About the OSE

About the OSE

Please consult our Resources page for a list of archives and books with more information about the OSE and France during the Holocaust.

The History of the OSE
Orchestre_de_ChabannesThe OSE (Oeuvre de Secours Aux Enfants or Children’s Aid Society) was founded in 1912 by a group of Jewish doctors and intellectuals in Russia.  Their goal was to provide social, sanitary and medical assistance for Jewish families in need.  In 1922, OSE moved its headquarters to Berlin. One year later, Albert Einstein became its honorary president.  In 1933, the OSE moved its main office to Paris.

Even before the outbreak of World War II, Jewish refugee children arriving from Germany and Austria were placed in OSE children’s homes in the Paris region. Beginning in 1940, OSE personnel began to provide social services inside French internment camps, helping to improve sanitary conditions for thousands of foreign Jews, including German Jews who had been deported to France. The main OSE mission was to extricate the children from these awful camps and care for them in OSE homes.

44_drawing_kids_vertical_The OSE opened fourteen children’s homes in the “Free Zone” (or Vichy France) during the war, including the Chateau of Chabannes. The OSE saved more than 1,200 Jewish children in the process, with financial assistance from the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). When the Germans occupied all of France in November of 1942, the OSE intensified its largely clandestine activities. Although its Jewish administrators and social workers were themselves hounded and persecuted, they risked their lives to produce false papers and locate hiding places in non-Jewish homes and institutions for thousands of children. They saved thousands more by taking them across borders to Switzerland and Spain, and obtaining United States visas with help from the American Friends Service Committee. This life-saving work was done with help from non-Jewish persons and institutions, including Félix Chevrier and Irène (Reine) and Renée Paillassou in Chabannes. American visas, obtained with the help of the American Friends Service Committee, allowed some 320 children to emigrate to the U.S. in 1941-1942. By the end of 1944, the OSE had rescued more than 5,000 Jewish children from certain death. Unfortunately, in spite of OSE’s best efforts, some children and some of the adults were arrested and deported to their death.

After the liberation of Buchenwald in 1945, the OSE took charge of 426 surviving children and adolescents by placing them in special rehabilitation facilities in France. Among those cared for as children were the future writer and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and the future Chief Rabbi of Israel, Israel Lau. The OSE provided the children with the necessary medical, psychological, and educational services to reintegrate into society.

The OSE Today
31_LG_OSE_screeningThe OSE is still active in France, providing medical and social services to the community. It currently employs several hundred professionals in over a dozen institutions.

•  The OSE has well over a thousand children in its charge. It operates five group homes for several hundred children whose parents are unable to care for them, including one for the severely disabled. In addition, hundreds of children are maintained within their own families with OSE assistance, or placed in foster homes supervised by OSE social workers.

•  The OSE runs a medical center staffed by specialists. Several thousand patients are seen there every year. OSE also provides medical and social services in Jewish schools to well over a thousand children.

•  The OSE has a special center to provide medical and psychological services, individual and group therapy, and various workshops for children from birth to age 20. It also operates an innovative center with joint programs for young children and their mothers that serves several thousand families.

•  The OSE runs summer camps for needy children at the seashore, in the mountains, and in the countryside during school vacation.

•  The OSE operates two workshops in which dozens of handicapped adults are trained to work according to their abilities. It has a day-care program for the elderly afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease that helps them to retain their autonomy and remain in their own home as long as possible.

•  In the last several years, the OSE has been confronted with the special needs of Alumni, who as children were cared for during the war or in the war=s immediate aftermath, but who in old age now require many services.

•  FRIENDS AND ALUMNI OF OSE-USA, INC. collects money to support the OSE’s work to help Jewish children and their families in France overcome medical, psychological, emotional and financial difficulties.