Mary Elmes is the great unsung heroine of modern Ireland. Risking her life to save Jewish children during the Holocaust, she turned her back on a promising academic career to help others. She is the only Irish person to be honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel for this work.
In 1937 she travelled to Spain as an aid worker, where she ran children’s hospitals, moving from one bombed-out building to the next in the midst of a horrific civil war. Moving to France after Franco’s victory, she continued to work in the wretched refugee camps hastily thrown together by the French authorities for 500,000 escaping Spanish Republicans. Soon, Jews fleeing the Nazis were also imprisoned in the internment camps. Mary initially sought to relieve the suffering of all the inmates but when the deportations to the east began she worked to save hundreds of Jewish children from the death camps, going so far as to smuggle children out of the camp in her own car. Eventually her actions came to the notice of the collaborationist Vichy government and in 1943 she was arrested by the Gestapo and jailed for six months.
The Extraordinary Story of Mary Elmes tells the gripping story of one woman’s heroism during two of the twentieth century’s bloodiest conflicts. It includes a number of interviews with some of those who owe their lives to Mary Elmes, as well as photographs and a wealth of archival material.
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