Lois Gunden France
Canet Plage, France… 1941 – Lois Gunden, who was twenty-six, taught French in Goshen, Indiana. In 1941, she traveled to France to work with the Mennonite Central Committee in Lyon, France, where she joined the Mennonite organization, Secours Mennonite aux Enfants. Her assignment was to establish a children’s home in Canet Plage, located in Southern France on the Mediterranean. The home she started became a haven for refugee children and included Spanish children and Jewish children who were smuggled out of the Rivesaltes internment camp.
One of the children Lois took out of Rivesaltes was Ginette Drucker. After Ginette’s father was deported to Auschwitz in July 1942, Ginette and her mother fled Paris for southern France via train. While on the train they were caught and were taken to Rivesaltes. While in Rivesaltes, Lois met Ginette’s mother and sought permission to take Ginette to her children’s home in Carnet Plage. After some persuasion by Lois, Ginette’s mother agreed to let Lois take Ginette out of Rivesaltes.
As Ginette wrote to Yad Vashem, “Lois Gunden was kind and passionately determined to take me and these other Jewish children out of Rivesaltes to protect them from harm… I remember Lois Gunden being kind and generous and she made a special effort to integrate us with the other children. None of the other children were told that we were Jewish.”
In November 1942, the Germans occupied Southern France. Although she was now an enemy alien, Gunden continued to run the children’s home. In January 1943, she was detained by the Germans, only to be released in 1944 in a prisoner exchange. Lois returned to Indiana and continued teaching French at Goshen College and Temple University, and she ministered in the Mennonite Church.
Lois Gunden was recognized by Yad Vashem in February 2013. She died in August 2005, at the age of 90.