A Good Place to Hide: How One French Vil­lage Saved Thou­sands of Lives Dur­ing World War II

Peter Grose
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By – April 17, 2015

In 1940, the Nazis occu­pied the north­ern half of France and its Atlantic coast. The unoc­cu­pied or free” south­ern part of the coun­try was led by Mar­shal Pétain in the cen­tral town of Vichy. It was in fact a pup­pet gov­ern­ment that col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Ger­mans. By 1942, the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion real­ized that there was real dan­ger. Peo­ple need­ed a place to hide or a way to get out of France. A remark­able group of French Protes­tants in the iso­lat­ed upper Loire Val­ley helped thou­sands of Jews and resis­tance fight­ers escape depor­ta­tion to the camps. André Trocmé, a Protes­tant min­is­ter and paci­fist, and Édouard The­is, head­mas­ter of the New Cévenole School, orga­nized the vil­lage and sur­round­ing areas of Le Cham­bon-sur-Lignon to help refugees flee­ing the Nazis. The vil­lagers asked no ques­tions and wel­comed these new­com­ers, pro­vid­ing food and shel­ter when both were scarce. Oscar Rosowsky, an eigh­teen-year-old Jew liv­ing in Nice, was one of those refugees. He spent the war forg­ing doc­u­ments to save others.

Peter Grose, a jour­nal­ist, tells this sto­ry well. It reads like a thriller, but it is a well-researched book with a bib­li­og­ra­phy and notes as well as an update on what hap­pened to the major par­tic­i­pants. Two appen­dix­es pro­vide infor­ma­tion about the Huguenots, the French Protes­tants who orig­i­nal­ly set­tled in the Le Cham­bon area to escape per­se­cu­tion, and the text of the ser­mon that Trocmé and The­is offered on June 23, 1940, inspir­ing their con­gre­gants to resist the ene­mies. Both men are hon­ored as Right­eous Gen­tiles at Yad Vashem. 

Relat­ed Content:

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

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