Skip to Main Content

University Archives & Special Collections Exhibits

They Were Children: Rescue as Resistance

 November 1, 2023 - March 31, 2024

 Resource Guide

They Were Children: Rescue as Resistance brings the story of the Oeuvre de Secours Aux Enfants’ (OSE) harrowing rescue of Jewish children to Southwest Florida for the first time. Between 1933 and 1939, persecution against European Jews displaced millions. Countries around the world closed their borders and Jewish refugees struggled to find sanctuary. After Germany’s invasion of Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France, the deportation of Jewish people was rampant and finding safety was nearly impossible. 

In response, the OSE created complex rescue networks to save Jewish children from deportation. The Circuit Garel was one such clandestine network. Forgers, educators, social workers, priests, nuns, farmers, and passeurs (smugglers) throughout France joined forces to secure the safe passage of Jewish children. The passage would prove to be emotionally, mentally, and physically harrowing as the passeurs and children scaled the Alps to escape the Third Reich.

Under threat of extermination, the survival of the children was the ultimate form of resistance against the oppressive force that sought to eliminate them. They Were Children: Rescue as Resistance celebrates courage, and what it means to embrace fear alongside the immutable need to take action against injustice. They Were Children shares a message of resilience, heroism, courage, and compassion. Their stories allow visitors to witness the bravery of ordinary citizens as they risked their lives to do the extraordinary. It is a tribute to the indelible strength of the human spirit.

We honor the heroes, survivors, and those who were lost.