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The daughter of a French naval officer, she joined the convent of the medical sisters of Notre Dame de Compassion in Lyon. In 1933 she became Mère Marie Élisabeth de l'Eucharistie, the convent's Mother Superior. After the fall of the French Third Republic to Nazi Germany in World War II, she began hiding refugees from the Gestapo and eventually used her convent to store weapons and ammunition for the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR).
On March 24, 1944, she and her assistant were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the prison at Fort Montluc in Lyon. From there, she was taken to Romainville, before being shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin, Germany. There, stripped of her religious garments, she was forced into hard labor. With the end of the war in sight, the Germans began a massive round of killings by gas chamber which included Mother Élise on March 30, 1945, only weeks before Germany surrendered unconditionally. She was 55 years old.
In 1961, the government of France honored her with her portrait on a postage stamp. A street bearing her name was inaugurated in Brignais (Lyon) on December 2, 1979. In 1997, she was posthumously awarded the Médaille des Justes and in 1999 the Salle Élise Rivet[clarification needed] was named for her at the Institut des Sciences de l'Homme in Lyon.
- French-language biographical article
- English-language article
- Article on philatelic representations of Mère Elise