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Sebastian Steiger

Author of Children of Château de la Hille

Sebastian Steiger was born on October 14, 1918 in Oltingen, a small village in the Swiss canton Basel-Campagne. His father, Walter Steiger, was a Reformed pastor in the parishes of Oltingen, Wenslingen and Anwil. Sebastian lived in Oltingen with his four brothers and sisters while attending primary school. When his father was appointed pastor in Binningen, a suburb of Basel, Sebastian attended lycée there. In Schiers, he completed his higher education in teaching. In 1940 he received his teaching certificate and worked as a substitute teacher until 1943 while he was continuing course work for a semester at the University of Zürich.

From 1943 to 1945 Sebastian Steiger served in the Children’s Aid program of the Swiss Red Cross in occupied France. In 1946 he completed his studies at the University of Zürich earning an advanced degree in health education. In the same year he was appointed instructor at the primary school in Arlesheim, and in 1947 at a girls’ school in Basel. He married in 1956 and was the father of three children.

From 1958 to 1990 Sebastian Steiger organized the “Day of the Jewish Child,” an annual event in May dedicated to the memory of the million-and-a-half Jewish children killed by the Nazis. He often visited and lectured in Israel. When he retired in 1982 he spent nearly six years compiling Die Kinder von Schloß La Hille (The Children of Château de La Hille), a book recounting his daily life under the German occupation in France.

Sebastian Steiger was a member of the Association for Jewish-Christian Alliance and of the Swiss-Israeli Society. He was a central figure on the Committee of the Friends of the Swiss Children’s Village Kirjath Jearim in Israel. For more than 40 years he was engaged in promoting Israel.

Forty-one years after their shared experience at the Château de La Hille in France, Ruth Schütz and Peter Salz, two of the surviving children from the Château, organized a reunion of all the “Children of the Château de La Hille” whom they were able to contact in Europe, Australia and the United States. The reunion took place in 1985 at the kibbutz Lehavor Habasham in Israel. Sebastian Steiger described this reunion as one of the most meaningful experiences in his life.

Sebastian Steiger died in July 2012 in Basel.