Helen’s Letter to Supporters

Read Helen Lowrie's letter to the Sharps' supporters describing their efforts to aid refugees with the children's rescue project.
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At a Glance



English — US


  • History
  • The Holocaust

November 23, 1940

Dear Friends,

The heroine of this episode in our life here in France is a dark-eyed young woman who has worked untiringly and unceasingly to make possible a happy life for some 25 children, harassed and menaced by the conditions of life in Europe. Martha Sharp (Mrs. Waitstill Hastings Sharp) Came to Europe in June with her husband to do relief work in France. One of her commissions was to offer to French families the possibility of a peaceful life for some of their children…

Martha wired to the committees in the U.S., and asked permission to bring refugee children of other nationalities, instead of the French group; some half American and most of them with American visas ready for them if we could find the means and homes for them in America. Many of the parents altho in danger because of their work against the Nazis in other lands could not get permission to leave this country. This is one of the most tragic parts of this whole great tragedy. These people are not wanted here, they are not allowed to work, they eat food needed for the french themselves (it’s little enough) and yet even when they have visas for other countries they cannot get the permission to leave and are here like rats in a trap waiting for what the conquerors may do to them. It is the children of such people whom we wished to save…

The next two weeks were spent in gathering documents and information about our new group. Austrians, Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, French and Americans. If anyone wants to know how many kinds of international marriages there are for what complications are encountered in trying to get American visas, just apply to us…

After our list was complete, we had to cable all names, addresses, ages and nationalities to New York, to Madrid and to Lisbon. Martha made two more visits to Vichy to oil and to push the wheels which revolve very slowly. We in Marseilles were dashing to Prefecture and Consulates, sending children for doctor’s certifications and photos - everytime you turn around you have to give some one a picture - identification bracelets and vaccinations. The Portuguese permission came, at last the exit permissions were granted an finally great was our rejoicing at the arrival of a telegram with the Spanish permission. Our joy was shortlived, however, for that very afternoon we were informed that Portugal had withdrawn their permission to grant the visas in Marseilles and we must wire again to Lisbon where the names must be approved individually. All of the cajolings of Mrs. Sharp and the intervention of our Consul General were of no avail and last Friday we wired the list to Lisbon…

One of the families in Czech, with three charming daughters of 13 - triplets in fact - one boy of eleven was brought in by an uncle and aunt who expect to be again in a concentration camp and can’t bear to have the boy face a second camp experience. Two brothers of 7 and 10 have a father who is now in England fighting for the liberation of his country, and a mother who earns a pittance of a salary. A little girl with an American father and French mother who have lost business and home since May. Two little girls of Russian parents who have lived in France for 15 years; the father was editor of the most influential white Russian newspapers in Paris, very anti-nazi, and now he has no right to work. He says he will sell newspapers if there is no other way to earn a living and his wife will take in sewing. He hopes, eventually, to be able to emigrate. A Protestant pastor’s family of seven girls are fortunate in having relatives in the United States, so they can go. A young Austrian boy of five who has been left with his grandmother will now be able to rejoin his father and mother.

When the first father came to our office and left his ten year old daughter in our hands, suddenly it came to us what America meant to the distracted people of this old world. Here were we, perfect strangers having put in our charge the dearest thing a mother and father own, just because we represented this country which has always stood for liberty, and equality, and the rights of the individual; which in the past has shown how big its heart was by the sending of help to sufferers thousands of miles away; and which how was opening its homes as haven for the young children of the coming generation in Europe. It made us think again of what a would-be emigrant said to one of our Consuls: “To you we are just numbers, but to us you are the God who has the right to open the gates of the promised land or keep shut that door and condemn us to futility and despair.”

And so I say that the hospitality offered so generously by our American families means far more when it reaches here than you at home realize. You are giving not only shelter and loving care to the children, but faith and courage to their parents so far away.

With all good wishes,

Helen O. Lowrie

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