There was more than one facet to the incredible life of Georges Loinger (French resistance hero who saved at least 350 children dies aged 108, 31 December). I interviewed him in 2002 as part of my research into the French connection to illegal immigration to Palestine. This revealed that in 1946 Loinger was introduced to the Mossad L’Aliyah Bet (the pre-independence Jewish clandestine organisation) in Paris because of his earlier exploits saving Jewish children.
The task allotted to him by the Mossad L’Aliyah Bet was to deal with French bureaucracy in Marseille, where the organisation was planning the secret dispatch of more than 4,000 Jewish survivors from the German camps to Palestine – then under British rule. This was the background to the story of the Haganah ship Exodus.
As a cover, Loinger was provided with a letter of recommendation by a collaborator of the minister of the interior that would allay any suspicion by other French authorities who were working on Britain’s behalf to stop the traffic in illegal immigration to Palestine. When Loinger was later arrested with other Mossad L’Aliyah Bet operatives in the vicinity of potential ports of departure, his connection to the ministry of the interior ensured their quick release.
It is an irony, which he would have appreciated, that his death, at the incredible age of 108, evoked such a belated interest outside of France.
Dr Alan Swarc
• It is true that Jean-Paul Sartre, a non-Jew, famously said after the war: “Je suis un Juif” (Letters, 1 January). But less famously he never seems to have made any similar statement during the war. This, of course, was a time when German troops had occupied the city in which he lived, and Jews were being rounded up and deported.
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