Father Jean Fleury
During the occupation, Father Jean Fleury of Poitiers was active in rescuing persecuted Jews. In his capacity as priest, Fleury paid daily visits to a detention camp for Gypsies which was adjacent to a camp for Jews, the Route de Limoges camp. There, Fleury met with his friend, the young Rabbi Elie Bloch, who was forbidden to enter the Jews’ camp and the two discussed difficulties; Fleury brought Bloch news from the camp and letters from the internees and supported his efforts to protect the families of underage and ill Jews. Father Fleury fearlessly acknowledged his friendship with Rabbi Bloch.
In February 1943, after Rabbi Bloch was arrested and deported to Auschwitz with his wife and infant daughter, Fleury energetically assumed his duties and became the interned Jews’ sole liaison with the outside world. He rescued Jewish children from the camp, and delivered them to French foster families. By utilizing his close relations with the French underground and its extensive network, Father Fleury moved the children to the south of France, provided forged papers and travel passes, and, more than once, money and food.
After the war, the Breidick family, Jews who lived in a small village fifty kilometers from Poitiers, testified that, in September 1943, a young woman on a bicycle approached and told them that Father Fleury advised them to flee. The woman escorted them to a nearby Catholic school, where they stayed overnight. They then stayed with a peasant family for two weeks; from there they were driven in a small truck to a monastery in Poitiers, where they were greeted by Father Fleury. Two days later, Fleury supplied false papers and travel passes for a train journey to Lyons, where he had arranged housing for them in a monastery—an act that saved their lives. Fleury’s only motives in rescuing Jews were humanitarian. In their testimony, many survivors expressed their gratitude to Father Fleury for his extraordinary rescue and assistance efforts. One survivor wrote, “Father Fleury took action to save anyone in trouble, to the limit of his abilities, irrespective of whether the person was a Jew, a Gypsy, or a Communist, and he did so, endangering himself. He did this out of love of humankind.” Rabbi Joseph Bloch, Rabbi Elie Bloch’s father, wrote, “We are eternally grateful to Father Fleury; in our consciousness, he holds a place among the righteous of humankind.”
After the war, Father Fleury became the chairman of COSOR (Comité des Oeuvres Sociales de la Résistance) and under its auspices, continued to help survivors. Subsequently, the Government of France acknowledged Fleury’s commendable behavior by awarding him the citation of the Legion of Honor.
On March 24, 1964, Yad Vashem recognized Father Jean Fleury as Righteous Among the Nations.