Abbé Raymond Vancourt


When Irene Kahn (Poll) left Mannheim for Lille, France at the age of thirteen, she had never heard of the priest Raymond Vancourt. But during the war he would save her life, along with those of her aunt, uncle and cousins, and a great many other Jews in occupied France. Vancourt, a professor at the University of Lille, was a highly respected scholar. Irene and other young Jews were hidden in his house, and only at the end of the war did she learn of his activities with the Resistance. In 1975 she documented his activities for the Israeli government, and as a result he and his cousin and housekeeper, Raymonde Lombard, were honored as “Righteous Gentiles.”

Lille is a major industrial center in northern France. It was a prime target for the German army during the Blitzkrieg because of its factories and its strategic location, as well as its military installations. It has been a center for textile manufacture since the Middle Ages. The university was established in 1887. Allied air raids damaged the city severely in 1944.