Did you know that a Belgian teacher saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Occupation?


In 1942, Andrée Geulen from Brussels worked as a young teacher in a school in the capital. She was revolted by the discrimination among her students caused by Jews having to wear the yellow star and even more so when she learned of the fate awaiting deported Jews, following the report by Belgian resistance fighter Victor Martin on the operation of the Auschwitz camp.

It was then, in her professional environment, that she met Ida Sterno, a social worker looking for a non-Jewish colleague with an "Aryan type" physique (the very description of Andrée, who was a pretty young blonde woman with blue eyes who also spoke German) for the "children's" section of the Belgian resistance organisation, the Committee for the Defence of the Jews (CDJ). In the spring of 1943, she unhesitatingly joined the thirty or so members of this section. From then until the end of the war, she went to collect children from their families to shelter them. This was the most challenging part of her mission, as it was emotionally very hard to remove a child from its mother and also to convince her to give her child to a complete stranger. Then began the journey with the child to its destination: a foster family, an orphanage, a boarding school, or any other place that could accommodate children. She used the journey to teach her protégés their new, Belgian-sounding identity. It is estimated that she personally took care of 300 children and that 3,000 children owed their lives to the CDJ. "Mademoiselle Andrée" hid children until the end of the war, keeping coded records of their original names and hiding places. As soon as the hostilities ended, she took charge of reuniting the children with their parents and became involved in the Aide aux Israélites Victimes de la Guerre (AIVG).

In 1989, she received the title of 'Righteous Among the Nations' for refusing to accept the extermination drive of Nazi ideology, 'Mensch of the Year' (2004) and, in 2007, at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, that of honorary citizen of the State of Israel. In Brussels, a crèche in the Marolles, the working-class district of the city centre, bears her name.