The Rest of the Story — Lefebvre’s Father

The Rest of the Story — Lefebvre’s Father

The father of the conservative French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre died in 1944 in a Nazi concentration camp

By Robert Moynihan

     February 8, 2009 The worldwide uproar over the opinions of Bishop Richard Williamson about the Shoah, following on the decision of Pope Benedict XVI, announced in Rome on January 24, to lift the 20-year-old excommunication of Williamson and three other bishops consecrated illicity in 1988 by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, has been loud, emotional — and very confusing. Reasoned discourse has been ill-served.

       (Photo: British-born Bishop Richard Williamson is pictured at an airport in Frankfurt, Germany, in this Feb. 28, 2007, file photo. Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunication of Bishop Williamson and three other bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. In a Swedish television interview conducted in November and  aired January 21, Bishop Williamson provoked Jewish and Catholic protests with assertions that the Holocaust has been exaggerated and that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to kill their prisoners — CNS photo/Reuters)
     As the attacks against Pope Benedict XVI began to include suggestions that he resign his papacy because of this decision regarding Williamson, it almost seemed as if the fabric of goodwill and trust, carefully woven between Christians and Jews through numerous meetings and common actions over several decades, was unraveling.
     There are many open questions in this affair, and in our upcoming February issue of Inside the Vatican, which will soon go to press, we will have a comprehensive report on the controversy, from the Pope’s reasons for lifting the excommunications, to the views of Bishop Williamson on the Holocaust, to the concerns expressed by representatives of the Jewish community (to obtain a copy of this issue, click on the link at the bottom of this email.)
     But in this brief newsflash, we thought it right to make a point which has not received sufficient attention in the midst of the tumult.
     That point is that the man at the remote origin of this entire controversy, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who in 1988 consecrated Williamson a bishop, along with the three others, in order to ensure the continuation of his Pius X Society after his death (he died in 1991), experienced “in his own flesh,” as it were, the same cruelty millions of Jews experienced prior to and during the Second World War: his own father died in a Nazi concentration camp.
     (Photo: Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre presides at the 1988 ordinations of Bishops Richard Williamson, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Bernard Fellay and Alphonso de Galarreta in Econe, Switzerland. Archbishop Lefebvre and the four new bishops were excommunicated after participating in the ordination that had been forbidden by Pope John Paul II. Archbishop Lefebvre, who died in 1991, founded the Society of St. Pius X — CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)
     Marcel Lefebvre was born in Tourcoing, Nord (département), the second son and third child of factory-owner René Lefebvre. René Lefebvre died in 1944 in the Nazi concentration camp at Sonnenburg (in East Brandenburg), where he had been imprisoned by the Gestapo because of his work for the French Resistance and British Intelligence. (Reference:
    At the time of the First World War (1914-1918), Mr. Lefebvre had served his country by operating as a spy. Decades later, when the Nazis occupied France, he resumed this work, risking his life an incalculable number of times helping soldiers and escaped prisoners return to un-occupied France and London. (Reference: RENE LEFEBVRE AND THE HOLOCAUST; see also the Russian web site:
     “Not very far from Cracow, in the Polish town of S?onsk, near the German border, there (was) a small concentration camp and prison. In the Sonnenburg prison, a brave Catholic Frenchman died after years of torture and suffering in the hands of the Nazis. His name was René Lefebvre (photo below, with his wife and children), loving father of the founder of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX/SSPX). (Reference:
And there is perhaps even more information about Lefebvre’s father.
     A recent Reuters new story on Williamson (Go to: contains, among other comments sent in and posted by readers from around the world, a statement by Dr. Chaim Lehmann (his comment is the 6th comment down from the top) who says he is a Jewish citizen in France. Lehmann describes how Archbishop Lefebvre’s father, René, helped rescue his (Chaim’s) Jewish relatives, and how René himself died in a concentration camp. Here is the passage (the text is left exactly as it was posted on the intenet, grammatical errors included):
February 6th, 2009
1:49 pm GMT

Why all the insults against the Society of St. Pius X, a monarchist but very tolerant group whom my brothers as a Rabbi in Lyon highly respects. They are open and not politically correct nice-talkers, but their founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, lost his own very pious Catholic father René Lefebvre, who helped some of my Jewish relatives escape to neutral Spain from the Nazi tyranny. Marcel lost his own dad to the Nazi’s tyranny campaign, and now the entire Catholic Church and Pius XII (who saved almost one million Jews by helping them flee, go underground, hide or emigrate! cf. Pinchas E. Lapide,
Three Popes and the Jews), as well as this great SSPX group are being demonized by anti-religious mass media. It is insulting to me as a Jew, that the suffering of my relatives in the Shoah camps, is instrumentalized by anti-Catholic propagandists and their political agenda! I am insulted also by the ADL this time. They seem to have become anti-Catholic bigots themselves. I respect Bishop Fellay much. I only loathe Williamson’s hurtful statements. But why should I care? I just ignore his ridiculous claims. Nothing more. We as Jews should be solidarious with the Catholics.- Posted by Dr. Chaim Lehmann, France 

     We have not yet been able to confirm that this passage is authentic. We do not know for sure whether this Dr. Chaim Lehmann really exists, and whether he really has relatives helped by Lefebvre’s father, or not, so these words are not yet ones we can take as reliable information. But, if it were proven to be true,  we would have a witness to the action of Archbishop Lefebvre’s father in helping Jews escape from France to Spain during World War II. (Note: Any corroboration of this information would be greatly appreciated.)
     It is important as we report this story, and as readers read about it and try to understand what is happening, that we keep in mind that there may be elements that are overlooked — like the actions and fate of Archbishop Lefebvre’s father — which can shed important light on the suffering, tragic fate, and heroic courage, of those who made the often tragic history we have inherited.









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