The Courage of Le Chambon Sur Lignon

Hebrew Translate into German, French, Spanish Italian or Portugeuse, Russian, Japanese, Korean or Chinese
Hungarian Polish Serbian-Slovakian Hindi Norwegian Chinese, Japanese, Korean Romanian Turkish/Czech Croatian Indonesian, Dutch Danish Persian Thai,Africans, Arabic Malaysian Vietnamese Bulgarian Ukrainian Icelandic Farsi Finnish Tagalog Esperanto

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." (Isaiah 9:2)

By 1940, when German occupation forces and the Vichy Regime began to arrest foreign Jews, Chambon was a village of 3000 people. Jews emigrated to France because they were granted citizenship there, where 98% of the countries population were Catholic and approximately 1% were Jewish at the time the Nazi's invaded.

As the war continued, both governments also arrested French Jews. Situated 350 miles from Paris in the Haute Loire, of the Auvergne region of southern France is the picturesque farming village of Le Chambon Sur Lignon. The town not far from Lyon, sits nestled along the Lignon River, high on a pine studded plateau surrounded by the rugged mountains of the Cevennes. This mountain range, a region of volcanic origin, forms an arc from northeast to southwest, marking the southeastern limit of the large plateau. In sheltered areas, olive, chestnut, and mulberry trees flourish. It's a locale which causes the winters there to be long and cold.

In 1938 a minister named Andre Trocme and his assistant Eduoard Theis founded Ecole Noubelle Cevenole, an international school that educated Jewish children. From 1941 to 1944, under the leadership of a local Andre Trocme and his wife, Magda Trocme, the village of Chambon-sur-Lignon became a "City of Refuge," as it's citizens risked their lives to hide Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazi SS for shipment to the death camps. Some of the residents were arrested by the Gestapo such as Rev. Trocme's cousin, Daniel Trocme, who was sent to Maidanek concentration camp where he was killed. When the Nazi's discovered the school, they arrested Daniel, questioning him all the way to the prison camp in Eastern Poland where he was gassed and incinerated in 1944.

This rescue of persecuted Jews in Europe became a community effort for village of Le Chambon Sur Lignon, as the entire population of the town, which consisted of 8,000 people in 1940, pitched in to help. Whenever the Nazi patrols came searching, they were hidden in the countryside. After the war, one of the villagers recalled: "As soon as the soldiers left, we would go into the forest and sing a song. When they heard that song, the Jews knew it was safe to come home." These were of a "different spirit" than that which shrouded Europe at that time. Moved by compassion amid the holocaust taking place in Europe, when 75,000 of France’s Jews were being deported and sent to their deaths, the townspeople who were themselves descendants of the Huguenots, banded together in a unified rescue effort which helped to save 5000 Jews fleeing from the Nazi's.

A steady stream of Jewish refugees began arriving in the town as early as 1940. Some of the Jews found permanent shelter within the village, until the France was liberated, while others were given shelter temporarily until they were able to escape over the border, into Switzerland. So many Jews found refuge in Le Chambon Sur Lignon, that it was said, there was not a single farm, which did not shelter a Jewish family. Refugee Jews were hidden in private homes, on farms, in orphanages, and public institutions of the area. An orphanage housed Jewish children that had been removed from internment camps in southern France. With numerous hiding places and a network of escape routes to Switzerland and Spain, the village of Chambon-sur-Lignon and its out-lying areas, became a stronghold of freedom to the persecuted Jews, providing forged identification documents, ration cards and contacts across the border in Switzerland.

Those villagers obtaining information regarding Jewish people being hunted in France to Switzerland, notified fellow rescuers providing assistance in neutral countries such as Switzerland. By the middle of the Occupation, there were several houses, mostly located in the hilly countryside outside the village which were funded by Protestant groups, and national governments such as Sweden.

In August of 1942 the authorities learned of the rescue activity taking place in the village. Why did they resist not only the Nazi's, but their own governmental policies and risk their lives to save others? Conscience.

Some hide within the supposed safety of the imagined safety of their own apathy. Such was the case of a large percent of the world during WW2.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, (reasonings) and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

In 1990 the town which is now the home of 3,000 residents, was recognized by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, where two trees are dedicated in memory of them at Yad Vashem, for their great courage and humanitarianism in the face of danger as "The Righteous Among The Nations." The term used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust in order to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

Books & Resources

The Great War The Courage To Care: Rescuers of Jews During The Holocaust Deitrich Bonhoeffer Angels & Donkeys Greater Than Angels Shoes For Amelie

Tom & Alana Campbell
5214 South 2nd Avenue Everett, Washington 98203-4113

Page 95

Email: adazio@lycos.com