Val d’Isere lies host to a surprising story when a local doctor helped a Jewish Adolescent avoid capture from occupied France during WW2. A story uncovered by Rosie Whitehouse which I recently found on BBC News, surmised below.
Haguette Müller was living in Nice in 1943 which, controlled by Italy during the war, had become a respite for Jews. But when Italy capitulated to the allies on 3 September 1943 (after Mussolini was arrested) it’s military collapsed leaving held territories to German occupation.
This meant Nice was no longer safe, with Klaus Barbie (SS leader known as the ‘butcher of Lyon’) ramping up his search for Jews. The Nazi’s made thousands of arrests from within the once Italian controlled regions including Haguette’s mother, Edith, who was deported to Auschwitz and gassed as she tried to obtain false papers for Haguette and herself.
This led Haguette to meet up with her sister, Marion, in Lyon before they travelled down to the Alps in the winter of 1943. It was far from a haven in the mountains with German troops occupying the Hotel des Galciers in Val d’Isere. And burning residences found to house anyone drafted to work in German factories who never turned out for work. The occupation is still referred to as la terreur to locals.
During this time the French resistance operated in the area, with young people taking up the fight against occupation without proper military training, but with great spirit and expertise on skis. This may have been the reason the sisters journeyed to Val d’Isere in the first place.
In late December Haguette slipped and broke her leg leaving the pair in the hands of the village doctor whose advice was to go to the hospital down the mountain in Bourg St Maurice. Where, even with their fake papers, they would likely be arrested and deported back to Berlin. “Scared that questions would be asked and their cover blown, Marion panicked and punched him in the face.” – Rosie Whitehouse, BBC News
Even after the doctor (Dr Frédéric Pétri) confided that without going to a hospital Haguette would end up with one leg short than the other, Haguette herself said it’s ‘better to limp than be dead’ and the doctor offered to look after her for six months until her leg had healed under his own roof.
An incredible act towards a complete stranger. Hiding a Jewish girl in a tiny village of 150 residents in a large chalet on the main street. Had he been caught his entire family may well have been arrested or shot.
Marion (Haguette’s sister) left Haguette in the hands of the doctor and wasn’t to return to Val d’Isere until June 1944.
“A genealogy website reveals that Pétri went on to become mayor of Val d’Isère… But he never mentioned to anyone that he had hidden and nursed a Jewish girl during the war.” – Rosie Whitehouse, BBC News
In 1947 Haguette went to San Francisco to join her father who was undercover in Paris during the war. She still lives there today.
Read the full article on BBC News, written by Rosie Whitehouse including the reluctance from Val d’Isere to comment due to the delicate nature of the matter. As well as doctor Pétri’s heroics in saving a British soldier from death in the mountains and the French resistance in the area turning to skis to combat the German occupation.