Thursday, December 7, 2023

Louis Pache

Louis Pache lived with his wife and children in Le Buet, in the département of Haute-Savoie, on the Swiss border. Pache knew the mountains well and was a border runner during the occupation, leading refugees over the mountain trails into Switzerland. His work was one aspect of a combined effort of villagers who helped in the rescue operations, under the initiative of Father André Payot.

On September 28, 1942, two young Jews, Alexander Rotenberg and Ruth Hepner, found their way to Le Buet. Rotenberg, a Belgian Jew who had fled in 1940 to an uncle in Nice, worked for the underground. In September 1942, he was ordered to find a trustworthy border guide in the mountainous area on the Swiss border. Hepner joined him so that they would appear to be students. The proprietor of the small inn in Le Buet, Germaine Chamel, sent them to Louis Pache’s house. On their way there, they were stopped by French gendarmes who examined their papers and decided that further examination was necessary. They were ordered to present themselves at the gendarmerie at five p.m. to recover their documents. Naturally, they were forged. Alexander and Ruth, who had come to Buet simply to contact a border runner, realized that they had to cross the border that very night, to avoid being arrested. Louis and his wife, Franceline, supplied them with mountain boots and warm clothing, and they left with Louis to cross the border through the mountains.

After a grueling, all-night trek, they reached the snow-covered peak that marked the border. Pache gave them instructions on how to reach the closest Swiss village, Finhaut, and told them how to reach people who knew of the clandestine escape route to the nearest Jewish community in Montreux. Rotenberg and Hepner completed the trip safely and were saved. They were not the only Jewish refugees whom the Paches sheltered until Louis could escort them to the border zone. On March 25, 1979, Yad Vashem recognized Louis Pache and his wife Franceline as Righteous Among the Nations.

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