At the age of 18, she began teaching at a local school. This was the year during which the Nazis occupied Brussels Andrée Geulen was teaching in a school in Brussels, when one day in the summer of 1942 some of her students arrived at school with the compulsory yellow star sewn on their clothes. Having her students marked and humiliated in this way enraged Geulen, and she instructed the entire class – Jews and non-Jews alike – to wear aprons to school, so as to cover the yellow stars. This first close encounter with the persecution of the Jews convinced Geulen that she had to act. She then Ms. Andrée Geulen was working as a schoolteacher in Brussels when the Gestapo arrived to arrest the Jewish children. She decided to join Jewish rescue organization Comite de Defencse des Juifs . She had the difficult task of convincing parents to part from their children so that they could be brought to hiding places; she would then undertake the perilous transfer of the children to the families that would be hiding them. She continued to teach at the Gaty de Gamont School, where twelve Jewish students were being sheltered. For more than two years, she moved Jewish children to live with Christian families and monasteries.
In May 1943, the school was raided in the middle of the night by the Germans, and the students were brutally dragged out of bed in order to have their identities checked. The Jewish children were arrested, and the teachers interrogated. When asked by one of the Germans if she wasn’t ashamed to teach Jews, Andrée Geulen bravely retorted: ‘Aren’t you ashamed to make war on Jewish children?’.
Fortunately, Geulen managed to evade arrest. She left the school that night, and went to warn her Jewish students of the imminent danger. Despite this frightening incident, Geulen expanded her resistance work and embarked on a clandestine existence, living under an assumed name. Until the end of the war Geulen hid hundreds of children, keeping coded records of their original names and their places of shelter. This enabled the return of the children to their families or relatives when the war ended.
She would continue to visit them and care for their needs. By keeping a secret record of the children’s true identities, after the war she attempted to reunite them with their families if any survived. Together with another woman the Jewish Ida Sterno , Andrée took young children and made dangerous journeys with them to other parts of the country, where the children were placed safely with non-Jewish families. Almost 1,000 children were rescued.
“I think when you feel you’re doing something absolutely necessary, fear is in the background. You don’t really think about it,” said Andrée Geulen Herscovici about her experiences during the war. “Everything I am today I owe to that period of my life, those three years.”
Andree have always been amazed at the wisdom of the children they brought along. “The little ones did not realize what happened, and to them I said we were going to make a nice trip to the little cows chickens and the fresh milk. But from a year or five, they understood the seriousness of the situation but all too well. ” Immediately after liberation, the JVC changed its name to the official Aid to Jewish Victims of the War. “Unfortunately most of the parents were missing and many children were left behind. They were captured in special homes for warfare where they were given the opportunity to study and successfully because many of them have become important people around the world.
In 1989, Andrée Geulen was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations , and on April 18, 2007, she was granted honorary Israeli citizenship in a ceremony at Yad Vashem , as part of the Children Hidden in Belgium during the Shoah international Conference. Upon accepting the honor, Geulen-Herscovici said, “What I did was merely my duty. Disobeying the laws of the time was just the normal thing to do.”
Ida Stern was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 and imprisoned for four months at a camp in Malines but was saved from deportation with the liberation of Belgium by the Allies. Until her death on 14-05-1964 age 62, she had been in communication with many she had rescued.