here s how far behind I am I finished this book the end of last month and am just now getting to it here aarrghh Village of Secrets begins with the coming of the Nazis to France in 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy government under P tain It wasn t long until measures of repression against certain targeted groups foreign Jews, Freemasons and Communists began the campaigns against them were accompanied by propaganda that targeted these groups as dark forces of the anti France However, as time went on, it became clearer that the Vichy government was expected to play a role in helping the Nazis implement their anti Jewish policies not just the foreign born, naturalized citizens, but eventually the French born Jews, who d mistakenly believed that their status offered them some modicum of safety If you believe the myth that started circulating in 1953, a pacifist oriented pastor named Andr Trocm in the French parish of Le Chambon sur Lignon helped save some 5,000 hunted communists, Freemasons, resisters and Jews from deportation to the extermination camps of occupied Poland According to a magazine article that year, Trocm had instilled his own belief in non violent, peaceful resistance among his parishioners, and it was in this spirit that they were led to take in, hide, and sometimes get people whose names appeared on Nazi death lists safely over the Swiss border Over two decades later, in 1988, Le Chambon was designated by Yad Vashem as the only village in the world to be Righteous Among Nations, an appellation that in combination with a number of articles, documentaries, and memoirs about this remote village in the Massif Central, perpetuated the ongoing myth about Trocm s role and that of Le Chambon as well But there s a problem here by focusing solely on this small, remote village and this peace loving Protestant pastor, over the years that myth has ignored a lot of other people those from other places, of other beliefs, and even a number of humanitarian authorities who literally risked everything to help save people designated for the camps In this book, the author takes on the realities behind the myths and examines the changing and still controversial discourses evolving from this historical period Either I add a too long review, or you can click here for the long one at my online reading journal Here s the short version as its bottom line, this book most thoroughly examines how ordinary people responded to very extraordinary circumstances during this time period It is a well written and meticulously researched narrative that uses first person accounts of people who lived to tell their tales due of the help they received from others, as well as accounts from some of those who helped them to survive recommended my thanks to the publisher The second in Moorehead s proposed trilogy of French Resistance histories What I had assumed might be a sweetened story of rescuers and goodness in the midst of the Holocaust turned out to be a complicated story the truth is not so black and white It s also the story of the Nazi occupation of France and how this region stood slightly apart from the Vichy regime One man is often credited with the rescue and hiding of Jewish children at Le Chambon sur Lignon, but the region itself had a history of resistance, and many other women and men were instrumental and perhaps crucial than Trocm This historical memory is disputed as well, and apparently Moorehead received threats after publication Why are some rescuers honored by Yad Vashem and others are ignored it s political and controversial, of course Made me think of the David Rieff book I just read, In Praise of Forgetting, and his suggestion that historical memories can be problematic if they become dogma I read this soon after listening to A Train in Winter, so I had a terrifying and immediate understanding of the agonies any of those unfortunate enough to be caught and deported would undergo. The story of Chambon is incredibly moving my wife and I had the experience of visiting the village and feeling the powerful sense of goodness which still resides there This town, in a remote part of France, led by the Huguenot pastor Andre Trocme, was the place of refuge for perhaps 2500 Jewish children, hidden and then moved on to safety NOTE see also my review of Phillip Hallie s Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There EXCERPTS On Saturday 26 August, 1942, some 50 to 60 police and gendarmes wound their way up the steep roads in police trucks and on motorcycles and stopped in front of the Mairie in le Chambon Trocm and the mayor were summoned and ordered to hand over the names of all Jews resident in the area I am their pastor, Trocm is reported as saying That is to say their shepherd He said he had no idea whether there were any Jews among his parishioners, and had he known, he would not tell them The policeman in charge informed him that he had just 24 hours in which to come up with the names, and that if he failed to obey, he personally would be arrested As darkness fell, the children were collected by boy scouts and moved to remote farmhouses, where they were hidden in attics or behind wood piles, only emerging after nightfall while the police remained on the plateau When no list of Jews was forthcoming, the police, who had brought a list of their own with 72 names on it, began to search the village They checked documents, opened cupboards, combed through cellars and attics, banged on walls to see if they contained false panels They found no one Next morning at dawn, they set out to explore the surrounding villages and the countryside Day after day, for three weeks, the villagers listened to the police firing up their cars and motorcycles in the early morning before leaving to scour the countryside for hidden Jews They found no one With the police finally gone, calm of a kind returned to the plateau The Jewish children left the forests and the isolated farm buildings and came back to their homes and pensions the pastors resumed their parish visits and Bible classes the farmers once again took up the slow rhythm of their agricultural lives. I have read the sections of this remarkable account which pre date the activities in Chambon a series of French Catholic and Protestant leaders resisted the Nazi demands to collect and deport Jews eventually, they realized that saving all the Jews was impossible and they chose to focus on the Jewish children.There are very few thrilling stories to emerge from the Nazi experience This is one of them Some excerpts the Mar chal Petain was aware that plans were going ahead to deport 10,000 foreign Jews A gigantic net was already descending over Vichy s internment camps The camps had been sealed Throughout the countryside, convents, boarding schools, presbyteries and hostels were searched and the forests patrolled for Jews those found were arrested The trains were all bound for Drancy By the time Ella was taken from Drancy and put on a train for Auschwitz, there were three convois, transports, leaving every week The first transport to take children on their own, without parents, left Drancy on 17 August Five hundred and thirty of the children on board were under 13 Between 17 and 31 August, seven trains left for Auschwitz Among those on board were 3,500 children.For the children in V nissieux, a new drama was unfolding Three buses had arrived, driven by volunteers, to take the children away Those over 18 technically the age at which the Germans considered them to be adults were concealed under the seats Rachel s only other memory of that time is of these hidden children There was just time to scatter the children around Lyons, to convents, schools, hospitals and private houses The older ones were put into scout uniforms and sent to join a pack leaving for a trip to the country When the police arrived at the OSE office, the children had gone Chaillet declared that, in all conscience, L Amiti Chr tienne would never hand over children entrusted into its care by their parents Word got out A leaflet with the words Vous n aurez pas les enfants was soon circulating around Lyons Let us save children by dispersing them, he said For this, he added, Garel would need a cover, helpers, money, families, false documents and safe houses. From The Author Of The Runaway Bestseller A Train In Winter Comes The Extraordinary Story Of A French Village That Helped Save Thousands, Including Many Jewish Children, Who Were Pursued By The Gestapo During World War II Le Chambon Sur Lignon Is A Small Village Of Scattered Houses High In The Mountains Of The Ard Che Surrounded By Pastures And Thick Forests Of Oak And Pine, The Plateau Vivarais Lies In One Of The Most Remote And Inaccessible Parts Of Eastern France, Cut Off For Long Stretches Of The Winter By Snow During The Second World War, The Inhabitants Of The Area Saved Thousands Wanted By The Gestapo Resisters, Freemasons, Communists, Downed Allied Airmen And Above All Jews Many Of These Were Children And Babies, Whose Parents Had Been Deported To The Death Camps In Poland After The War, Le Chambon Became The Only Village To Be Listed In Its Entirety In Yad Vashem S Dictionary Of The Just Just Why And How Le Chambon And Its Outlying Parishes Came To Save So Many People Has Never Been Fully Told Acclaimed Biographer And Historian Caroline Moorehead Brings To Life A Story Of Outstanding Courage And Determination, And Of What Could Be Done When Even A Small Group Of People Came Together To Oppose German Rule It Is An Extraordinary Tale Of Silence And Complicity In A Country Infamous Throughout The Four Years Of Occupation For The Number Of Denunciations To The Gestapo Of Jews, Resisters And Escaping Prisoners Of War, Not One Single Inhabitant Of Le Chambon Ever Broke Silence The Story Of Le Chambon Is One Of A Village, Bound Together By A Code Of Honour, Born Of Centuries Of Religious Oppression And, Though It Took A Conspiracy Of Silence By The Entire Population, It Happened Because Of A Small Number Of Heroic Individuals, Many Of Them Women, For Whom Saving Those Hunted By The Nazis Became Important Than Their Own Lives This is not the first time that an author has told the story of Le Chambon sur Lignon an Alpine French community that was among those that hid Jewish children and adults during the Second World War, but it is the first account I have read Caroline Moorehead is intent on correcting what she sees as the oversimplification and mythologisation of some earlier accounts Other reviews on Goodreads certainly have taken her to task on this.But first and foremost it is an amazing and moving story Families in the village and surrounding communities taking great personal risks to shelter thousands of Jews from the Nazis and the French Vichy regime , and saving lives.We also hear about the individuals who took terrific risks to transfer Jewish families from camps and places of danger to the villages of the Alpine plain, or across the border into Switzerland.A huge amount of research has clearly been done, and although the cast of characters is large and confusing at times, the personal testimony is remarkable.Some though have accused Caroline Moorehead of downplaying the religious aspect of this story diminishing the role of the Huguenot community and protestant pastors in sheltering Jewish families.But I do not think that s the case at all Caroline Moorehead makes it quite clear how important a part the Protestant faith played in the decisions of individuals to help Jewish refugees.She just chooses not to make it a simple narrative of good versus evil The truth is often nuanced than myth, and many individuals played a part in this remarkable story, and many with different motivations Jews were not just passive many played an active part in saving lives Catholics and those with no faith also were capable of heroic behaviour.Some of the most shocking parts of the book though expose the complicity of the Vichy regime in the attempts to exterminate Jews There may have been no gas chambers but Jewish families died in French run camps because of starvation and illness, and Vichy officials allowed many to be transferred to their death n the East Anti semitism was present in France even if it was not as widespread and institutional as in Germany But that just makes the heroism of those who chose to defy the Nazis and the Vichy government inspiring Some of those who helped save lives lost theirs in the cause.And, as in any real life story, there is ambiguity The main French official may have actively helped to save Jews he may just have turned a blind eye but he also may have been culpable in some deaths Equally the ambiguous attitude of the local German general may have made a contribution.Although many Jews did owe their lives to the village, this was far from a paradise Many of the children lost their parents, and their identity Not all their hosts were kindly Some of those saved struggled to adjust to life after the war.So although there is hope and heroism here, there is also darkness and despair These are ordinary people responding to extraordinary times truth not fable and I believe the book is powerful because it is honest about that.And like many accounts of the Holocaust you ask yourself what your own response would have been to the same circumstances We all hope we would do the right thing but how much would we be prepared to risk to protect others Village of Secrets shows how difficult those choices always are, and how remarkable and reprehensible people can be. I am a bit ambivalent about this book The subject matter is interesting as it describes the valiant attempts by the people of the Plateau Vivarais Lignon in Vichy France to protect and hide Jews fleeing from arrest by the Germans and the Vichy government It appears that a tremendous amount of research has been done by the author but the veracity of that research has been questioned by other historians and family members of those who lived on the Plateau So, what are the true facts and what are exaggerationsthe reader is left to decide Aside from the question of the authenticity of sections of the history, the basis of the story is fascinating and provides some insight into the collaborative government of Vichy There are so many characters in the story that it is impossible to keep track of them and they often appear and disappear just as quickly But there was still enough there to hold my interest. The story is truly inspiring, but it s not the first time it s been told, even in English, and the book has been severely criticized for its distortions and many inaccuracies The criticisms have been made by three people the author sought assistance from while researching her book, who feature significantly in it and who are well qualified to comment on it One of them, Pierre Sauvage, who made the award winning documentary Weapons of the Spirit about the village in question, has given a very detailed critique of the book in a review at , supplemented by additional material at which also reproduces the one star reviews by Max Liebmann and Nelly Trocm Hewett on.com At least two books have told the story before first the late Professor Philip Hallie s Lest Innocent Blood be Shed The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There 1979 which Ms Moorehead criticizes strongly in her own book and latterly Dr Patrick Henry s We Only Know Men The Rescue of Jews in France During the Holocaust 2007.Like Moorehead, Henry discusses Hallie s book and the controversies it aroused among some local inhabitants, though unlike Moorehead, he sees criticisms of Hallie as unfair see pp 6 8 and p.18f at For whatever reason, however, Ms Moorehead does not refer to Henry s book in either the body of her text or her source notes, and only includes an entry for the French translation in her bibliography.Henry writes p 8 The 700 page volume containing the proceedings of the three day 1990 colloquium held in Le Chambon sur Lignon constitutes our greatest single source of knowledge regarding the extent and nature of rescue work on the plateau Vivarais Lignon T his volume is our best source for moving beyond the legends into a true history of the plateau from 1939 to 1944 Despite mentioning the colloquium on p 334, however, Ms Moorehead does not refer to the published proceedings or include them in her bibliography.By an uncanny coincidence, another retelling of the story was published in the same month as Ms Moorehead s, Peter Grose s The Greatest Escape How one French community saved thousands of lives from the Nazis A Good Place to Hide , which has been praised by Thomas Keneally, the author of Schindler s List Either this or Henry s We Only Know Men would seem preferable to Village of Secrets, despite the favourable publicity and reviews it has received. My parents were among the Jews who found shelter in the area of Le Chambon sur Lignon, France, during the Holocaust the subject of this astonishingly inaccurate book and I had the good fortune to be born there at that time I thus care deeply about the remarkable rescue mission that profoundly affected my life.It is thus dismaying that this account of those events preposterously asserts that the French Protestant Huguenot dimension of the rescue effort has been inflated into a myth, that the village s remarkable pastor can be plausibly charged with being a self aggrandizing pathological liar, that nonviolence was only a small part of the story, that unnamed atheists and agnostics played an equal role in providing shelter, that indeed the religious beliefs of the rescuers deserve only passing mention Incidentally, among the many dozens of misrepresentations and errors in this sloppy book are the very photograph on the cover the reader has no way of knowing that the Village of Secrets portrayed is not Le Chambon Further, in the author s eagerness to be able to claim that she is, at last, setting the record straight and describing for the first time what actually took place in and around Le Chambon, she feels it necessary to go out of her way to malign the late Philip Hallie and me who have told the story before her In my case, she goes so far as to fabricate the utterly false allegation that key figures in Le Chambon s wartime events branded my well received feature documentary on the subject, Weapons of the Spirit, as nothing less than a mutilation of historical truth This is very mean spirited fiction indeed For information, please see SauvagePresident, Chambon Foundation Nazi opposition succeeds surrounding the small eastern French village of Le Chambon sur Lignon in the mountains of Ad che.Village of Secrets tells of the large number of French who resisted in some form involving themselves to save Jews, particularly the children from transportation to death camps Many feigned ignorance and looked the other way, mainly law enforcement, risking their freedom Religious intolerance set aside, as varying groups forgiving their differences in saving as many Jews as possible One standout, Pastor Andre Trocm , a man urging nonviolence resistance to oppressors, hid many Jews, as well as his parishioners with the utmost of secrecy, thus saving many from certain peril. The blot forever staining French history is the fact thousands of French people sadly collaborated with Germans, many actively aiding in the herding of Jews Vichy government attitude towards Jews permanently mars French history A sobering fact, heartbreaking to comprehend, painful to revisit.The atrocities of the Holocaust are described as expected, however the courage demonstrated by remarkable people willing to put their lives in great danger to save others creates for a well researched memorable read.Moorehead s clean writing and extensive research provides a brutal yet beautiful story of the harshness of some and the imperious kindness of others.