We’re terribly saddened to hear about the passing of our friend Bettine Le Beau.
Bettine was born in Antwerp, Belgium to Polish-Jewish parents and was eight years old when the country was invaded by the Nazis. Bettine’s father, who was in London for business at the time, advised the rest of the family to seek refuge in Paris and apply for a visa to Britain, but Germany invaded France before they were able to. Bettine, along with her mother and brother, were taken to Gurs concentration camp. Conditions in the camp were not easy: there was a lack of food, uncomfortable conditions and uncertainty about the future.
In 1940, Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) – a Jewish humanitarian organisation for children – were offering to smuggle children out of the camps. Bettine’s mother courageously allowed her children to be smuggled out of the camp to safety. Bettine and her brother survived the Holocaust as hidden children, living in children’s homes and with different foster families in France.
The family were eventually reunited after the war and Bettine and her brother came to live in England in September 1945. Bettine went on to have a successful acting career, starring in The Benny Hill Show, The Prisoner and the first James Bond film Dr No, in which she played Professor Dent’s secretary.
Bettine spent her later years sharing her personal story with school children with the Holocaust Educational Trust and with HMDT to help raise awareness of Holocaust Memorial Day. Last year Bettine was part of our Memory Makers project, which shared the stories of survivors with the public through different forms of art.
Bettine was paired with collage artist and animator Martin O’Neill and Andrew Griffin, a Hastings-based designer and director of animation. We chose this pairing because of Bettine’s style and glamour and the chance to profile her wonderful collection of photographs.
Martin and Andrew met Bettine at her north London home where they discussed education, happiness, working with young people and how hope can ultimately overcome hatred.
The artists used this opportunity to profile the amazing photographs that Bettine had collected of herself and turned them into an animation to share her story with the world.
Watch the animation that they produced of Bettine sharing her story.