Annette Epaud was a French woman who managed a popular cafe in La Rochelle. After the Germans invaded France in 1940, Annette contributed to the Resistance Movement by giving free meals to resisters.
The Germans found out, arrested Annette, and sent her to Auschwitz.
Because she wasn’t Jewish she was sent to the hard labor section of the camp. She became aware that the Jews in a notorious area called Block 25 were being murdered in large numbers. A fellow gentile prisoner, Marie Claude Vaillant-Couterier, later described what happened:
“One day, Annette Epaud, one of our companions, a young, beautiful woman of thirty, passed near Block 25 and felt pity for those women who screamed from morning to evening in all languages: ‘A drink, a drink; water, water…’ She entered our bloc to take a bit of herbal tea, but the moment she slipped it through the bars on the window, the Aufseherin (guard) saw it, took her by the neck, and threw her into Block 25… Two days later, on the truck that was taking her to the gas chambers, she held another Frenchwoman close to her and when the truck began to move, she called out, ‘Think of my little boy if you return to France,’ and the two of them began to sing ‘La Marseillaise.’”
Annette knew that offering a Jewish woman a sip of tea was a crime punishable by death, but she did it anyway.
Annette was murdered in the gas chamber surrounded by Jews on February 2, 1943. She left behind a husband and young son. In 1997, Annette Epaud was named a Righteous Gentile by Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem.
For offering a drink to someone dying of thirst, at the cost of her own life, we honor Annette Epaud as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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