During the month of March, Sound celebrates Women’s History Month, placing a spotlight on the accomplishments of women throughout history who have made an impact on society. This week, we recognize Jeanne Daman, who saved thousands of children during World War II.
1918 – 1986
While in her early 20s, Catholic schoolteacher Jeanne Daman helped rescue approximately 2,000 Jewish children from the Nazis by taking them to shelters in Belgium during World War II. Daman also smuggled many of the children into the homes of Belgian families willing to hide the Jews during the war. Her own life was continually at risk. Daman also arranged for many of the children’s mothers to work as maids in Belgian households, supplying them with false identity papers and ration cards. After the war, Daman helped locate the children and reunited them with their families. Some of the children were survivors of concentration camps.
After the war, Daman took on a new identity and worked as an intelligence agent in the Brussels corps of the Belgian Partisans. In addition, working as a social worker for a German welfare agency, she helped the underground by delivering weapons and intelligence. In 1946, Daman immigrated to the United States, and in 1972, was awarded the Medal of the Righteous People. In 1980, Daman received the ‘Entr’aide’ medal from the Belgian Jewish Committee, under the patronage of the King of Belgium.
Eventually, Daman married and settled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In one interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, she stated that she helped persecuted Jews in her native Belgium for “rational and moral reasons,” because of the “political” situation and because of her “compassion” for the Jews. Daman died in 1986.