Roslï Näf

Roslï Näf

Not a good realization regarding the actions of Switzerland or the Swiss Red Cross during the Nazi occupation in France. After watching the movie Resistance last night which is about Marcel Marceau’s heroic work assisting Jewish children left orphaned by Nazi atrocities, I wanted to know what happened to the children who made it across the border from France into Switzerland. I didn’t actually find that answer but I did discover this woman, Roslï Näf.

She is an example of how Switzerland was swayed by Nazi pressure, which included the Swiss Red Cross. In late 1941, the agency dispatched a team of teachers and nurses on a humanitarian mission to care for a group of about 100 Jewish children who had been hidden in an ancient chateau Vichy-ruled France, known as Chateau de la Hille. A leader of the team was Roslï Näf, a nurse who had previously worked with the renowned German physician Albert Schweitzer.

Chateau de la Hille

In August 1942, when French police rounded up Jews around the country at the demand of German authorities, the 40 eldest children under Naf’s care at the chateau were taken, over her objections, to a French transit camp. She bicycled to the camp, talked her way in and insisted she wouldn’t leave until “my children” were freed. A week later, the French relented and released the children to Naf’s care, just hours before they were to be placed into boxcars for the journey to Auschwitz.

One of the surviving children, whose parents and younger brothers were murdered, Walter H Reed recalled Näf’s sacrifice: “For these acts—protecting the Jewish youngsters, obtaining their release from Le Vernet, and enabling many to escape into Switzerland—Roslï Näf was summoned before the chief of the Swiss Legation in Vichy and dismissed from her post at La Hille.”

In the months immediately after Naf’s heroic act, in late 1942, she and her colleagues from the Swiss Red Cross would assist several groups of teens in escaping from France and heading to Switzerland, where they were allowed to stay. But when a group of five teens tried to escape across the border in the first week of January 1943, German guards caught them.

Inge Joseph Bleier recalls that Näf, with her blonde hair, always had a stern look on her face, had steely blue eyes, and “conveyed a sense of purposefulness and authority.” One of those captured was 17 year old Inge. She managed to escape the Germans by jumping out a bathroom window and then proceeding to flee across the border into Switzerland. She walked far enough that she could see the lights of Geneva, when a Swiss gendarme arrested her.

Inge figured he might send her to a detention camp. But in response to the flow of children and adults escaping from France into Switzerland, the authorities had instituted a new law just a few days earlier requiring any refugee 16 or older to make it at least 10 kilometers into the country before being allowed to stay. Inge hadn’t made it far enough, and so she was returned to the chateau in France. Only one of 30,000 Jews sent back from Swiss border areas to Nazi-controlled France.

Within weeks of the aborted escape, Näf was fired for intervening on behalf of the “Jew children from Chateau la Hille,” according to an internal organization memo. It concluded: “Unanimously agreed the Swiss Red Cross needs to totally distance itself from the director (Näf).” Inge Bleier had realized in hindsight that, after helping Jewish children escape, Näf “was in big trouble. She had been turned into a scapegoat. Her career with the Swiss Red Cross was likely over.” Näf, was never honored by the Red Cross or Switzerland. She died alone in a Danish nursing home at the age of 85. She said shortly before death, that her biggest regret was that “I should have tried harder. There were more children to save.”

But Näf’s colleagues who remained in France continued to help Jewish children to attempt escapes. Ten months after her aborted escape attempt into Switzerland, Inge made a second dash into the country. This time with help from Swiss sympathizers, she was escorted through heavy woods the requisite 10 kilometers. Seven other young Jews were similarly aided in these dangerous cross-border escapes. 

Näf as well as a dozen Swiss colleagues who helped Jews escape to Switzerland from France were mostly forgotten by their own country. When they were referred to at all, it was as “smugglers,” as if to suggest they were sneaking cigarettes, food and other bounty over the border for profit instead of saving lives.

In 2014, a group of Christians in the Vallée de Joux region of French-speaking Switzerland decided to try to bring Switzerland’s murky Holocaust past to light by recognizing people like Näf who had been heroes. Joel Reymond, a local journalist and head of the not-for-profit Association les Passeurs de Memoire, spearheaded a two-year campaign to raise funds for a monument in the lakeside town of Le Pont, a few kilometers from the French border, where much of the “smuggling” occurred.

To his surprise, Reymond tapped into an emerging groundswell of interest among younger people in honoring the Swiss heroes of the war. So on a sunny morning this past September, hundreds turned out in Le Pont to view the unveiling. They included the last surviving “smuggler,” 90-year-old Bernard Bouveret, who worked as a forester during the war years.

The weekend commemorations had the feel of a catharsis. These ordinary Swiss who have eagerly taken up the mantel of transparency and introspection can only hope Swiss bankers and art officials will do the same and finally confront head-on their country’s behavior during the Holocaust.

David E. Gumpert wrote much of the story above and is the author of “Inge: A Girl’s Journey Through Nazi Europe” (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2004).

Concerns About Illegal Adoptions

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia.

In a statement, the ministry said Russia had engaged in the “illegal and forced displacement” of Ukrainian children, “among them orphans, children deprived of parental care, as well as children whose parents died as a result of Russia’s military aggression” across Ukraine’s borders to Russia.

The statement reads:

In violation of international humanitarian law and basic standards of humanness, Russia is engaged in state-organized kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation.

Such actions of the Russian occupiers can be qualified as kidnapping and require a decisive reaction from the international community, primarily from the relevant international organizations.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian forces of forcibly deporting thousands of children from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine since the war began.

Earlier this month, two individuals said they and other women and children were forcibly transported to Russian territory from the besieged city of Mariupol in March. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has denied these accusations, claiming “such reports are lies”.

~ source The Guardian reporting

Because I am generally against adoption in most cases, and even though I know that the US has no high moral ground, as I am aware that children arriving unaccompanied at the US border were taken in and most likely, too many adopted by families that were total strangers to them, I am still concerned that this same unfortunate situation is also happening to Ukrainian children. I know the circumstances are not equal but the outcomes are equally concerning.

War Is Not Healthy For Children

I didn’t know there was a day for this. It passed right by with no awareness on my part about a month ago. Like many, the impacts of active war weigh heavily on my heart and mind today.

Americans have such a huge appetite for adoption that local sources are insignificant to meet the huge demand. So always, there are Americans adopting foreign children, removing them from culture, language and family. War is often a precursor to a huge push to bring the children traumatized by the violence of war, devastated by its impacts and who have lost or been separated from their families due to the effects of military actions.

I remember when adopting orphans from Russian orphanages was a big thing. I remember that many adoptive families were ill prepared for the challenges they received. I didn’t even know as much about adoption then as I do now. I totally agree with any sovereignty a country that choses to shutdown an adoption pipeline that opened in their country.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was an increase in the number of orphans. In 1995, there was a reported 300,000 children in the orphanage system. Although difficult to accurately count, there are an estimated 1 million to 5 million homeless youth. The number of orphanages increased by 100% between 2002 and 2012 to 2,176. Some of the reasons for children to end up in the orphanages are domestic abuse, parental substance abuse, having lost their parents, or being found alone on the streets. As for those who are social orphans (meaning that one or more of their birth parents are still alive) there are various reasons as to why they end up in orphanages. For instance one girl’s parents were told when she was born that she wouldn’t live long, so her parents refused to take her. Other children have been abandoned due to reasons such as their disabilities, or their parent’s drug or substance problems.

On December 28, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the Dima Yakovlev Law, prohibiting Russian children from being adopted by American citizens. The law was described by the BBC as “a reaction to the US Magnitsky Act”, which blacklisted high-ranking Russian officials. Personally, I am not sad if there are less “orphans” going into the US from whatever pipeline for whatever reason.

I’m glad if there are fewer adoptions that take a child out of the country of their birth, remove them from their native language and customs and drop them into unfamiliar environments. In 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, US families adopted 2,971 children from other countries. In 2020, there were only 1,622 intercountry adoptions — a 45% drop from the year before and a nearly 93% decline from the peak.

Argentina’s Courageous Abuelas

Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo is a non-governmental organization formed in 1977. Their grandchildren disappeared. Many babies were kidnapped with their parents, some after their parents were killed, and others were born in clandestine detention centers where their mothers were taken after having been sequestered at different states of their pregnancies.

The grandmothers note that from the moment that their children (often with their grandchild still in the womb) disappeared, they have visited every court, office, orphanage, day care center, and so on, trying to locate them. They have appeared before the courts, the successive military governments, the Supreme Court, and the ecclesiastical hierarchies, never obtaining a positive result. They eventually directed their claims to international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States. All to no avail.

These disappeared children were deprived of their identity, their religion, and their right to live with their family, in other words, all of the rights that are nationally and internationally recognized as their universal human rights. Beginning in 1997, the grandmothers began an informational campaign seeking to draw the attention of young people (of an approximate age range of what their grandchildren would be at that time) who may have had doubts regarding their true identity to the Abuelas organization. Happily, they have had some positive results.

The grandmothers wish to make it clear that their grandchildren have not been abandoned and inform them that they have the right to recover their roots and their history. They wish for these victims to know that they have relatives who are constantly engaged in searching for them.

Over 3 decades, the grandmothers located 120 of the disappeared children, including 4 found by governmental commissions and 2 located by CLAMOR, the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Southern Cone. The estimated number of children kidnapped is approximately 500. Widespread DNA testing is now making it possible to locate more of these children who could have been sent out for adoption to any country anywhere in the world.

Some of the recovered children are already living with their legitimate families and have become perfectly integrated. Others are still living with the families that have raised them, but are in close contact with their true grandmothers and relatives. By being a part of two families, the children have recovered their identity. Sadly, there are a large number of disappeared children whose identities were completely annulled. In those cases, the grandmothers are using modern science to prove that they are members of a particular family. They continue to rely on support from the scientific community in the field of genetics, hematology, morphology, and others to accomplish their goal.

Romanian Orphanages

An estimated 100,000 Romanian children were in orphanages at the end of 1989, when communism ended. The high number is linked to the pro-family policies pursued by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. In 1966, the regime banned abortions and contraceptives to keep the population from shrinking after World War II.

I remember hearing about these children long ago. Today, I was reminded of them by a link to an article in The Atlantic. Maybe what I heard about was the public execution by firing squad of Romania’s last Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who’d ruled for 24 years. This past Christmas day was the 30th anniversary of that execution and the discovery of his network of “child gulags,” in which an estimated 170,000 abandoned infants, children, and teens were being raised. Believing that a larger population would beef up Romania’s economy, Ceaușescu had curtailed contraception and abortion, imposed tax penalties on people who were childless, and celebrated as “heroine mothers” women who gave birth to 10 or more. Parents who couldn’t possibly handle another baby might call their new arrival “Ceauşescu’s child,” as in “Let him raise it.”

To house a generation of unwanted or unaffordable children, Ceauşescu ordered the construction or conversion of hundreds of structures around the country. Signs displayed the slogan: the state can take better care of your child than you can.

At age 3, abandoned children were sorted. Future workers would get clothes, shoes, food, and some schooling in Case de copii—“children’s homes”—while “deficient” children wouldn’t get much of anything in their Cămin Spital Pentru Copii Deficienţi, a Home Hospital for Irrecoverable Children. The Soviet “science of defectology” viewed disabilities in infants as intrinsic and uncurable. Even children with treatable issues—perhaps they were cross-eyed or anemic, or had a cleft lip—were classified as “unsalvageable.”

In an era devoted to fighting malnutrition, injury, and infection, the idea that adequately fed and medically stable children could waste away because they missed their parents was hard to believe. Their research led to the then-bold notion, advanced especially by John Bowlby, that simply lacking an “attachment figure,” a parent or caregiver, could wreak a lifetime of havoc on mental and physical health.

In the decade after the fall of Ceaușescu, the new Romanian government welcomed Western child-development experts to simultaneously help and study the tens of thousands of children still warehoused in state care. Researchers hoped to answer some long-standing questions: Are there sensitive periods in neural development, after which the brain of a deprived child cannot make full use of the mental, emotional, and physical stimulation later offered? Can the effects of “maternal deprivation” or “caregiver absence” be documented with modern neuroimaging techniques? Finally, if an institutionalized child is transferred into a family setting, can he or she recoup undeveloped capacities? Implicitly, poignantly: Can a person unloved in childhood learn to love?

In the fall of 2000, the Bucharest Early Intervention Project was launched. The BEIP study would become the first-ever randomized controlled trial to measure the impact of early institutionalization on brain and behavioral development and to examine high-quality foster care as an alternative.

The researchers employed Mary Ainsworth’s classic “strange situation” procedure to assess the quality of the attachment relationships between the children and their caregivers or parents. In a typical setup, a baby between nine and 18 months old enters an unfamiliar playroom with her “attachment figure” and experiences some increasingly unsettling events, including the arrival of a stranger and the departure of her grown-up, as researchers code the baby’s behavior from behind a one-way mirror.

100 percent of the local community kids living with their parents were found to have fully developed attachment relationships with their mothers. That was true of only 3 percent of the institutionalized kids. Nearly two-thirds displayed contradictory, jerky behaviors, perhaps freezing in place or suddenly reversing direction after starting to approach the adult. 13 percent were deemed “unclassified,” meaning they displayed no attachment behaviors at all.

As early as 2003, it was evident to the BEIP scientists and their Romanian research partners that the foster-care children were making progress. Children taken out of orphanages before their second birthday were benefiting from being with families far more than those who stayed longer. The next year, the Romanian government banned the institutionalization of children under the age of 2. Since then, it has raised the minimum age to 7, and government-sponsored foster care has expanded dramatically.

Meanwhile, the study continued. When the children were reassessed in a “strange situation” playroom at age 3.5, the portion who displayed secure attachments climbed from the baseline of 3 percent to nearly 50 percent among the foster-care kids, but to only 18 percent among those who remained institutionalized—and, again, the children moved before their second birthday did best. The benefits for children who’d achieved secure attachments accrued as time went on. At age 4.5, they had significantly lower rates of depression and anxiety and fewer “callous unemotional traits” (limited empathy, lack of guilt, shallow affect) than their peers still in institutions.

Sadly, about 40 percent of teenagers in the study who’d ever been in orphanages, in fact, were eventually diagnosed with a major psychiatric condition. Their growth was stunted, and their motor skills and language development stalled.

My source for today’s blog has much more content. Can an Unloved Child Learn to Love ? by Melissa Fay Greene in The Atlantic.

A Home For Orphans

Milton Hershey School

There is a need to care for true orphans that do not have living family to care for them.  Milton Hershey is mostly known for perfecting a recipe for milk chocolate.  I love their Hershey Bars with Almonds but I really shouldn’t eat them because my biology is afflicted with a tendency to have high blood sugar.  If I let myself eat one small miniature bar, I want more or something else that I shouldn’t be eating that is too sugary.  Mostly I just don’t.

Milton Hershey was a leading philanthropist during his time.  In the early 1900s, he was a visionary about providing better working conditions for his workers.  He knew this support would also allow them to do a better job in his factory.

Eventually, he built a company town.  It was beyond what most companies did at that time.  Not only did he build homes for his workers but supported the growth of businesses in the surrounding area as well as a transportation infrastructure.

He and his wife Catherine never had any children of their own but they cared about child welfare.  This motivated them to establish a boarding school for orphans.  Even now, the school provides a home and free education through high school to more than 2,000 boys and girls.

Hershey is a good example of a visionary social entrepreneur.  His efforts never diminished his financial well-being but kept on enhancing that further, so that he could do more.

Something In Common Among Us

It always surprises me how many people have adoption in their family histories in one way or another.  So I read today that Rachel Carson participated in a kinship adoption of her nephew, Roger Christie, who was the son of Rachel Carson’s niece Marjorie. Carson adopted Roger at age five after Marjorie’s sudden death.

This is a kind of adoption that I do think highly of and I already thought highly of Rachel Carson who was born on the same day as I was – May 27th.  She seems to have kept Roger out of the public eye as there is little one can find out about him.  She would have certainly instilled in any child in her orbit a respect for and love of wild nature.

Carson wrote in an article for The Women’s Home Companion in 1956, “the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

Carson never married and had no children of her own. Her mother was always the most important person in her life, sharing her home and acting as her housekeeper and secretary. In their later years, they lived at the northern tip of Washington D.C in Silver Spring, Maryland.

That was not the first child Carson took under her wing. Carson’s elder sister Marian died of pneumonia in 1937. Marian’s husband had deserted her and their two daughters a few years earlier. Carson took the girls into her home. Carson’s mother, who was almost 70 years old, looked after them while Carson’s salary paid the bills. Carson and her mother cared for the girls until they were adults.

Rachel Carson died of a heart attack on April 14, 1964 in Silver Spring, Maryland. She was 56 years old. Carson’s will provided generously for the future of her adopted son Roger Christie who came under the guardianship of Carson’s close friend Paul Brooks, senior editor at Carson’s publishers Houghton Mifflin, and his wife Susie.

Coronavirus Orphans

This could be only the beginning of a new wave of orphans.  Sundee Rutter, 42, complained of feeling unwell on March 3 whilst recovering from surgery and thought she may have COVID-19.

The doctor’s told her she didn’t have it.  However, she self-quarantined at home for four days.  Then, she started having difficulty breathing and was admitted to a Washington hospital on March 7.  After one week of fighting, she passed away on Monday.

Sundee lost her husband some years ago and leaves her six children orphaned.  The six children range in ages from 24, down to 13.  Her children say she made it her highest priority to instill in all of them the highest values.  It was her hope that each of her children will make a positive impact on friends, family, and community.

Due to recently undergoing cancer treatment, Sundee simply didn’t have an immune system capable of pulling her through.  She had beat cancer but lost the battle for continuing her life due to the Coronavirus.

Sadly, I feel we will see more sad stories like this one.  I am heartened that there are two children that are 21+ in age plus one who will be in another year who can take over raising their younger siblings.  Though it is a big burden at such a young age, the children are old enough that they are unlikely to end up adopted or in foster care.

Opioid Orphans

It is so sad that medications meant to relieve serious pain have become such a travesty that people who might benefit from them find it hard to receive a prescription.  I understand the complication.  I have been prescribed such medications and though I never became addicted, I could see the temptation and how the drug fixes itself upon the person.

I have experienced the awareness that my ex-husband overdosed and gratefully survived the experience.  When he came home he told me his friend dumped him out at the emergency room.  Not long after, that friend actually died of an overdose himself.  His family lived next door to my in-laws and they quite obviously, and reasonably, distanced themselves from my ex at the time – though he was not at all responsible for his friend’s death.  Parents have a hard time accepting such a hard truth at the time they lose their child.

Today, many grandparents will be forced to rescue their grandchildren after such an event.  Fortunately, the death I described above was a person without children.  Though perhaps a few years away from retirement, they find themselves full-time parents again.  This is the collateral damage caused by the opioid crisis.

As the opioid epidemic has spread across the country, through all age, gender, race and economic categories, the number of children who have lost their parents to drugs—either to death by overdose, to jail, prison, homelessness or disability—has skyrocketed. Those children wind up in one of two places: either with relatives, or in an already overburdened foster care system.  In 2015, the child welfare system saw a three-year national increase of more than 30,000 children entering foster care.  That number is likely much higher now as the nation finally begins to face the truth and pharmaceutical companies are being held to account.

In West Virginia, the hardest hit state in the opioid crisis, the number of foster care children grew 24 percent from 2012-2016.  The numbers escalate as the number of overdoses increase; they mirror the number of addicts in treatment programs, incarceration or living day-to-day on the streets. Babies are born addicted to opioids or other drugs.  More often than not, addict parents, living or deceased, have made little or no provisions for the ongoing care of their children.