Echoes of the Past

A captivating performance exploring Jewish World War II history for students at the Caux Palace

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More than 120 high-school students and teachers from the Lausanne region were treated to a powerful afternoon of local history at the Caux Palace at the end of March. From the magnificent main hall the audience were given a short introduction to the Palace and the Initiatives of Change movement, before moving into the Caux theatre. There, Geneva lawyer Marc Isserles, in collaboration with the group LEBEDIK, presented the remarkable story of his grandparents’ escape from Budapest during the Shoah in 1944, and their subsequent arrival in Caux, alongside 1,600 other Jewish refugees.


Marc Isseles March 2023 (photo: Tina Clifton)
Introduction to the Caux Palace by Andrew Stallybrass and Nicolas Rutz (photo: Tina Clifton)


During the performance Marc Isserles showed a photo of his grandparents in Montreux, being re-united with their two daughters, alongside the Hungarian woman who had hidden the children as part of her family in the countryside until the end of the war, at the risk of her own life. At the end of the show, there were gasps from the audience when Isserles presented his mother, one of the two girls in the photo with his grandparents.

Also in the audience were the IofC Switzerland foundation’s staff, along with friends from the village and region, including some of the Ukrainian refugees who found shelter in Caux from a new war – disturbing contemporary echoes of the past. Some of these refugees, as well as some of the Ukrainian students, followed a written translation of the performance in their native language. The audience also included the Archivist of the Commune of Montreux and the head of the Montreux library.


Marc Isseles March 2023 (photo: Tina Clifton)
From left to right: Jewish refugees in front of what seems to be the Caux train, 1945 (photo: Yad Vashem), commemoration plaque in the gardens of Caux and its inscription 'We shall not forget', extract from the list of Jewish refugees in Caux (photos: Initiatives of Change)


The event grew out of one teacher’s passion for Caux. Nicolas Rutz had brought several classes to Caux for visits, in the framework of studying the development of tourism and tourist infrastructures, including guided tours of the Caux Palace. When the students started studying World War II and the Holocaust, the idea naturally developed to bring them all to Caux to experience Marc Isserles’ story-telling.

In his one-man show, titled We must save the children, Isserles sings, dances and tells stories, accompanied by two Klezmer musicians, Michel Borzykoswki and Sylvie Bossi. This performance was something of a test run, with the team hoping to offer it to other local schools in the future.

When you see this, it’s not just a list. Behind the names, there are faces, families, hopes and despair. Human beings.

- Marc Isserles

Marc Isseles March 2023 (photo: Nicolas Rutz)
Andrew Stallybrass introducing Marc Isserles and the musicians in the Caux Theatre (photo: Nicolas Rutz)


By Andrew Stallybrass / Photo top: Nicolas Rutz


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We must save the children