"Thank you for saving my family": Jewish woman rescued by Jersey flotilla returns 82 years on

A Jewish woman who fled Nazi persecution as a child has returned to the spot where she was rescued by members of the St Helier Yacht Club 82 years ago.

Irène Probstein is the last-known survivor of the club's wartime mission to recover British troops from St Malo as the Nazis advanced on the town less than two weeks before the Occupation.

Among the Jersey sailors who headed to France were brothers Jim and Eddie Langlois who looked after Irène and her family until they were subsequently evacuated to England.

Irène, who is in her 90s, went on to live in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she now has her own family.

Irène Probstein, aged nine, before she fled her home of Antwerp in Belgium. Credit: Irène Probstein

Before the Second World War, she lived in Belgium - but was forced to escape to St Malo after her home was bombed by the Nazis in May 1940. At the time, she was just nine-years-old.

Returning to Jersey, she told ITV Channel TV: "I think everybody was just stunned with relief. It was like coming out of a hell hole and into heaven, it was unbelievable.

"It is very emotional [to be back in Jersey], I didn't think I would be so emotional. I am pleased that I have been able to do it and delighted that I can bring my family, including my grandchildren.

"It is meaningful and I want to be able to say thank you for saving my family."

On being reunited with relatives of the family who rescued her, she said: "I hope I can say what I want to say, I feel so extraordinarily lucky. I made it and I have to thank them for it. I am so fortunate that this family was here for me or else I wouldn't be here to tell you the story."

Rhys Perkins of St Helier Yacht Club added: "In 1940, a flotilla of boats went from St Helier Yacht Club across to St Malo to help with the rescue of the British and Allied troops.

The boat Callou owned a Jersey family that rescued Irene and her family 82 years ago. Credit: ITV Channel TV

"Initially, they helped transport the troops to the larger boats off shore and the remainder back to Jersey.

"We were absolutely amazed when we heard from Irene that she was still alive and well, and when she said she was planning on coming back to Jersey, it meant a tremendous amount to the club.

"Irène has brought over with her a plaque which commemorates the evacuation with thanks to the Langlois family and the yacht club, because without the help they were given, they would have probably not survived the war."

  • Irène unveils a plaque to commemorate 82 years since the St Malo evacuation