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Yvonne° Nèvejean

NÈVEJEAN, YVONNE° (1900–1987), head of Belgium's Children's National Care Authority (Oeuvre Nationale de l'Enfance, also known as ONE) and Righteous Among the Nations. During the years of the German occupation in 1940–44, she agreed to shelter in ONE establishments (homes, summer camps, and rehabilitation centers) Jewish children trying to avoid deportation to concentration camps. In this major undertaking she worked closely with the Jewish Defense Committee (Comité de Défense des Juifs – CDJ), a clandestine organization created by Jewish activists to help people find hiding places and provide them with false papers. Yvonne Jospa, in charge of the CDJ's children department, coordinated the rescue effort with Nèvejean. Various religious and lay organizations in the country also lent a hand to save the children. The work involved finding suitable addresses with organizational or private homes for the fleeing children, then assigning people to check on the care and living conditions of the children as well providing them with clothing and defraying the additional costs of their hosts. Nèvejean was also successful in freeing a group of children of the Wezembeek Jewish Children's Home, arrested by the Germans on October 30, 1942, by appealing directly to Queen Elisabeth, who in turn intervened with the German authorities to have the children released. It is estimated that up to a thousand children, and perhaps a bit more, benefited from the care provided by ONE. Local financial institutions, such as the Société Générale Bank, helped defray the costs of Nèvejean's large-scale rescue operation with monthly allowances. The Belgian government-in-exile in London also underwrote some of the debts incurred by ONE. As the Allied armies advanced toward Belgium in August 1944, Nèvejean learned that the Germans planned to pick up the remaining Jewish children, until then permitted to stay in several Jewish children homes, and in one sweep take them away for deportation. She immediately recruited her staff to take emergency measures, to fetch the children in time and remove them to temporary safe havens – an undertaking which proved successful. In 1965, Yad Vashem awarded her the title of Righteous Among the Nations.


Yad Vashem Archives M31–99; L. Steinberg, Le Comité de Défense des Juifs en Belgique, 19421944 (1973); B. Garfinkels, Les Belges Face a la Persécution Raciale (1965).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.