During World War II, southern France was controlled by the Vichy government which conspired with the Nazis to identify and deport the Jews of France.
In September 1942, Marie Catherine Rossi, known at the time as "Katouchka" and now known as Kate Lipner, decided to join the resistance and defy the Vichy government. Her mother having died recently and living alone, the 17-year-old girl provided shelter for over two years for the children of the Spruch family and others.
Kate was betrayed by a neighborhood that sent the Gestapo to her home, an incident she has since shared with the world: "One Gestapo man came; he was all alone, and I heard his boots. I had a gun in a drawer and I went and put it in my apron pocket and I went outside. I left the children inside. I went in the hall. When I saw the German, I knew that if I didn't do it, we would all get killed. The children and me and everyone. I took the gun and I went close to him and shot him. I did what I had to do. What would you do with the children? You let them die?"
Though in constant personal jeopardy, she saved the lives of these children and demonstrated to the entire world that even in the midst of such unbelievable darkness, even a young individual can make an important and positive difference. When asked over the years why she risked her life to save others, she would smile and humbly say, "I had no choice; it was the right thing to do. I needed those children as much as they needed me."
On April 11, 1995, the honor of "Righteous Among the Nations" was bestowed on Kate Lipner by the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The designation is the highest honor awarded to a non-Jew who put their own life at risk to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Visit the Museum's Karkomi Permanent Exhibition to see and hear Kate Lipner tell her story in her own words.