From December 1940 to September 1944, the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and its surrounding area became a life-line for almost 5,000 Jews. This safe haven came into existence the day after the Vichy Government in France made an agreement with the Nazis to hand over all Jewish refugees.
Weapons of the Spirit
In his sermon on that day, Andre Trocme, Pastor of the Protestant church, advised his parishioners to use the ‘weapons of the spirit’ to resist.
“Loving, forgiving, and doing good to our adversaries is our duty. Yet we must do this without giving up, and without being cowardly. We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the gospel. We shall do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate.”
Throughout the entire Nazi occupation, not one person handed over a Jewish refugee to the authorities. Elizabeth Koenig-Kaufman, a child refugee in Le Chambon, described it thus –
“Nobody asked who was Jewish and who was not. Nobody asked where you were from. Nobody asked who your father was or if you could pay. They just accepted each of us, taking us in with warmth, sheltering children, often without their parents — children who cried in the night from nightmares.”
Just do whatever you can
The people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon couldn’t stop World War II.
They couldn’t do anything about the Nazi occupation of France.
Nor could the atrocities be stopped by the villagers.
They had no control over any of those things.
However, they did have control over themselves and their own actions.
Their combined actions had a massive effect but for this to happen each person in Le Chambon had to choose and act according to his or her own view of what constituted ‘doing the right thing’. These Butterfly Effect actions saved 5,000 innocent people – most of them children.
“…make ye a mighty effort, and choose for yourselves a noble goal.” (1)