The American cousin to school Lea and Elizabeth

Marvin Bittner is the American cousin of Lea and Elizabeth, both girls deported in 1943. He was welcomed by the school that bears their name.


Marvin Bittner

Marvin, surrounded by schoolchildren at the plaque with the school’s name, wanted to honor his two cousins.

This week, the school was visited by Marvin Bittner. The American doctor of 59 years is a cousin of Lea and Elizabeth Schnitzler, the two children for whom the school is now named. The great-grandfather of Marvin and that of the two girls were brothers. They lived in Hungary.   Cathy Hody recalls that she and her students had, in February 2008, received the Annie and Charles Corrin Prize in recognition of their work on teaching the Holocaust. "In arranging the ceremony for this award at the Sorbonne, the Unified Jewish Social Fund had researched the family of the two children deported to Sobibor for a trip without return in 1943.  As a result of  international research, three members of this family, including Marvin, had been found in various countries. He has been contacted to come to Paris for the ceremony, but time was too short for him to arrange such a long journey.  So he was unable to attend. From that day, though, he was left with the desire to explore the village and the school which had hidden his cousins and to meet current students. For his current vacation, he decided to cross the Atlantic, " explained School Director Cathy Hody.

Reception at the school

After meeting with village elders who knew his family, he was warmly received at school.  The reception was hosted by Cathy Hody with Mayor Michael Martin; Robert Clarimon, Academy Honorary Inspector; Christine Alberny, elected Officer of schools; and Maguy Olynik, a villager who knew the two little schoolgirls very well.

On this occasion, Marvin spoke to students gathered in the courtyard.  His remarks in English were translated by Joëlle Fournier, who teaches the class CE1: "It is a remarkable experience for me. I've always been interested in the history of my family, and I have prepared a family tree. I did not know that I would find a trace of my family in France. I was surprised to learn that there was a school that had studied the history of part of my family, and which now bears the name of my little cousins."

Then the discussions continued around a buffet.

--Claude Bernat