. . . A poor woman came to my house one night, and she asked to come in. She said immediately that she was a German Jew, that she was running away, that she was hiding, that she wanted to have shelter. . . . And I said, "Come in."
With winters that are long and harsh, Le Chambon is a mountain village in south-central France. Since the sixteenth century, it has been predominantly Protestant, an anomaly in Catholic France. Many of the villagers are descendants of Huguenots who fled to this high plateau so they could practice their Protestant Christianity with out fear of punishment. But persecution persisted. Some people and pastors of Le Chambon were hanged or burned at the stake for fidelity to the biblical principles that gave meaning to their lives.
Far from weakening their faith, such persecution--and the memory of it-- produced a strength that gave the hardy folk of Le Chambon a close-knit solidarity. That solidarity manifested itself when France was occupied by Nazi Germany. Le Chambon became "a haven from public horror," but not in the way that Claudia Koonz used those words to describe the "ersatz goodness" of Nazi homes. In Le Chambon, the goodness was real. It sheltered Jews--some five thousand of them-- and other refugees who were fleeing, to use Koonz's words again, "the masculine sphere of brutality, coercion, corruption, and power" of Nazi Germany.
In "The Courage to Care," Magda Trocmé describes her late husband, André, the Protestant minister and spiritual leader of Le Chambon during World War II. André Trocmé was "a very impressive man," she says, "interesting and genuine, original." The words Madame Trocmé uses to describe her husband fit her as well.