Izieu was the site of a Jewish orphanage during the Second World War. Most of the children were however only separated from their parents or sent purposely in the Savoy mountains which was then under Italian rule. Italy was less oppressive in that time. On 6 April 1944, three vehicles pulled up in front of the orphanage. The Gestapo, under the direction of the 'Butcher of Lyon' Klaus Barbie, entered the orphanage and forcibly removed the forty-four children and their seven supervisors, throwing the crying and terrified children on to the trucks.
As a witness later recalled: 'I was on my way down the stairs when my sister shouted to me: It's the Germans, run away! I jumped out the window. I hid myself in a bush in the garden. I heard the cries of the children that were being kidnapped and I heard the shouts of the Nazis who were carrying them away.'
Forty-two children and five adults were gassed in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Two of the oldest children and Miron Zlatin, the superintendent, ended up in Tallinn, Estonia, and were killed by a firing squad.
The orphanage director Sabine Zlatin survived the Gestapo raid, being away collecting funds for the institution. Some 40 years later she testified against Barbie at his trial. Towards the end of her life, she convinced the president François Mitterrand to turn the orphanage premises into a memorial.