. Health and hygiene
To illustrate the state of health of the children in our homes, below is an extract from a medical report by Dr Wolf,7Dr René Wolf, paediatrician from Strasbourg. a paediatrician at the Marseilles OSE-Unitarian Socio-Medical Centre, who examined the children before their departure for America:
49 children from different OSE homes who were to leave for America underwent a full examination at the centre, including urine tests, tuberculin skin tests, and a summary examination of the eyes and ears.
It is most pleasing to observe that almost all were in a good and often a very good state of health. The number of positive tuberculin skin test results (6 slight, 1 moderate, and 2 severe) is relatively low. The three children with moderate or severe results had an x-ray, with two of them testing negative.
There are few cases of illness and no epidemics to report in the past three months. Special care and attentive supervision were given to the children who had come from the camps, almost all of whom were weakened and suffering from various skin conditions. When they arrived in our homes, these children were carefully isolated from the other children for a certain period of time.
We were able to obtain good quality clothing and shoe vouchers for our children and, thanks to the special aid from the American [Jewish] Joint Distribution Committee, it was even possible to make some purchases to overcome certain shortages in the outfitting of our children this winter. Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to purchase large quantities of warm clothing because of the high prices; so we must really try hard to find a solution for this problem, which we hope to resolve eventually.
F. Problems we face in our work
The problem which preoccupies us at the moment is how to find a trade for those of our children who are going to turn fifteen or sixteen. We therefore attach great importance to the development of the workshops that the ORT organized in our homes, and to setting up the farm schools and agricultural training sites. The ORT helps us a great deal in this work, but we are nevertheless under a heavy financial burden, since we need not only to house the young people, but also to cover the cost of their apprenticeships and teaching in state schools. Some progress was made with regard to organizing workshops at our homes: one example is the leather workshop in Chabannes, which is well known throughout the region and where items are made that have been displayed at charity sales and festivals in aid of prisoners of war. Our task now is to expand the existing workshops, to open new ones in the homes which do not yet have one, and to diversify training.
II. Aid to organizations helping the displaced population of Alsace and Lorraine
The organization in charge of helping the refugee population of Alsace is Les oeuvres d’aide sociale israélite aux populations repliées d’Alsace et de Lorraine,8Les OEuvres d’aide sociale israélite aux populations repliées d’Alsace et de Lorraine (OSR) was established in Strasbourg in Nov. 1939. Following the German invasion of France, the administration of this charitable organization was moved to Périgueux, with Rabbi René Hirschler as its head. which is based in Périgueux and subsidized by us. An intensive social and medical monitoring system was set up during the summer holidays. Around 1,000 children are monitored in this way, grouped into youth centres, clubs, etc. During the last three months, fruit, vegetables, and preserves were distributed.
The three main centres in the Dordogne where the refugees with whom we are concerned have been assembled are Bergerac (with 112 children, including 60 placed in an orphanage subsidized by the OSR), Périgueux (more than 409The figure in the scan is unclear; there could be an additional zero. children), and Terrasson (54 children).
The other départements to which the social aid under discussion has been extended are Indre, Haute-Vienne, and Basses-Alpes. Around 2,000 children are benefiting from this aid.
Medical visits by the community care team: during the months of July and August, the teamvisited 26 locations, reaching an overall population of 30,000 people, including 4,400 refugees; 263 adult consultations and 83 children’s consultations were given; 482 home visits, including the delivery of food and food supplements were carried out, and prescriptions were distributed.
The lack of cars makes it very difficult for the team to get around. They have to travel by bicycle. But the presence of social welfare workers locally helps to mitigate this disadvantage, and furthermore we have a good relationship with the local doctor.
The problems arising in this domain are first and foremost the increase in the size of the children’s homes and the youth groups, and above all the need for new resources to increase the clothing supply. Thanks to the collections of second-hand clothing, we have already managed to clothe 160 children, but the problem is not yet completely solved. Finally, we want to set up dispensaries in the main centres, which requires quite some effort and a great number of formalities.
III. Activities in the assembly centres
Few changes have taken place in the division and distribution of the camps since the last quarter. The two main centres of our activity remain the Gurs and Rivesaltes camps, where, in agreement with the authorities, we are systematically pursuing efforts for the benefit of the children.
The work is directed, as previously, by the OSE delegate10Andrée Salomon (1908–1985), secretary; general secretary of the Zionist organization Ghalei, 1932–1939; worked at the central committee of the Alliance israélite universelle (AIU), 1939; head of the OSE’s aid organization and representative at the Gurs and Rivesaltes camps, 1940–1942; head of the General Union of French Jews (UGIF), the body that supervised the Jewish children’s homes, from March 1942 to Sept. 1944; again head of the OSE’s aid organization, 1945–1947; deputy secretary general of the French branch of the Women’s International Zionist Organization; emigrated to Israel in 1970. and the social welfare worker11Ruth Lambert (1914–1987), teacher; social welfare worker for the OSE at Gurs camp from Feb. 1941 to July 1943; subsequently worked for the OSE in Switzerland. resident in the camp.
The number of children is: 63 under 14 years of age;
27 between 14 and 18 years of age;
Our activity continues along the same lines, which is to say the distribution of food supplies to children, medical work, and the organization of leisure and educational activities for the children.
Some improvement was brought about in the sense that the administration authorized the organization of twice-weekly outings for the children outside of the camp. These walks take place under the supervision of social welfare workers and a guardian; the welfare workers plan the walks together, and a snack is arranged for the children each time.
Food supplies: basic staples and fruit are distributed to the children at the Secours Suisse–OSE12The charity organization Secours suisse aux enfants was funded by the Swiss Red Cross. The organization sent the nurse Elsbeth Kasser to Gurs camp to coordinate aid work. cafeteria. Fruit, vegetables, and flour are provided by the OSE; dairy products, rice, and chocolate by the Secours Suisse. Sometimes special distributions take place, particularly of gingerbread and sweets. Several tonnes of products have been distributed in this way during this last quarter. In the month of August in particular, progress was made in the meals served to the children in the cafeteria. Below is a sample menu for one week:
Monday: rice pudding, fruit;
Tuesday: noodles cooked in milk, fruit;
Wednesday: barley and tapioca soup, preserves;
Thursday: milk soup, cheese, fruit;13‘Friday’ (vendredi) has been crossed out.
Saturday: milk chocolate, cheese.
Clothing: A large distribution of diverse personal effects was made from our former stocks, principally shirts, jumpers, vests, aprons, stockings, etc.
Social medicine: the Gurs nursery has grown. Number of babies: there are 13 now, as well as 13 mothers. There were four births during the month of August. No births in June or July. This work is undertaken in close and harmonious collaboration with the Unitarian Service Committee,14The Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston established the USC in May 1940 to support refugees. which distributed fabric to make baby clothes, sheets, and hand towels through our aid organization.
Our aid organization obtained different instruments which we bought and gave to the chief physician,15Dr Laclau. including syringes, thermometers, scalpels, etc. In addition to these, we acquired several couches for the tuberculosis patients from Block L and for convalescent patients.
Release of children: Given the relatively small number of children in Gurs camp, our release efforts over the last three months have mostly been concerned with the children in Rivesaltes. Nevertheless, at the end of the period that concerns us, thirteen of the children from Gurs were put forward for release and placement in our homes in the Creuse département. The paperwork is now almost complete, and the children should shortly be transferred to our homes. We hope that other releases will follow.
Problems: In light of what has just been stated, our principal task must be the development of our social assistance work and the release of a new group of children.
Our social work in Rivesaltes camp has now been completely consolidated. In addition, a Secours Suisse–Quakers–OSE cafeteria for children was organized in Block K, barrack 12, and formally opened on 1 September, with numerous guests and representatives of participating aid organizations in attendance. The children regularly come to the cafeteria and receive food, which is extremely important for them; the positive impact on their health is already noticeable. The cafeteria barrack was set up with care, and it is well lit and furnished with big tables and benches; the walls are decorated, and the overall effect is very inviting. Independently of the other distributions, the children have rice pudding five times per week in the morning, and milk in the afternoon. The provision of food is divided up as follows: the Secours Suisse provides themilk products, the Quakers provide the pulses, the OSE provides the fruits, vegetables, and the Bruzarine.16Powdered nutritional supplement. One can say that this cafeteria has been a particularly successful initiative.
Activity centres: The organization of children’s activity centres is almost complete. Children are already attending them and are kept busy there according to their ages and aptitudes. A special barrack was furnished for this purpose. They draw, read, copy, the youngest play; all under attentive supervision. Like the cafeteria, the influence of the activity centres on the physical and mental health of the children is considerable, and the high levels of child mortality that we saw last summer have diminished thanks to these institutions.
Medical work: The camps’ chief physician,17Gérard Lefebvre. helped in large measure by our social welfare worker,18Vivette Samuel (1919–2006), social welfare worker; studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, 1936–1940; expelled under the provisions of the Statute on Jews; social welfare worker for the OSE, initially at Rivesaltes camp, from July 1941 to June 1942, and then in Limoges and Marseilles, from June 1942 to March 1944; later a member of a Jewish underground organization; worked for the OSE again from 1954; director of the OSE, 1979–1985. coordinates the medical work. Recently he was officially appointed the physician for the schools in Rivesaltes, which allows him to carry out medical examinations of around 2,000 children. In addition, he looks after several groups of particularly undernourished adults who number around 600 or so, to whom the cafeteria distributes various foodstuffs.
The general state of health, which had deteriorated during the particularly hot months because of the spread of enteritis and acute dysentery, has somewhat improved. The infirmary and the dispensary are operating as before, as well as the special infirmary for children, headed by the camp’s chief physician.
Release of children: As always, this question constitutes our primary concern. Obviously, we are doing what we can to improve the situation of the interned children, and there has been some progress in this respect, such as we have already seen. That does not change the fact that for a child, a prolonged period in a camp represents a permanent threat, and we must try hard to get as many of them released as possible.
Some progress has beenmade in the sense that in this quarter, the number of children released was double that of the previous quarter. The authorities gave us permission in many of these cases. For greater clarity, below is a table showing the numbers of children released during the last quarter:
- For the OSE homes in the Creuse département 49
For the Hérault département 40
(children under our care placed in Palavas and in families)
For the nursery in Limoges (funded by the OSE) 12
For the homes of the Jewish Scouts in Moissac 12
(funded by the OSE)
- For the homes of the Secours Suisse in Sarcenas 15
For the nursery of the Secours Suisse in Banyuls 4
- For the American Aid Camp for Czechoslovak children 12
Total 145 children19The correct total is 144.
This figure of 145 children released from Rivesaltes camp and placed in various children’s homes shows how this aspect of our activity is growing. We hope to continue this work of getting children released, in collaboration with the authorities, and to get other children released in the next quarter. Even now, releases have been announced for the month of September.
Main problems: We are endeavouring to consolidate our relief work at the camp by hiring an additional social welfare worker. More particularly, we want to develop the work of the cafeteria and the activity centres, to expand medical provision in the camp, and above all to continue the work of getting children released.
3. Aid services for the sick in hospitals
This service continues to function in the Basses-Pyrénées département, where our aid organization particularly looks after the sick from Gurs camp, who are cared for at the Mixed Hospital in Pau (indeed, according to the latest information received, there are no longer any patients from Gurs in the Laherrère wing). The latest numbers put the number of patients at thirty-five, several of whom are amputees and serious cases. Our assistant provides them with both moral and material support, and she is one of the great comforts for their families who are still in Gurs.
IV. Social assistance for refugees and groups in need
This work, which began last winter, has been developing gradually. We expanded our network of social welfare agencies in different départements, and their number is growing.
In the Montpellier and Béziers districts, the work is coordinated by our chief physician, his assistant physician, and our three assistant social welfare workers. Regular medical examinations and the distribution of food and clothes are organized within the given constraints.
We have managed to improve the situation of the children and their families somewhat, from a social and sanitary point of view, and obtained certain facilities from the authorities for the teaching of children.
The reports by the assistants who visited the camp20The internment camp at Agde was constructed in Feb. 1939 and accommodated 15,000–18,000 refugees until its closure in Nov. 1942. show that the families are more or less adequately housed. In a few of the centres, such as Ledèvre for example, almost all the men have been given work contracts in agriculture and tree felling.
Those children who have been released from the camps and for whom we can get an authorization from the Hérault Prefecture are for the most part placed in the Solarium de Palavas home21The former Saint-Roch Sanatorium in Palavas-les-Flot was used to assemble Jewish children who had been released before they were allocated to other homes. at our expense. They attend school up until the age of 14. Those over 14 have been placed in apprenticeships with various skilled craftsmen through our efforts. The director of the Solarium home, who shows a lively interest in our work, permanently holds twenty-five places for us.
We continue to work with the Montpellier Refugee Assistance Committee;22Committee for Assistance to Refugees (CAR). our physician and our assistant use their premises for consultations and to distribute products such as Bruzarine, jam, medicines, etc.
A large number of children from the Hérault département have been sent to summer camps organized by the OSE. These are covered in a special section of this report.
We have once again intensified our collaboration with all of the aid organizations from Marseilles. The work continues in the refugee centres at the Levant, Bompard, Terminus, and Atlantique hotels,23On the establishment of mandatory places of residence (résidences assignées) for Jewish refugees, see Doc. 242, fn. 2. In the case mentioned here, the refugees were housed in rented hotels. as well as at Les Milles camp.
1. In the Terminus and Atlantique hotels, we distribute food supplements and special diets for the elderly and the sick. All the children in these hotels are regularly examined by the medical service of the Levant Hotel, and we have sent the most weakened to our summer camps, as the food provided in these hotels was insufficient.
Nine children from the Terminus Hotel were released during the month of August, and we were able to find places for them.
2. We have been working at the Bompard Hotel since June. The Unitarian Service Committee and the OSE organized leisure activities and education for a total of 50 children. Lessons are arranged for the older children twice a day, morning and afternoon; they are taught by a primary school teacher24Huguette Wahl. who is resident there. She also looks after the little ones and supervises their naps after lunch up until the afternoon snack.
The director of the hotel was willing to create a play area for the children.
Finally, religious instruction and English language lessons were organized in the month of July.
The social welfare worker from the OSE office in Marseilles25Hélène Salmon. comes to the Bompard Hotel twice a week. She is in charge of placing the children and provides services to pregnant women.
Four children were released in the month of August.
3. Our work at the Les Milles camp has intensified somewhat lately. Above all, we have endeavoured to intervene on behalf of the most seriously ill. The Unitarian Service Committee has given us a special budget, which has allowed us to provide orthopaedic equipment for the sick.
4. Our activity at the Levant Hotel has slowed down slightly because a fairly large number of children have already been placed elsewhere. Nevertheless, significant social work and work with families are still required in this centre. We have sixty children under our supervision and give them regular nutritional aid. We have thirty children in the centre’s nursery school.
5. Centre for social medicine. Organized by the Unitarian Service Committee and the OSE Union, this centre has officially been in operation since 9 July. As early as the first fortnight, 230 consultations were provided to 150 registered participants, which is clear proof of how necessary the establishment of this centre was. For example, in the month of August the dispensary saw 631 new individuals sign up for consultations, including 291 children, and the total number of consultations was 1,723.
The paediatric service is run by a physician from the OSE who follows the children closely. Home visits are also organized. A dental service and a bandaging and prosthetics service are also in operation.
Our OSE committee in Lyons is currently being set up. We already have two social welfare workers26Élisabeth Hirsch, née Böegy (b. 1913), and Myriam Salon (b. 1920). who spent the summer months identifying the children from the region who are most weakened and in the greatest need in order to send them to the summer camps that we organized. Through this process 66 children from Lyons were sent to the summer camps. In addition, four children have been placed in different homes over the past month.
Our aid work extends to about 500 children, mostly refugees from Algeria and Morocco.
Our assistants have established contact with social aid organizations in Lyons which have already been working in the area for some time and thereby paved the way for possible collaboration, which can only be of benefit to us.
V. Aid for destitute physicians
In the last quarter, the number of destitute physicians in the free zone to whom we are providing aid has risen by 26, bringing the total number up to 189. Unfortunately, we do not have precise information about their numbers in the occupied zone. The number of requests for aid goes up every day, and we are not yet able to follow up on all of them in the manner in which we would like. Fortunately, the Entr’aide Française Israélite27The Entr’aide française israélite (EFI) was responsible for coordinating the charitable work of the Jewish aid organizations CAR, ORT, and OSE. was willing to help us in this philanthropic task by taking on part of the budget, specifically that of aid to French physicians.
At present, we are making preparations for a physicians’ training facility in Bron (near Lyons). This will provide communal living for a group of young, unmarried physicians who will learn to work the land, do some agricultural and forestry work, and attend courses in medical massage, prosthetics, etc. at the University of Lyons, in order to be able to earn their living later in a field that requires medical skills. The home has been set up, and thirty or so candidates have been identified to start there when it opens.
VI. Emigration of children to the United States
In our last quarterly report, we gave details on how we organized the departure of the first convoy of 111 children for the United States, which was only possible and brought about thanks to the complete and very efficient support of the American Quakers and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
After the departure of the first convoy, we were not entirely certain that it would be possible to continue this work. Nevertheless, it was possible to follow it up, thanks as always to the efforts of the Quakers and the Joint [Distribution committee], and also to the initiative and energy of our American committee. The American government granted us one hundred new visas for children under 16 years of age. The news arrived in Marseilles very suddenly, and we had to work very hard to prepare all the files, get the children together, and complete all the formalities and paperwork. Our Marseilles office worked night and day to get everything ready by the set date. The children were assembled at the Levant Hotel’s refugee centre, and we tried very hard to brighten up their stay as best we could by organizing food distribution, games, and walks under the supervision of two of our primary school teachers from Masgelier, and by looking after the children right up to their departure. Finally, on 13 August, the first group of the second convoy, made up of 45 children, left Marseilles and sailed from Lisbon on the 20th. The second group of the second convoy was due to leave on 3 September. The majority of the children came from our homes, but there were also some from Seyre, Beurbeule, and other places.
We had the pleasure of spending several hours with the children on the train that took them to the Spanish border. The children behaved with great dignity and were fully conscious of the complete change of existence that awaited them and of the new life that lay before them. Since then we have had confirmation that they have arrived safely.
Problems that we are facing: The main problem concerning us at present is that of the emigration of children who have slightly exceeded the age limit of 16 and who therefore find themselves unable to emigrate with their younger brothers and sisters. As in most cases, these children have no one else in the world and find themselves in a situation with no way out. It is very important and urgent that we resolve this question so that brothers and sisters are not separated. Steps have been taken in this regard in America, and we eagerly await what we hope will be a favourable outcome.
VII. Summer camps
We decided to take advantage of the summer months by organizing convoys of particularly weakened and impoverished children and sending them to our summer camps, set up through our efforts and those of the Jewish Scouts. Obviously nothing is as valuable for these weakened children as a stay in the countryside with good food and under good hygienic conditions, and this is also the best preparation for winter, which will soon be upon us. We therefore devoted all of our attention to resolving this matter.
Our guiding principle in choosing children to send to the summer camps was to look at the parents’ social status and the conditions in which the children were living at home. Because of the large number of children from refugee or displaced families living in quite difficult social and sanitary conditions, we were only able to send each group for three or four weeks. In a few exceptional cases, however, we did allow the children to stay in the summer camp for as long as six weeks.
The summer camps were organized either in our children’s homes in the Creuse, Haute-Vienne, and Allier départements, where the children were housed together with those who live in the homes, or in the form of youth camps, most notably at Fillele (Pyrénées-Orientales département) and at Mont-Ravard.
The children who came to our homes all benefited from their stay, as indicated by the chart recording weight gain sent to us by all of our directors, which shows an average gain of 1,500 grams.
The largest of the summer camps in terms of the number of children was organized in Montintin. These children, numbering 112 in July and 88 in August, were divided into several groups, and each group was supervised by one of the staff members from the home, who looked after them. Games, walks, and excursions were organized. A great family spirit reigned in the summer camp. Courses were organized for the older ones. All the children indulged in the joy of gardening. On rainy days, there was reading time and opportunities for drawing and decoupage. The children were happy with their stay, and from the point of view of their health, it was very beneficial to them.
Regarding the Scout camps, the biggest was that at Fillols, which brought together 125 campers and was run by a camp leader and a deputy assistant. The house was composed of two rooms where the children slept, as well as a storeroom; the campers also had three tents. We provided them with a medical kit and key medical supplies. The children were supervised by a doctor. Leisure activities were organized, and scouting principles were applied in a very relaxed manner.
To give a clearer idea of the extent of our activity in this area, below are a few figures to support what has been stated above:
Children from the Bouches-du-Rhône département:
July group: 11 children sent to Dieulefit
August group: 20 children sent to the Creuse département
September group (planned): 30 children
Total: 61 children
Children from the Hérault département:
July group: 40 children sent to Fillols
August group: 37 scouts sent to Fillols
September group (planned): 38 children to be sent to Fillols
Total: 115 children
Children from the Haute-Vienne and Dordogne départements:
July group: 112 children sent to Montintin
August group: 88 children sent to Montintin
Total: 200 children
Children from the Rhône département:
July group: 26 children sent to the Scout camp
September group (planned): 50 children
Total: 76 children
Children from the Haut-Garonne département:
8 children sent to Montintin
11 children sent to Broût-Vernet
Total: 19 children
Children from the Puy-le-Dôme département:
4 children sent to the Scout camp
This comes to a total of 49528The correct number is 475. children placed in summer camps through our efforts, thanks to generous donations from individuals which allowed us to carry out this important programme.
With this report, we have given an insight into the extremely varied work of the OSE Union in the different areas of its activity. As always, we have been able to implement our programme thanks to the financial support of the American [Jewish] Joint Distribution Committee and financial support from friends of our organization who have helped us with different undertakings, most notably with regard to the summer camps.
In conclusion, we can say that the main problem which will henceforth be our focus is that of guaranteeing a future for our adolescents, on the one hand by trying to find them a trade that will allow them to earn a living, and on the other hand by working to obtain an extension of the age limit for child immigration from the American government.