Thursday, 5 January 2006

Ginette, Yad Vashem
and the House of Lords

A friend of ours named Ginette lived in France during World War II. We have known her for many years, but only recently heard the story of what she did as a young girl.

In 1941 her parents, Georges and Eva Rouquet, owned a greengrocer's shop in Villeneuve-sur-Lot in south west France, and in 1943 Ginette moved there from Paris. Among the customers of the Rouquets were a Jewish couple, Raymond and Marthe Friedman, who had fled Nazi-occupied Paris with their 13-year-old son Jacques. When arrests of Jews became more frequent Georges and Eva hid the Friedmans in the attic space above their shop, while Jacques was boarded at a school nearby, provided with false papers by the headmaster and frequently visited by Ginette.
By May 1944 the tension in Villeneuve had grown so much that the Friedmans had to flee again. Ginette managed to provide Raymond with false papers and the family left separately to stay with a friend of Georges who lived in the Black Mountains and had agreed to shelter them. Ginette accompanied Jacques on the journey.

It was through the actions of Ginette and her parents, at great risk to themselves, that the Friedmans survived the Holocaust. In recent years Ginette renewed her friendship with the young boy Jacques Friedman—now 75 years old—who wrote an account of all that her family had done for him and his parents, with the result that the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority have entered Ginette's parents' name and hers in their records and presented her with a medal and a certificate recognising their bravery.

Ginette was kind enough to invite my wife and me to be with her and her family—and Jacques Friedman—when the presentation was made last month by the Israeli Ambassador in a ceremony at the House of Lords. Here she is, more than sixty years after the events for which she and her late parents have now been rightly honoured.