Our association remembers the time when in occupied France of spring and summer 1943, nearly a thousand foreign Jews came to Saint Martin Vésubie, in the Nice hinterland, placed under residence forcée by the Italian occupation authorities. In the middle of 1943, it was a haven of peace in Europe at war. Like elsewhere in the Italian occupation zone, the Jews were protected from the Germans and the Vichy police.
Until the announcement of Italy’s armistice with the Allies and the takeover by the German army of the Italian-occupied zones. The Jews, fearing the worst, fled if they could, over the nearby mountains to Italy. In an almost biblical exodus, around a thousand Jews – men, women, the old and the young, carrying what little they could – climbed the valleys and over the passes into Piedmont.
Alas, the German forces also quickly occupied northern Italy. Some 350 Jews were caught and interned in Borgo San Dalmazzo, then shipped to Auschwitz. The remaining hundreds melted away into the mountains & countryside, helped by locals, trying to survive until the arrival of the Allies.
Objectives of our Association
The Association for the Memory of the Summer of 1943 (AME 43 from the French name) was created:
- To research the history of the Jews in the Alpes-Maritimes during the Second World War, their presence in the Haut-Pays of the Alpes-Maritimes and in Piedmont.
- To research the stories of the people who helped them and to promote their actions.
- To collect all documents related to this subject in order to preserve, study and disseminate them by any means.
- To develop educational activities for the general public, teachers and school audiences.
- To create and preserve places of memory, to encourage visits to them and memorial activities.
- To create intergenerational, intercultural, interfaith, national and international links.
- And generally, to organise and participate in all events having for theme this history and this period in the Haut-Pays of the Alpes-Maritimes.
- To participate in the annual Marche de la Mémoire, usually held in September, to commemorate the exodus of the Jews from Saint Martin Vésubie in September 1943, across the mountains into Italy. In 2021 the Marche will be from le Boréon to the Col de Cerise (2550m), where we meet participants who walk up the Italian side..
- To participate in the creation of a permanent museum space within the Museum of Saint-Martin-Vésubie to present the results of this research.
- To create events promoting this memory.