Gratitude in French Village



I have already written about Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a large French village but I had never been there. Driving south last week, we decided to stop there.

Unfortunately it was pouring with rain so all we saw was the Protestant temple where the people who protected the Jews during WWII worshipped and across the road the plaque that was put up to thank these righteous citizens.

“a farming village called Le Chambon-sur-Lignon made history by harboring some 5,000 refugees, most of them Jews, many of them children. A good deal of sacrifice was involved. The village basically doubled its size. Families took in children and their parents, making them feel as though they were fellow “Chambonnais” (citizens of Le Chambon), going to school, working on the farms, sharing meals, and so forth. There was great risk involved. The village became a center for the forgery of documents. It was obvious that Jews had virtually doubled the population of this remote village. The Nazis were not entirely stupid. Occasionally they would raid the village and interrogate the people, asking them about the children. But the Chambonnais stood firm.

The story gets more interesting. Almost all of the Chambonnais were Huguenot Christians. France had persecuted Protestants heavily, especially during the eighteenth century. Those who did not flee, and those who were not put to death for their faith, survived in particular pockets of the country. They kept the memories alive by meeting in worship, hearing the Bible preached by their pastors, and singing the psalms as well as folk songs that recounted their story. They felt a special affinity for the Jews. Le Chambon became the safest place in Europe for refugees from the Nazi horrors.”

The Germans knew something was going on. They had lists of the citizens, and some of the names were demonstrably Jewish. But a number of their soldiers were tired of their own disturbing tactics. At least one of them, fairly high up, decided to ignore the names on the lists. The comment in the documentary says of him, “You just never know who might get caught up in a conspiracy of goodness.”

excerpted from A Conspiracy of Goodness by William Edgar

The text of the plaque reads: “The memory of the just will always be remembered.” Psalm 112:6.

Alternate translation: “For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered for ever.”

“Tribute to the Protestant community of this Cevennes ground, and to all of those who followed its example, believers and non-believers who, during the Second World War, 1939-1945, united against Nazi crimes, in peril of their lives under the occupation hid, protected and saved all the oppressed by the thousands.

The Jewish refugees in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and the nearby communities.”

More posts on the topic on this blog:
Righteous Among the Nations
Oasis of Peace

15 thoughts on “Gratitude in French Village

    • As an educator, I am more and more convinced that it is necessary to share positive as well as well as terrifying stories to avoid young people’s being overwhelmed by sheer horror, or worse fascinated by it.

      • I’ll look forward to participating. Please do remind me if I don’t send them in, I completely forgot to send them to Leora this time around!

        PS The abandoned bicycles were in Tel Aviv’s Neve Zedek neighborhood.

        My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography on etsy and Society6 and bring home something beautiful today!

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