A Survivor Gives Back: Felice Stokes

For the longest time, Felice Stokes didn’t know who had saved her life, But during World War II, JDC helped rescue Stokes, as well as many other Jewish children, from Nazi violence. Seventy-five years later, Stokes talks about why she supports the organization that spirited her to safety.

By JDC Staff | August 26, 2021

A group of children sitting around a small table and eating together in a children's home supported by JDC. Working in conjunction with OSE, JDC funded 61 children’s homes scattered across France, supporting approximately 15,000 Jewish children of all nationalities.

For the longest time, Felice Stokes didn’t know that JDC had saved her life.

When she was less than a year old, Nazis invaded her town of Walldürn, Germany, and deported all of its Jewish residents. Along with her sister Beate, Stokes was moved to Camp de Gurs, an internment camp in southern France, but was rescued at the last minute; her parents made the difficult decision to send her to a JDC-sponsored nursery in Limoges, run by the French-Jewish charity Œuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE).

During and after the Holocaust, JDC supported OSE, and other organizations like it, which rescued Jewish children from Nazi terror and delivered them to the safety and care of children’s homes and families throughout the French countryside.

Though her parents died at Auschwitz, Stokes was saved, with JDC playing a decisive role in securing her future.

Seventy-five years later, Stokes still has fond memories of Taverny orphanage, the JDC-supported childrens’ home run and managed by OSE. Taverny, and other JDC homes and institutions like it, not only saved Jewish children,
but preserved Jewish life throughout Europe.

“Taverny gave me back my Jewish heritage,” Stokes said. “They taught me Hebrew, yiddishkeit (Jewish identity and traditions), and helped us celebrate with prayers and songs every Shabbat.”

In 1951, JDC coordinated Stokes’s immigration to the United States, where she helped start a new chapter in her Jewish life: promoting Holocaust education.

Stokes has devoted her adult life to ensuring that future generations bear witness to this dark chapter in Jewish history — a personal mission that brought her to the Memorial Foundation of Jewish Culture, where she first learned about JDC. While there, she also got to know Ralph Goldman, the JDC legend and Honorary Executive Vice President, who asked her to work for the organization.

I encourage others to give to JDC. This very caring organization has done such wonderful work. Because of them, I had a future.

Though she didn’t take his offer, Stokes began giving to JDC in 2005, and went on multiple tours with JDC Archives. On one of these, she discovered photos of herself and Beate, as well as the Taverny staff.

Just as JDC was there for her and her sister, Stokes believes that the organization must continue to stand up for Jews now and into the future. That’s why she has made a generous bequest to JDC and urges people everywhere
to make a legacy gift to the organization that helped save her life.

“I encourage others to give to JDC,” Stokes said. “This very caring organization has done such wonderful work. Because of them, I had a future.”

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