Annemasse, a town on the border with Geneva, developed mainly in the early 20th century.
The Jewish presence in Annemasse probably dates back to the Middle Ages, but was quite small. This changed with the emancipation of the Jews of France following the Revolution, and especially with the arrival in the region of Jews from Alsace-Lorraine.
By the turn of the 20th century, Jews were living there peacefully. During the Second World War, networks were set up in the Annemasse and Novel areas to cross into the free zone and then over the Swiss border.
Among them were the Resistance couple Flore and Georges Loinger, members of the OSE and the Bourgogne and Garel networks, who smuggled 350 Jewish children into Switzerland via Annemasse. They were assisted by Tony Gryn, Mila Racine and her brother Emmanuel Racine.
Mila led convoys of children and was arrested during one of these missions in 1943 and incarcerated in the Pax prison. She died two years later in Mauthausen. A park in her memory was inaugurated in 2023. An elementary school in Annemasse bears the name of Marianne Cohn, a Resistance fighter who also took part in the rescue of Jewish children in Savoie, murdered by the Gestapo.
Jean Deffaugt, mayor of Annemasse during the war, was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for having saved Jewish children imprisoned by the occupiers and threatened with deportation. A square was named in his honor.
According to a 1970 study by Bernhard Blumenkranz, Annemasse’s Jewish community numbered 60. Formerly worshipping in neighboring Geneva, the Jews now have their own synagogue. Annemasse town hall dedicated the year 2022 to the memory of Marianne Cohn.
A tribute was paid to the courage of Mila Racine and Marianne Cohn at an event organized by the synagogue in 2023, to mark the inauguration of the park. A Maison de la Mémoire is due to be inaugurated in 2025, on the site of the former Pax prison.
Sources : « Les Juifs en Savoie du moyen-âge à nos jours » by Jacques Rachel, Yad Vashem, Times of Israel