Austrian Jewish Man Leaves Fortune to French Village That Saved Him From Nazis

A view of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.

January 31, 2021

An Austrian Jewish man who passed away last month left behind what has been described as a “large amount” of money for a village in southcentral France to thank its residents for saving him and his family during the Holocaust.

In his will, Erich Schwam — who died at the age of 90 — bequeathed an undisclosed sum to the commune of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, and asked that the money be allocated to education and youth initiatives.

Local media outlets reported that the total was believed to be around two million euros.

In 1990, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon was granted the “Righteous Among the Nations” honor by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial for hiding an estimated 3,000-5,000 Jews from the Nazis and their collaborators and help them escape to Switzerland.

“We are extremely honored and we will use the sum according to Mr. Schwam’s will,” Le Chambon-sur-Lignon Deputy Mayor Denise Vallat was quoted by CNN as saying.

Few details have come to light about Schwam’s personal story, although it has been determined that he was originally from Vienna and arrived in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon with his parents and a grandmother in 1943 after previously being held at the Rivesaltes internment camp.

“We did not know Mr. Schwam, we are now trying to establish who he was and what happened to him here,” Vallat noted.