Finaly Case

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FINALY CASE , a cause célèbre after World War ii in the struggle for the return to Judaism of two Jewish children rescued by non-Jews. A young Viennese Jewish doctor, Fritz Finaly, had fled to France with his wife after the 1938 Anschluss and settled in Grenoble, where they had two sons, Robert and Gerald, born in 1941 and 1942, respectively. Their father circumcised the boys on their birth. When the deportation of French Jews commenced, the Finalys entrusted the children to the care of a municipal school in Grenoble, in order to hide them from the Nazis. In February 1944 the parents were deported to Eastern Europe; they did not return. Friends of the family handed the children over to Notre Dame de Sion, a Catholic institution, which in turn put them in the hands of Antoinette Brun, the director of a municipal children's home in Grenoble. After the war, she wanted to keep the orphaned Finaly boys in her custody.

Fritz Finaly was survived by three sisters who made attempts to ascertain the fate of their brother and his family. The eldest sister succeeded in tracing the children to Brun and on contacting her, she was informed that the children were well and were being raised as Jews. At the same time, Brun obtained from the French authorities formal custody of the children and arranged for their conversion to Catholicism. The sisters, who were not aware of this development, agreed among themselves that the children should be brought up by the youngest, Hedwig Rosner, a resident of Gederah in Israel. In 1948, having failed in their attempts to obtain the children from Brun, the sisters resorted to legal action. The case lasted for five years, during which the children were moved from place to place and from one Catholic institution to another. The trial aroused great interest in France and abroad, and the arousing of public opinion, especially among teachers and intellectuals, had a great influence on the eventual outcome. A minority of the Catholic public in France accused the Jews of ingratitude and argued that the children were French citizens so that their transfer to Israel would be tantamount to kidnapping. However, even Catholic opinion was divided. François Mauriac, the author, initially took an anti-Jewish stand on the issue, but subsequently reversed it. At the height of the controversy the boys were smuggled out of France and handed over to Basque monks, and for a while their whereabouts remained unknown. In June 1953 France's highest court rejected Brun's claim; in July, the children were brought back to France and delivered to their aunt, who took them to Israel to be raised in her home.


A. Danan, in: Jewish Frontier, 20 (June, 1953), 7–12; N. Baudy, in: Commentary, 15 (1953), 547–57; M. Kellen, L'Affaire Finaly… (1960); Rabi (pseud.), L'Affaire Finaly (1953); Cahiers Sioniens, 7 no. 1 (1953), 77–105.

[Chaim Yahil]

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Finaly Case

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