Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sister Helene Studler (1891-1945)

It was 1939 and within the year France would fall to the German Third Reich. In the northeast corner of France, where the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg intersect sits, what is now, the capitol city of the Alsace- Lorraine region, Metz. Being the last of the Medieval fortified cities in France, Metz held a particular interest to the Germans, and would eventually be captured and occupied by the Third Reich.

It was during these desperate times that the one hundred thousand villagers of Moselle were evacuated, being given less than a day to leave the city and thus many had to leave behind all their personal belongings. Witnessing this, Sister Helene Studler, from the Daughter”s of Mercy, used her truck to personally collect and deliver the villagers’ belongings to them after their evacuation. That truck would be indispensable in months to come. After organizing a group of volunteer nurses to provide care and food for a column of prisoners being marched toward Metz, she then used that truck to bring food, supplies and clothing to those prisoners in the stalags. Once there she had to force open the door to get the supplies to them. 

Knowing that desperate times call for bold action, Helene Studler took it upon herself to set up an organized group of smugglers to make an escape system for the prisoners. During that time she saved over 2,000 Frenchmen by helping them to escape to the border and to their safety. She also used her truck to hide prisoners that she herself drove to safety.

By 1941 the Gestapo had figured out who she was and what she was doing and had her arrested. During her imprisonment Sister Helene’s health declined and she was released early because of it. She must have had an iron will to survive because she continued her work immediately upon release, smuggling prisoners to the border. However, it wasn’t long before the Gestapo was onto her again. Fleeing to Lyon for her own safety, she left the Daughter’s of Charity behind using her connections to come to the aid of the French Resistance where she helped them with General Henri Giraud’s escape.

It is said that at her sick bed, the General pinned on her the Legion of Honor and kissed her hand. She never lived to see the U.S. Third Army liberate the city of Metz nor the end of the war, but thousands of men who survived those horrors have her to thank for her courage, bravery and ultimate dedication to the assistance of those in need.

She was laid to rest in Metz where her liberated prisoners erected a memorial in her honor in front of the hospice from which she worked during her time with the Daughter’s of Mercy.

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