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February 13: Righteous Gentiles in France

February 13, 2014
children_franceThree leaders in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a Huguenot community in south-central France that was involved in the rescue of 5,000 souls, including some 3,000 Jews, during the Nazi occupation of their country, were arrested on this date in 1943: Pastor André Trocmé; Edouard Theis, administrator of the Cévenol School and a part-time minister; and Roger Darcissac, director of the public school for boys. The people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had participated in rescue by hiding refugees in their homes, schools, and churches (the photo at right shows Jewish children who were saved by the village), and helping to transport them into neutral Switzerland. The three men were offered their freedom by the Vichy Government after a month of imprisonment, on condition that they sign loyalty oaths. Although two of the three refused, they were nevertheless all released — and returned to their rescue activities (in which Pastor Trocmé’s wife Magda was a key participant). Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is one of two towns collectively awarded the Righteous Among the Nations Award by Yad Vashem (the other is the Dutch village of Nieuwlande). To see excerpts from a film about a Jewish child survivor’s return to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, look below. “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.” -Elizabeth Koenig-Kaufman