[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]


A Magnificent, Mysterious Miracle


Researched by Stacey Keefer
James Buchanan High School
Mercersberg, Pennsylvania
USA

Miracles come from the actions of courageous people. In the village of Le Chambon sur- Lignon, France during WWII, Andre Trocme and his parishioners resisted the Nazis and saved the Jews in spite of the government and threats against them.

Andre Trocme was born in 1901. He came from a long line of Huguenots and Germans. He met Magda, his wife, in New York. She was born in Florence, Italy, also in 1901. She was a descendant of a Russian Decembrist who tried to free serfs. Their ancestry bred their passion for non-violence.

The Occupation occurred when the Nazis took over France, during WWII and set up a government called Vichy in Southern France where Le Chambon is located. There were strict rules about treating the government with respect, and if they were not followed, one might be deported.

Le Chambon was a tiny village in great need of a pastor, and Trocme was just the man for the job. He had enthusiasm that spread throughout the whole village. Andre Trocme gained the love of the citizens shortly after his arrival. He then became the pastor of their Protestant church. The news about the atrocities happening to the Jews, was spread during some of his sermons. Trocme knew that if he wanted to, he could gain the support of the parishioners. He went to the commissioner of Le Chambon and asked for funds to build a refugee house for the Jews. The commissioner thought that it would endanger the citizens of Le Chambon, so he refused.

Trocme, with the help of Roger Darsiac, formed the first resistance movement, which involved the schools. They planned for the children not to salute the flag in the morning. It worked, and then the children wrote a letter to the Vichy condemning the actions taken in Paris against Jews. Villagers also helped the resistance movement by not saluting the flag and not signing loyalty oaths to Petain, Vichy leader. According to Meltzer, the Quakers had already began the process of resistance, at this time. Under Burns Chalmers, they prevented refugees from being sent to the terrible camps. If they could not save adults, they could at least try to save the children.

Trocme decided to meet with Chalmers after hearing of the good, non-violent things that he did. Agreeing that their primary concern was the children, they made plans to set up a refugee house in Le Chambon. They needed to decide on a leader, and Trocme had a cousin named Daniel whom he thought would be perfect for the job. Next, they had to decide how to make the citizens aware of the process without the Nazis finding out. This would be the easiest of their problems.

Daniel was in southern France somewhere. Trocme found him and asked for his help. He agreed to help and called the refugee house for the children "House of Rocks." Later on, the Nazis discovered the house and sent Daniel and the refugees to an internment camp.

In addition to the House of Rocks, adult refugees were sent from house to house in Le Chambon. The Vichy police found out about the refugees and made frequent searches of the houses and farms in the village. Every time they came up empty. Trocme knew when they would be coming because of the scouts' warning. Later on, the Vichy police who stayed in town would warn them of coming searches so the Jews could hide in the woods.

In 1943, the police came to take Andre away. Bystanders sang the old Lutheran hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." The police also arrested Edouard Their, Trocme's ministry assistant, and Roger Darcisac, who was the head of the public school.

Eventually, all were released and Andre went into hiding. The operations of rescue continued until Liberation.

A group took perilous trips into Switzerland with Jews since Switzerland was neutral. During this same time, Daniel Trocme's name was found on a list of those gassed in Poland. Israel awarded him the "Medal of Righteousness."

People should appreciate what the people of Le Chambon did. Overall, they saved about 5,000 Jews and there are two trees dedicated to them at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel.

Works Cited:

  • Hallie, Philip P. Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. New York: Harper Perennial, 1979.
  • Kallen, Stuart A. The Faces of Resistance. Minnesota: Abdo Consulting Group, 1944.
  • Meltzer, Milton. Rescue. New York, Harper Trophy, 1988.

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