26 Aug The Commune That Defied Hitler
Surrounded by the rolling green hills of a windswept plateau, atop the Massif Central mountain range of central France, lies the village of Le Chambon Sur Lignon. At three-thousand feet above sea level, the secluded village proved to be a beacon of hope that shines bright to this day. In a country that is ninety-five percent Catholic, Le Chambon Sur Lignon is unique in that sense that it is a protestant community. As a Protestant minority, the “Huguenot” (an ethnoreligious group of French Protestants) and the people of the village themselves were subject to persecution in the past, which would influence their future decisions and eventually save thousands of lives.
With the Nazi occupation of France in June, 1940, Father André Trocmé, the spiritual leader of the village, implored the people of Le Chambon Sur Lignon to provide shelter to the fleeing Jews seeking refuge. This decision was partially based on Father Trocmé’s Christian faith, he believed the Jewish people were the chosen people of the holy book and that saving them was his duty. The people of the village hid the Jewish refugees in private homes, and farms as well as public institutions like the church and the school. When German troops would come to look for Jews, the townsfolk sent the Jews that were hiding in the town at the time, to hide in the nearby woods.
The people of Le Chambon Sur Lignon did not just provide shelter to Jews seeking refuge, they also provided forged identifications, ration cards, and even accompanying them on the journey to the border of neighboring Switzerland. The villagers did so at great risk to their own safety and even at times, sacrifice. Father Trocmé’s cousin, Daniel Trocmé, who would often be the first person to welcome Jewish refugees and escort them to safety in the village, was caught by the Gestapo and sent to Maidanek concentration camp, where he was murdered. It is estimated the people of Le Chambon Sur Lignon saved up to five thousand Jews.
For their bravery and sacrifice, the people of the Le Chambon Sur Lignon received many honors. Thirty five of the villagers, including Father Trocmé, his wife Magda Trocmé, and his cousin, Daniel Trocmé were recognized by Yad Vashem (The world Holocaust remembrance center) as “Righteous Among the Nations”
Le Chambon Sur Lignon is still a beacon of hope for many, it continues its’ practice of sheltering refugees and migrants from war zones like Congo, Libya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kosovo, and Chechnya to this day.
The Friends of Zion Museum honors and remembers the unimaginable risks and sacrifices made by the people Le Chambon Sur Lignon for the Jewish people.