The Jewish underground organizations in occupied France, which saved the lives of multitudes of Jews, usually worked together with non-Jews, including several members of the clergy. In August 1942, Bishop Jules Gerard Saliège of Toulouse and Bishop Pierre Marie Théas of Montauban published letters against the policies of the Vichy government, condemning the arrest and deportation of French Jews. Underground activists circulated these letters throughout France, which influenced public opinion and fostered readiness to help save Jews.
Marie-Rose Gineste, an underground activist who helped many Jews during the occupation, cycled from place to place in her département, Tarn-et-Garonne, and distributed Bishop Théas’s letter and various underground publications, helping disseminate them among the masses. Gineste, a social worker, lived in Montauban, in southwestern France. She joined the underground in 1942, when she could no longer bear to witness the suffering of persecuted adult Jews and Jewish children who were cruelly separated from their parents. Her house, which was about a hundred meters from the Gestapo building, became a center for refugees and underground activity. She collaborated with Bishop Théas in anti-German activity and together they rescued many Jews.
Gineste hid Jewish children and several women in monasteries in the Montauban area and, with the help of underground members and Jewish friends, gave them forged identity cards. She was involved in every stage of the production process, from obtaining the paper to printing the documents to forging the signatures, and delivered the final products to those in need—Jews in hiding, underground activists, and American airmen who had bailed out in the area. Gineste’s eclectic activities placed her in constant danger, and eventually she aroused the suspicions of the Montauban police, who arrested her and questioned her harshly. She maintained her composure, persuaded the interrogators of her innocence, and was released for lack of evidence.
The Brills, Jewish residents of Montauban, testified that Gineste provided them with forged papers, including a baptismal certificate. She warned them of impending actions against Jews, thereby saving their lives. Emilie Braun, a German Jewish woman, could no longer remain in her hiding place in Montauban and needed help urgently. Gineste provided her with the necessary papers and explicit instructions on how to flee the town. Braun found shelter on a nearby farm and stayed there until the end of the occupation; subsequently she resettled in Israel. About forty years later, after being recognized as Righteous among the Nations, Gineste traveled to Jerusalem and met with Braun, the woman she had saved.
On October 24, 1985, Yad Vashem recognized Marie-Rose Gineste as Righteous Among the Nations.