Eric Schwam, a Jewish refugee, died in December at age 90 and left a gift to the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 13, 2021 05:00 PM
Le Chambon sur Lignon
Credit: Getty

A 90-year-old Austrian man who died last year left a generous gift to a French village to thank them for protecting his family from the Nazis during World War II.

According to CNN, Erich Schwam arrived at the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in 1943 with his mother and father. The family was on the run from the Nazis, who were killing millions of Jewish people across German-occupied Europe.

In his will, Schwam reportedly left a large sum of money to the village to express his gratitude for hiding his family 77 years ago. He asked the funds be used for scholarships and schools, the outlet reported.

While the total was not officially disclosed, a former mayor of the village told BBC Schwam contacted officials years ago about his plans and believed he donated around $2.4 million.

After news of the donation spread, the village tried to piece together some of Schwam's history.

Le Chambon sur Lignon
Credit: Getty

They believe Schwam's parents returned to Austria following the end of WWII, while he moved to Lyon, a city in France, to study. He later met his future wife in the city.

"He was a very discreet gentleman and he didn't want a lot of publicity about his gesture," said Denise Vallat, a Le Chambon-sur-Lignon official, according to BBC. "Little is known about the donor but we did some research."

Records reportedly showed Schwam and his wife never had children, and he died a widower.

"We are extremely honored and we will use the sum according to Mr. Schwam's will," Vallat added to CNN.

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Six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, with over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos being formed during the war, NBC News reported.

The Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, used gas wagons, concentration camps and firing squads to murder Jews, in a campaign driven by anti-Semitism. The Holocaust ended in May 1945.