A Seder Plate from a Children's Home in Switzerland
This Passover stand was donated to the artifacts collection by Shmuel Wolf, the son of Salomon Wolf, director of the children’s home at Tavannes. Salomon and Julienne Wolf acted on behalf of Jewish children in children’s homes in France and Switzerland, often at their own peril. The three-tiered stand was made in the children’s home by a youth called Bruno and given to Salomon as a parting gift when the children’s home was disbanded at the end of the war.
Before the war Salomon and Julienne Wolf, a young couple in their thirties, lived in Alsace, France with their two young children Shmuel (Claude) and Miriam. When France was occupied by the Germans, the couple fled with their children to the town of Boege on the French border with Switzerland in an area that was under Italian control. Julienne’s brother, a doctor by profession, lived there in a spacious house where family members from across occupied France had gathered after escaping their homes.
At this time the OSE organization (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) was engaged in setting up homes for Jewish children in France. The members of the organization were active throughout the war in finding hiding places for Jewish children, with Christian families as well as in monasteries. Orphans as well as children whose parents hoped to save them from the imminent danger were entrusted to the OSE.
One of the first homes set up by the organization during the war was established in the village of Villard close to Boege. Julienne and Salomon Wolf joined the staff of the children’s home and when it was transferred to Saint-Paul near Lake Geneva the family moved with the children to its new residence. In 1941, the couple’s third child, Jeanette, was born but sadly the baby died in her first year due to the difficult conditions.
In the fall of 1943, with the withdrawal of the Italian forces from the area, one of the Italian officers advised Salomon to flee the area before the arrival of the German troops. The same night Salomon took his and other children across the border to Switzerland. Julienne remained behind to arrange with the OSE for the transfer of the remaining children to other hiding places. Three months later when the transfer of the children was completed, Julienne was caught crossing the border by Swiss police and held for a time in a detention camp before being allowed to join her family.
At the end of 1943 Salomon became the director of La Chalet, a Red Cross children’s home in Tavannes, Switzerland. The official director was Esther Rein, a nurse and a relative of Salomon and Julienne. Salomon’s refugee status prevented him from being named officially, but in fact it was he who ran the institution.
Le Chalet, as its name indicates, was a large wooden house on the top of a pastoral hill at the edge of the village near the woods. The children, who originated from France, Belgium and Italy, went to school, on nature hikes and participated in other activities with the local village children, The home was run according to Jewish tradition with observance of the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays.
One of the children was a boy of fourteen called Bruno who enjoyed woodwork. A corner of the children’s home was set aside for his hobby where he did various woodwork projects including creating a cable car that enabled transport between the three stories of the building. At the end of the war, when the children’s home was disbanded, Bruno made the three-tiered matzah and Seder plate stand and presented it to Salomon Wolf, director of the home.
After the war, the children dispersed and Salomon and Julienne continued their outstanding work on behalf of Jewish children. They worked in the children’s home of Ambloy where the surviving children from Buchenwald were sent, and then directed children’s homes in Versailles and Sevres.
In 1948 they immigrated to Israel with their children Shmuel, Miriam and baby Ruth. Among the items that Salomon brought with was the matzah stand that Bruno had made. Here in Israel, a blue cloth embroidered with the motto “Keep the Festival of Unleavened Bread“ was added. Every year since their immigration to Israel, when the Wolf family celebrated Passover, the unique matzah and Seder plate stand that Bruno made was placed on the table until they decided to donate it to Yad Vashem’s artifacts collection.