Frenchwomen Hid Children from Nazis during Occupation of France
TRENTON – During today’s voting session, New Jersey State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak presented a ceremonial resolution on the floor of the State Senate to Camille Ponchaut, the great grand-niece of Adolphine Dorel, a Frenchwoman who, along with her daughter, Jeanne Bonhomme, hid Bernie Schanzer, his brother, Henry Schanzer and his sister, Anna Steinberg from the Nazis during the German occupation of France in World War II.
Senator Lesniak was alerted to the heroism of Madame Dorel and Madame Bonhomme by Bernie Schanzer, a neurologist in Elizabeth who has been treating Senator Lesniak following his stroke a few weeks ago. Dr. Schanzer’s brother Henry, a lawyer from Edison, and Ms. Ponchaut were in attendance for the resolution presentation.
“The atrocities committed during the Holocaust were an affront to all of humanity, and we must never forget not only man’s capacity for evil, but also his capacity for good,” said Senator Lesniak. “Madame Dorel and Madame Bonhomme, at personal risk, were among the many people who stood against the Nazi regime and the extermination of a people based on their faith. Their heroism is a beacon for all people – Jewish and non-Jewish – to aspire to and to admire.”
For their acts of heroism during the Holocaust, Adolphine Dorel and Jeanne Bonhomme have been recognized as two of the “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Veshem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Since 1963, a commission headed by a justice of the Supreme Court of Israel has recognized non-Jewish individuals who, at personal risk, helped to save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust. Individuals who are recognized as “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem receive a certificate of honor and a medal and their names are commemorated in the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations on the Mount of Remembrance.
Madame Dorel passed away shortly after the close of World War II and was inducted posthumously into the ranks of the “Righteous among the Nations” in 1980. Madame Bonhomme was also inducted in 1980, and passed away in 1988.
“There’s a quote in the Mishna, one of the major works of Rabbinic literature, that says, ‘Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe,’” said Senator Lesniak. “When I think of the lives that the Schanzer family has touched – many of the family members have gone into the practice of medicine – and to think that such a light in this world would have been extinguished if not for the acts of heroism of Adolphine Dorel and Jeanne Bonhomme, this quote has new meaning for me. I’m proud to be able to honor the heroism of these two outstanding women in the New Jersey Senate, and as someone who’s been treated by Dr. Schanzer, I’m grateful to them for standing against the Nazis and protecting the Schanzer family from a fate that befell far too many Jewish families during the Holocaust.”