Mennonite Is Righteous for Saving French Jews

Lois Gunden, an American Mennonite who helped save Jewish children in France during the Holocaust, was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

The Israeli Holocaust memorial made the announcement on Monday. Gunden becomes the fourth American to be named a Righteous Gentile.

Gunden will be honored posthumously at a ceremony to take place in the United States. Her niece Mary Jean Gunden will accept the medal and certificate of honor on her behalf.

Gunden, a French teacher from Goshen, Ind., in 1941 went to southern France to serve with the Mennonite Central Committee. She joined the Secours Mennonite aux Enfants in Lyon and was sent to establish a children’s home in Canet Plage, located on the Mediterranean Sea. The children’s center became a safe haven for the children of Spanish refugees as well as for Jewish children, many of whom were smuggled out of the nearby internment camp of Rivesaltes.

Gunden personally interceded to save Jewish children, including reassuring parents that she would take care of them, and shielding them from the Nazis. In November 1942, the Germans occupied southern France. Although Gunden was considered an enemy alien after the United States entered the war, she continued to run the children’s center.

Two months later, Gunden was detained by the Germans until she was released in 1944 in a prisoner exchange, later returning to her home in Indiana. Gunden joins Varian Fry and Waitstill and Martha Sharp as Americans to be named Righteous Gentiles.

Written by


Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Mennonite Is Righteous for Saving French Jews

Thank you!

This article has been sent!