She rescued hundreds of refugees during the war: the Loto du Patrimoine to the aid of the Swiss Maternity of Elne


The Swiss Maternity Hospital of Elne (Pyrénées-Orientales) is one of the 100 departmental sites that won the 2023 edition of the Heritage Loto led by Stéphane Bern. The amount of the endowment will be revealed at the end of the year. “This is excellent news, rejoices Béatrice Verhille, head of the cultural-heritage-Catalanity-festivity center of the town. This place is very strong in terms of memory and history. »

Transformed into a maternity ward from 1939 to 1944 by the Swiss Aid for the Children of War Victims, this large building has in fact made it possible, thanks to the courage of Elisabeth Eidenbenz, a young teacher, to eradicate camps of Argelès, Rivesaltes, Saint-Cyprien and Gurs, nearly 600 future Spanish refugee mothers or victims of the Nazis.

“Beyond the financial dimension – which is a relief – today it is history itself that is clified, insists Nicolas Garcia, mayor of Elne. While refugees risk their lives every day in the Mediterranean, for lack of a commitment from the States, it is essential that the younger generations know what happened in this maternity ward to raise awareness. »

An estimated cost of 850,000 euros

Property of the municipality since 2005, the house continued to deteriorate, the drought of recent months also threatening the foundations. “Very large s were observed in the central staircase, confirms Béatrice Verhille. We were forced before the summer to close the upper parts of the house to the public, including the gl roof. »

Since then, the staircase has been shored up, nets installed around the cornices, making the site safe while awaiting larger-scale work. The latest estimate shows a cost of nearly 850,000 euros. A subscription, launched a few months ago, has already raised nearly 30,000 euros. “We regularly receive donations, confirms the head of the cultural-heritage-catalanity pole, from individuals but also from ociations, in particular from southern Catalonia where maternity is very well known”.

In terms of funding, “as the building is clified as a Historic Monument, we should have 50% state aid. If the municipality will also contribute, it will never be able to ume the remaining 50%. Subscription, lottery, sponsorship…: everything that comes will be welcome! »

The Swiss Maternity Hospital in Elne welcomes nearly 45,000 visitors a year. The ground floor, where you can discover the life of Elisabeth Eidenbenz, remains open to the public. The permanent exhibition can now be visited outdoors, in the garden.



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