“Network of Freedom” is a powerful film that invites you to ask yourself: What would I do if my fellow countrymen were being forced from their homes, leaving their children to fend for themselves, and marched hundreds of miles to concentration camps? Would I be brave enough to help those being guarded by the invading force, generous enough to give away the food and clothing I might need myself or to help the children who were left homeless? Even in the face of lesser evils, this film challenges us to ask ourselves not only what would we do, but what have we done?
“Network of Freedom” showcases the true story of Sister Helene Studler, a Daughter of Charity, who put her own life in danger by organizing an underground network of freedom that saved more than 2,000 French refugees from Nazi death camps. According to newspaper accounts, those saved included François de Mitterrand, the future Prime Minister of France, and General Henri Giraud, who would later give Sister Helene the medal of the Legion of Honor. (Airs 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, May 15, with an encore at 1:30 a.m. ET, Monday, May 17.)
How did a simple religious sister, who previously helped orphans and the poor from her office at the tiny Hospice of Saint Nicolas de Metz, and who we later learn was suffering from cancer, organize charitable efforts to feed, clothe, and minister to thousands of orphans and others in need? Even more incredibly, how did this sister manage to organize an escape system to spirit those in the Nazi death camps or in danger of being taken to such camps out from under Nazis noses to freedom?
Although she herself would narrowly escape the Gestapo, she would never again return to her city of Metz. However, she lived to hear the words “Metz is liberated,” and to reiterate her vows as a Daughter of Charity before succumbing to cancer.
According to an article in the Spring 1989 issue of the Vincentian Heritage Journal: “In memory of Sister Helene, her liberated prisoners erected in front of her hospice a memorial which speaks the best of her soul and her ideal. The image of “Our Lady of Prisoners” guards the front of the old hospice of Metz and perpetuates the memory of this heroic Daughter of Monsieur Vincent [de Paul].”
While this movie is in Spanish with English subtitles, it is well worth the effort to view. You will be inspired and humbled by the heroic acts of this incredible sister and be challenged to ask yourself: What would I do in a similar situation?