From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Train in Winter comes the absorbing story of a French village that helped save thousands hunted by the Gestapo during World War II—told in full for the first time.
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village of scattered houses high in the mountains of the Ardèche, one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Eastern France. During the Second World War, the inhabitants of this tiny mountain village and its parishes saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, freemasons, communists, OSS and SOE agents, and Jews. Many of those they protected were orphaned children and babies whose parents had been deported to concentration camps.
With unprecedented access to newly opened archives in France, Britain, and Germany, and interviews with some of the villagers from the period who are still alive, Caroline Moorehead paints an inspiring portrait of courage and determination: of what was accomplished when a small group of people banded together to oppose their Nazi occupiers. A thrilling and atmospheric tale of silence and complicity, Village of Secrets reveals how every one of the inhabitants of Chambon remained silent in a country infamous for collaboration. Yet it is also a story about mythmaking, and the fallibility of memory.
A major contribution to WWII history, illustrated with black-and-white photos, Village of Secrets sets the record straight about the events in Chambon, and pays tribute to a group of heroic individuals, most of them women, for whom saving others became more important than their own lives.
British historian and biographer Moorehead (A Train in Winter) offers an informative, comprehensive, and nuanced account of why and how the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon hid hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. Moorehead addresses the agonies mothers suffered at the French internment camps of Gurs and Rivesaltes when they gave up their children to be hidden; the fact that, as early as the fall of 1942, flyers in Paris concerning the deportation of Jews "spoke of the gassing of the weak and elderly"; and the role of the Darbyists, an austere, evangelical Protestant sect, in the hiding of Jews. Moorehead introduces readers to courageous rescuers both in Le Chambon and the surrounding region: Protestant pastor Andr Trocm ; master document-forger Oscar Rosowsky; and Moussa Abadi, a Syrian Jew who befriended the bishop of Nice (from whom he obtained an office to forge life-saving documents). She also covers the German capture of key individuals such as Madeleine Dreyfus, who helped Jewish children find refuge, and examines the ambiguous role played figures such as Major Schm hling, who commanded the local German garrison. Moorehead's deeply researched, crisply written, and well-paced work will stand as the definitive account of a heroic, hazardous, and uplifting initiative during the German occupation. B&w photos