In his American debut, Grose tells a little-known story of a pacifist pastor and the heroic Huguenot population of a plateau in France. These are the ordinary people of a handful of parishes who saved thousands from the Nazis.
Word spread quickly that the villages around Le Chambon-sur-Lignon would help not only Jews, but also illegal aliens and young men avoiding deportation to Germany’s factories. Perhaps it was the Huguenot background of persecution that fostered a people who kept secrets, minded their own business and helped their fellow sufferers. When André Trocmé took over as pastor from Charles Guillon, he preached nonviolent resistance and love of one's enemies. The plateau was a popular summer vacation spot and had little other attraction. There were no minerals, agriculture or wine production, which a nation at war might requisition, so it was effectively a safe haven. As a vacation spot, it had a wealth of guesthouses and hotels. All the pieces fell into place for the plateau after Trocmé met a Quaker who convinced him to take in children released from prison camps. Guillon moved to Geneva, where he was able to channel cash from American Quakers into the area. Oscar Rosowsky, an 18-year-old Latvian typewriter repairman, was a master forger, and Virginia Hall, an American spy, arranged for parachute supply drops after D-Day. In addition, some of the most important players in this operation were the Boy Scouts. Trocmé and many of his guides were Scouts with survival skills, and they were able to lead escapees safely to Switzerland. Almost everyone in the region took in at least one refugee, and they were so discreet that few neighbors knew of the others’ actions. The author ably narrates this inspiring story of “the courage and leadership of some remarkable men and women.”
In chronicling the daring activity that went on for years, Grose keeps readers on edge with a heartwarming story of ordinary heroes who just did what was required.