Georges Loinger, 1910–2018
The French teacher who saved Jewish children
Loinger was born in Strasbourg, a city on the French-German border that “came under French control after World War I but maintained a distinctly German identity,” said The Washington Post. As Adolf Hitler rose to power, Loinger saw Mein Kampf in bookstores and heard the Nazi leader’s anti-Semitic speeches on the radio. An athletic young man, Loinger “studied engineering and then took up teaching physical education,” said The Times (U.K.). He did so, he said, with “the intention of preparing and training Jewish youth for the ordeal that awaited.” Loinger fought with the French army when Germany invaded in 1940 but was captured and shipped to a prison camp near Munich. He escaped to France and joined the resistance, also recruiting a cousin, the mime Marcel Marceau.
The young teacher “was well suited to his clandestine work,” said The New York Times. Fluent in German, with blond hair and blue eyes, Loinger could “pass as an Aryan.” He once convinced a group of German soldiers that the 50 children he was escorting had fled the Allied bombing of Marseille—then watched in amazement as the soldiers sang with the Jewish kids and gave them candy. After the war, Loinger helped Holocaust survivors immigrate to British-controlled Palestine, and later became an executive with the French subsidiary of an Israeli shipping firm. When he died at 108 years old, his son reported that his last words were “Nobody can destroy Jewish culture.”