Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a small town, largely Protestant, was a center of nonviolent resistance to Hitler’s holocaust and rescued hundreds of Jews. The efforts of numerous villagers, Protestant and Catholic, were inspired largely by the Reformed Church pastor, André Trocmé, a committed pacifist, his wife, Magda Trocmé, and several other Reform pastors. Pastor André Trocmé died on June 4, 1971.
On January 23, 1940, a day after France surrendered to Nazi Germany and agreed to deport whomever the Nazis wanted, André Trocmé and his fellow pastor Edouard Theis preached a sermon that included these prophetic words:
Tremendous pressure will be put on us to submit passively to a totalitarian ideology. If they do not succeed in subjugating our souls, at least they will want to subjugate our bodies. The duty of Christians is to use the weapons of the Spirit to oppose the violence that they will try to put on our consciences. We appeal to all our brothers in Christ to refuse to cooperate with this violence…
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.
The whole village was involved and even a military commander looked the other way so that Jews could be rescued. For these people the simple goodness of welcoming the stranger was more important than the law and even their own safety. To rescue the oppressed was their duty which they did without fanfare, but with deep faith and commitment.
The story of Le Chambon can be found in the documentary Weapons of the Spirit and in Philip Hallie’s book Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There (New York: Harper & Row, 1979).