Austrian Legacy: Eric Schwam’s Bequest to French Village from Second World War


In the midst of the turmoil during the Second World War, stories of compassion and courage emerged, creating bonds that transcended time. One such remarkable tale unfolds in the legacy of Eric Schwam, an Austrian man who, with his family, escaped the clutches of the Nazis. What sets this narrative apart is Schwam’s profound gratitude towards the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, which provided them refuge and protection for years.

A Surprise Bequest for Le Chambon-sur-Lignon

Eric Schwam, at the age of 90, breathed his last on December 25, leaving behind a surprising and substantial gift for Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Nestled on a remote mountain plateau in southeast France, the village has a rich history of harboring those in need, thanks to its sizable Protestant community.

“It’s a large amount for the village,” remarked Mayor Jean-Michel Eyraud, although the exact sum is yet to be disclosed. Schwam’s predecessor, however, hinted that it might be around €2 million (£1.8 million).

Shelter Amidst Adversity

In 1943, Eric Schwam and his family sought refuge in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, finding concealment in a local school for the duration of the war, and they remained there until 1950. This period became a testament to the village’s unwavering commitment to protecting those facing persecution.

A Life Beyond Survival

Post-war, Eric Schwam pursued a career in pharmacy and married a Catholic woman from the region. His connection with Le Chambon-sur-Lignon endured, leading him to include a unique stipulation in his will. Schwam expressed his desire for the bequeathed money, a substantial sum, to be dedicated to educational and youth initiatives, particularly scholarships.

The Righteous Among the Nations

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon earned recognition from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center, designating its residents as “Righteous Among the Nations” for sheltering and safeguarding approximately 2,500 Jews during the war. This accolade underscores the village’s longstanding commitment to compassion and humanity.

A Haven for Many

Across the centuries, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon has opened its doors to individuals fleeing religious or political persecution. From priests in hiding during the French Revolution to Spanish republicans escaping the 1930s civil war, and more recently, migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa, the village has been a haven for those seeking safety and refuge.

A Call to Support

Before we conclude, we would like to draw attention to the significance of supporting independent journalism. In 2024, as we navigate through pivotal news cycles, it’s crucial to recognize the importance of diverse perspectives. Unlike media influenced by a handful of billionaires, The Guardian remains independent, serving the public interest without profit motives.

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In the spirit of Eric Schwam’s gratitude towards Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, let us appreciate the enduring power of kindness and the importance of preserving stories that inspire hope and unity.


  1. Why did Eric Schwam choose Le Chambon-sur-Lignon for his bequest?
    • Schwam and his family found refuge in the village during the Second World War, creating a lasting connection.
  2. What will the bequeathed money be used for?
    • Schwam requested that the funds support educational and youth initiatives, focusing on scholarships.
  3. How did Le Chambon-sur-Lignon earn the title “Righteous Among the Nations”?
    • The village sheltered and protected approximately 2,500 Jews during the war, earning recognition from Yad Vashem.
  4. What is unique about The Guardian’s journalism?
    • The Guardian remains independent, free from billionaire ownership, ensuring journalism serves the public interest.
  5. How can readers support The Guardian?
    • Readers contribute to The Guardian’s independence through a unique reader-supported model.

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