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Yad Vashem "To Build and To Be Built". The Contribution of Holocaust Survivors to the State of Israel

Ehud Loeb

Ehud Loeb with his father Hugo in Buehl, Germany before the war. The family home is in the background.
The children's home in in Chabannes to which Ehud Loeb was taken after being removed from the Gurs detention camp.
Ehud Loeb (center, holding a sign) at a school in France during the war
Ehud Loeb's rescuer Louise Roger, Righteous Among the Nations
Ehud Loeb (front center, wearing a blue shirt) with his wife Shoshanna (to his left), his daughter Naomi Leshem (to his right), his daughter, sons and grandchildren at the book launch of his biography in German <em>Im Versteck - Die Geschichte einer Rettung</em>, 2012
The family of survivor Ehud Loeb with the grandchildren of his rescuer, Louise Roger at the wall of honor in Garden of the Righteous at the ceremony honoring  Louise Roger as Righteous Among the Nations in 2009
Memebr of the Commission for the designation of the Righteous Among the Nations Dr.Ehud Loeb presenting the medal and certificate of honor to Małgorzata-Ana Gronek, granddaughter of Stanisław and Regina Świda,  along with the director of the Righteous Among the Nations department, Irena Steinfeldt at the synagogue in Yad Vashem, 22 March 2012

Herbert Josef Odenheimer (Ehud Loeb) was born in 1934 in the city of Buehl in the Baden region of Germany to Hugo and Julchen Odenheimer.

The city synagogue was burnt down on Kristallnacht and the crowds also attacked his family’s home. In October 1940 the 26 remaining Jews who were not protected through mixed marriage were deported from Buehl, together with the Jews from Baden, to the south of France where they were imprisoned in the Gurs detention camp near the Spanish border. Hundreds died from malaria, typhus and dysentery, among them Ehud’s grandmother.

In February 1941 the OSE  (a Jewish organisation, active in France, for children's welfare and health care) managed to remove children from the camp, among them Ehud, and to transfer them to the OSE dormitories. Ehud’s parents agreed to part from their only son and to entrust his fate to strangers.

Ehud Loeb survived as a child in hiding. He was moved between institutions and strangers’ houses. For years he lived in constant fear, day and night. He changed names, identities and languages in order to survive. His name was changed to a French one – Hubert Odet – and he had to shake off his previous identity, learn French and behave as a normal French boy. At first he was placed in a children’s home in Chabannes where he was very homesick.

Members of the OSE moved Ehud from institution to institution so that he would not be caught. In late 1942, after an increase in the frequency of arrests of Jewish children, it was decided that it would be safer for the children to be hidden with Christian families. Ehud suffered greatly from the first family that he stayed with. Herbert, currently Hubert, didn’t complain and tried to be obedient, but when social workers from the OSE saw his situation they decided to transfer him to the home of Jules & Jeanne Roger in Buzançais where he was received with warmth and love. When the danger increased, Ehud was moved to other places for several weeks until the danger had passed and he could return to the Roger family home. In 1989 Jules and Jeanne Roger were recognised as Righteous Among the Nations.

At the end of 1943 Ehud was taken to his rescuer’s mother’s home (Louise Roger) in the village of Argy. He was a goatherd on Louise’s farm and went to school. He became an altar boy in order to conceal his Jewish identity. “Only Louise Roger and the parish priest knew my true identity. I had complete command of the French language and I even spoke in the local dialect. I was a good student, I was an altar boy and helped the priest with preparing mass, I did so expertly; I studied and knew the prayers in Latin. I lived a life of lies in order to survive.” In 2009 Louise Roger was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations.

Ehud didn’t want to abandon Judaism, but when, in his desire to blend in with his surroundings and as an excellent pupil during his Catholic religious studies, he asked, “Why shouldn’t I be Catholic, like everyone else?” the Roger family explained that it was forbidden for him to deny his Jewish roots and that he should be proud of where he came from.

After the war, Ehud returned to the Roger family home. He was then passed into the care of a Jewish welfare organisation that dealt with Jewish children who had survived in hiding. Ehud joined a children’s home, there the children waited for their parents or relatives. Every day, children left with their parents, but no one came to collect Ehud. He learnt that his mother had been deported to Auschwitz on the 4th of September 1942 and his father, three days later; both were murdered as were the majority of his family.

In 1946 Ehud was sent to relatives in Switzerland. He had to relearn his mother tongue – German – and he took the surname of his adopted family – Loeb. When he emigrated to Israel he adopted a Hebrew name: Ehud Loeb.

Dr. Ehud Loeb is an art historian and was the registrar of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem where he worked for thirty-two years. He lectured on the history of art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for some twenty years.

Ehud volunteers at Yad Vashem; he gives testimony about his experiences during the Holocaust to students and educators from Israel and abroad through seminars of the International School for Holocaust Studies, and he takes part in Holocaust memorial ceremonies and commemoration ceremonies for the Jews of Germany. He is also a member of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations; as one whose life was saved by Righteous Among the Nations, he felt a need to contribute in this way to recognise those who helped Jews during the Holocaust.

Ehud is married to Shoshana; they have four children and ten grandchildren.