Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

We Only Know Men: The Rescue of Jews in France during the Holocaust

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

We Only Know Men: The Rescue of Jews in France during the Holocaust

Article excerpt

We Only Know Men: The Rescue of Jews in France during the Holocaust. By Patrick Henry. (Washington, D.C.:The Catholic University of America Press. 2007. Pp. xxiv, 192. $59.95. ISBN 978-0-8132-1493-1.)

In 1979 an American professor of philosophy, Philip Hallie, published an account of the notable efforts by a smaË group of French Reformed Protestants during World War II to give sanctuary to Jews oppressed by the Nazis and their Vichy coEaborators. This pioneering work, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There, described to English-speaking audiences how these villagers, on a lonely rural plateau a hundred miles south of Lyons, undertook what is now recognized as a uniquely heroic rescue attempt. No other communal effort on this scale occurred for this length of time anywhere else in Occupied Europe. Hallie's findings were later foEowed by a moving documentary film, Weapons of the Spirit, produced by a film-maker who himself, as a child, was one of those rescued. Not surprisingly, these events have been given prominence, not only to support the cause of postwar Jewish-Christian reconciliation but also to promote the image of the French resistance to Nazi-organized tyranny.

Patrick Henry, writing a generation later, seeks to amplify Hallie's account, to correct a few historical errors, and to put the inhabitants of Le Chambon in a wider setting. He also takes issue with some of the mythical interpretations, which perhaps inevitably had crept in. Naturally Henry has to cover a lot of the same ground, but stresses particularly the role of these Protestant Huguenots as the successors to a long history of religious persecution in that part of France.This made them sensitive to the plight of the Jews, a sentiment reinforced by their strong sympathies with the people of the Bible.

Henry is at pains to dispute the view that the villagers of Le Chambon and district were primarily motivated by economic factors. Instead he emphasizes the spiritual calling that they shared with like-minded Christians of the area, such as Quakers and Darbyites (Brethren). …

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