Friday, April 06, 2012

The Swiss Maternity Elne

(Image taken from Amazon)

Elisabeth Eidenbenz is one of the real heroines of World War II. In 1937 she came to the Pyrenees Orientales and after witnessing first hand the atrocious conditions in the camps in Argeles sur Mer where the Spanish refugees were existing, she decided to take action. With amazing vision , she took over a crumbling chateau on the road from Elne to Montescot that was going to rack and ruin. She cleaned up the chateau and filled it with pregnant female refugees of all different nationalities, mostly Jewish, Spanish and tziganes, who were clinging to a semblance of life in refugee camps or fleeing from occupied territories
Nearly 600 women gave birth in this beautiful maternity hospital where they were sheltered from Nazis on the hunt for their blood.
Nicolas Garcia, mayor of Elne, organised the buy out of the Maternity Hospital in 2005, aiming to restore the clinic and opening it to the public. 
Why is it in the news today?
Much to the delight of Elne's mayor, the chateau and the memory of the Maternity has been acknowledged officially in the 'patrimoine national' as an historic monument. What this means is that the building will be protected and also be eligible for grants to make it more accessible for wheelchair access and for public viewing. 
"Elisabeth would be happy", said the mayor as he celebrated the news " She worried alot about what would become of the maternity and rang me often about it"
Now, the future of the Swiss Maternity is safe and the memory of the bravery and sheer goodness of these people will be remembered forever.
Elisabeth received many honours in her later years, including the star of the légion d'honneur (France), the Cross of St Jordi ( Catalonia) and the status of righteous among the Nations by the Gov of Israel in 2002.
In Easter of 2002, 60 of the survivors she helped reunited in a moving ceremony in Elne to honour "La Senorita" as she was fondly called.
A remarkable woman who should always be remembered. She died in May 2011. RIP 


  1. Some Woman for one Woman. What a very kind, and compassionate Lady. God Bless Her. GAB.X

  2. Wasn't she amazing? What a wonderful refuge for all those women and children who would have perished otherwise.
    One has to ask what one would do if faced with the same situation. Indeed most of the population here in France largely ignored the plight of the Spanish on the refugee camps as they fled Franco's regime. Would I have been one of the people to keep my head down?


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