A Crucial Meeting on the Football Field

René Dumonteil

France

René DumonteilRené Dumonteil
1943. The survivor Gustave Szwec is sitting in the bottom row, fourth from the left1943. The survivor Gustave Szwec is sitting in the bottom row, fourth from the left
During the football match. Gustave Szwec is first from the rightDuring the football match. Gustave Szwec is first from the right

René Dumonteil (b. October 2, 1909) was a civil engineer and expert at paving roads and building bridges. Employed by the government, he lived with his mother in the town of Rochechouart (Haute Vienne) and was the vice president of the AJR - the young football team of his town.

The brothers Gustave (b.1916) and David (b. 1921) Szwec, born in Slonim, Russia, arrived in Paris in 1927, with their parents, brother and sister. When Germany invaded France, the family dispersed. Gustave moved to Limoges and found employment in his profession as a dental technician. He was an active sportsman and registered himself to the REDSTAR of Limoges football team. Once during a game, someone noticed him and came to introduce himself. This was René Dumonteil who noticed right away that Gustave was a talented player and the two quickly became friends. Dumonteil even suggested that in the event that he faced a predicament as a Jew, Gustave should go to his house in Rochechouart.  In June 1942, the brothers’ mother was arrested in Paris, sent to Drancy, and then to Auschwitz, never to return. Dumonteil, who was active in the French Resistance, offered his help. He obtained false ID papers for David and found him a hiding address with some farmers; he later moved him to a partisan unit.

In his testimony to Yad Vashem, Gustave recalled that in June 1943, he received an order to report to the Forced Labor Service (STO). He fled instead to the home of Dumonteil, who welcomed him with open arms, as did his mother. Dumonteil gave him shelter for a year, after which Gustave joined the Resistance.

After the war, the Szwec and Dumonteil families maintained their close friendship for many years. Until his death in 1995, René Dumonteil steadily refused any recognition for his heroic actions during the war, insisting that it was the only way that a true Frenchman could act.

On May 9, 2007, Yad Vashem recognized Rene Dumonteil as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

This online story was made possible with the support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.