Yvette Lundy was a French schoolteacher and resistance fighter who saved Jewish families and survived two Nazi concentration camps.
Born to a family of farmers in 1916 in northern France, Yvette was the youngest of 7 siblings. In 1938 she began working as a teacher in Gionges. When France was occupied by Germany in 1940, Yvette joined a local resistance group and was given the codename “Possum.”
Yvette created false identification papers for Jews, escaped POW’s, and others targeted by the Nazis. She was so clever and efficient that she provided papers for hundreds of people over four years. Yvette also found hiding places for many Jews at her older brother Georges’ farm.
In 1944, Yvette was arrested by the Gestapo while teaching a class. Only 28 years old, Yvette was brutally interrogated and then taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp, 50 miles north of Berlin. As soon as she arrived, like the other 130,000 women and children in the camp, she was forced to strip in front of SS officers. She never forgot that humiliation.
Yvette later wrote about the horrific scene, “It is another world: starving beings with emaciated bodies, hollow eyes, shaven heads, drag themselves along in rags. In a few days, we will look like them. We go to the search, we must leave all we have: jewelry, clothing, medicine, glasses, shoes. Then it’s the shared shower in a huge shed and disinfection. Dressed in rags when there are no more striped outfits. We are unrecognizable with shorn hair.”
A few months later she was transferred to Buchenwald, where she managed to survive until liberation. Three of her siblings were also imprisoned and one of them, her beloved brother Georges, died at Auschwitz in 1945.
After the war, Yvette returned to France. She was so traumatized by her wartime experience that she didn’t talk about it until 1959, when she realized she had a responsibility to bear witness to what she had seen.
Yvette spent the rest of her life speaking to young people about the Holocaust. She finished every talk with an emotional plea for “peace and brotherhood.”
Her memoir, “Le Fil de l’araignée” (The Spider’s Web), was published in 2012.
In 2017 she was made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, one of France’s highest honors.
On Yvette’s 100th birthday in 2016 she was asked if she had any advice to share. She responded, “Always ask: where are we going; with whom; what will we do? Everyone has a duty of responsibility, no matter how young.”
Yvette Lundy died on November 3, 2019 at age 103 in Epernay, France. President Emmanuel Macron issued a statement of condolence for the family, and described Yvette as an “exceptional woman… The words of Yvette Lundy were a powerful call for citizen vigilance, so that the darkest hours of the 20th century would never be repeated.” She is remembered in France as the “great lady of the Resistance.”
For saving Jews and others from Nazi death camps, at great personal cost, we honor Yvette Lundy as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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