Moorehead (A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France, 2011) recounts the story of a small area in eastern France where opposition to the Nazis succeeded for years.
In and around the small village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in the mountains of Ardèche, the residents were led in their “remarkable adventure in imagination and cooperation” by one man in particular, Pastor Andre Trocmé. If not for the pastor, his family and his fellow citizens in the surrounding parishes, so many could never have been hidden and saved. They were descendants of the Huguenots whose history of modesty and silence enabled them to keep a secret and to keep to themselves. As Trocmé delivered his fiery sermons, he also instigated the nonviolent resistance to the oppressors. The remarkable part of this story is how many people were involved in saving not only Jews or French, but anyone on the Nazi’s list of “terrorists.” The pastors, the farmers who took in refugees, the forgers who created ration books and passports, and the passeurs who guided people through the mountains—all were aided by the mayor and the prefect, who looked the other way and even warned of danger. Even when 170 convalescing German soldiers were sent to the village, not a word was spread about their arrival. This is a wonderful story of the people of more than 20 communes who saved more refugees, proportionately, than anywhere else in France. Hundreds were hidden and saved, and many thousands passed through. It’s proof that the smallest gestures can often make the biggest difference. While celebrating the courage and sacrifice involved, the author also examines the often contentious dynamics behind the history and its legacy.
Moorehead’s knowledge of the people, the area and the history make this one of the most engrossing survival stories of World War II.