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Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France Hardcover – 10 Jul 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (10 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701186410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701186418
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Brilliant… It is refreshing to read a book that so confidently abandons the rhetoric of heroism and tries to see its subjects for who they were… Moorehead has had to master a huge amount of background material, and she pulls it off with skill and a remarkable lightness of touch" (Keith Lowe Mail on Sunday)

"Riven with complexity… Stories of this weight could occupy several volumes and would still disorientate with all the possibilities – both altruistic and malevolent – of human nature" (Sinclair Mckay Telegraph)

" unsparing yet balanced account of the Vichy years...we need books like this to make it impossible for us to forget." (Alan Judd Spectator)

"An especially poignant story… enthralling and meticulous book… amidst the horror of the Holocaust – and such horror is painfully evident in the lives of those left behind – this book shows that human kindness endured undimmed by the propaganda, the threats of violence and the vast rewards on offer for submitting to the will of Nazis" (Harry Hodges Daily Express)

"Moorehead draws vivid portraits of those who helped…The emotional heart of the book beats in the children’s stories…The story does not end with Liberation. Moorehead, a biographer and historian, scrupulously records the emotional fallout from the children’s experiences" (Edward Stourton The Times)

"A lot is known about the authors of this unhuman cruelty, the Nazi overlords and their villainous Vichy accomplices. Less well-documented are the heroes, the ordinary, decent people, who put their lives at risk by hiding and saving Jews from death camps. Village of Secrets is an impressive attempt to set straight the record, an uplifting tale of courage and morality…Moorehead travelled the world interviewing survivors and had access to archives that few have seen" (Matthew Campbell The Sunday Times)

"Compelling and authoritative…latterly, Moorehead writes, there has been an emphasis on 'minimising collaborators and celebrating resisters'. She sets that record straight" (Sue Gaisford Financial Times)

"Moorehead is not the first to have written of this remarkable safe enclave, but she has investigated the most thoroughly, tracking down survivors among the protectors and among the children...this is an inspiring book " (Peter Lewis Daily Mail 'Book of the Week')

"A tremendously well-written and important book and a testament to the qualities Camus lent La Peste's hero: 'humane, optimistic, tolerant, free-thinking, ever alive to injustice and acts of inhumanity'" (Rebecca K Morris Independent)

"Caroline Moorehead’s remarkable book is in essence the story of how a community, or rather group of communities, survived the travails of war with dignity. It is also a tale that gives a larger meaning to Hemingway’s macho phrase, 'grace under pressure'… Moorehead is wary of attempts to simplify history and ignore the complications of memory… What, as the last memories dim, was the truth? Moorehead’s question is implicit: is there such a thing? The reader is left with another question, equally difficult: 'what would I have done?’" (Ian Bell The Herald)


Fascinating and heartening story… Thorough, objective and readable… captivating

" (Roger Hutchinson Scotsman)

"Brilliantly captures the actions of an astonishing, taciturn wartime community" (Dermot Bulger Sunday Business Post)

"A story of courage and determination, of heroic individuals…and of what can be done when people come together to oppose tyranny" (Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Train in Winter comes the extraordinary story of a French village that helped save thousands who were pursued by the Gestapo during World War II.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
At a time when 12 more ex Nazi thugs who helped to murder thousands of men, women, children and babies are about to be tried for their unspeakable crimes, this excellent book by Caroline Moorehead is very weicome.

The author tells the remarkable story of the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon a village in south central France. It is, as she explains, located in mountainous and very inhospitable terrain. Her story is about the inhabitants of this village who sheltered thousands of people from the evil Gestapo who were willingly aided and abetted by the Vichy government and its many supporters. Other villages in the area also sheltered those escaping from the Gestapo but to a lesser extent.
As the author explains, the location of the village, often cut off for months in the harsh winters, aided its ability to protect the innocent. Deep forests furtherance enhanced this ability.

Moorehead has written biographies of Bertrand Russell, Freya Stark and Martha Gellhorn. She is heavily involved in human rights, and has written a history of the Red Cross. Her book 'Human Cargo'was well reviewed. At present she resides in London.

The village is high up in the Massif Central, and very remote. The story of how Le Chambon came to save so many has never been fully told before. Several of those involved are still alive, as are some of those saved. They have been interviewed by the author as part of her research. She also had access to archives hitherto unavailable. The result is a riveting account of what can be done to oppose tyranny. The village was in a region where many generations of Protestant Huguenots had hidden away from Catholics. Those saved, however, were not in fact saved by non violence but by 'imagination and cooperation'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Graham on 1 May 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
I am not in general a reviewer here but I felt driven to contribute ion this case as the book left me with a distinct feeling of unease. It is very clearly written by a journalist rather than an historian as is evidenced by a number of historical errors that are obvious even to a general reader like myself but also it's style which is rather emotional with heavy emphasis on characters which rather prevent the development of a narrative. Random facts appear that are just left hanging. Much of the writing is rather rambling. it is neither good history not a particularly well-told story.

In the latter part of the book the author makes quite trenchant criticisms of other writers on this subject which were the subject of my unease. It made me read further and I discovered how controversial this particular interpretation is and how some of the author's methods have been called into question.. For an example, refer to Mr Foxlee's contribution in the one-star reviews here. I am by no means confident that this book presents "the truth" as it claims and I am very surprised that it should have been considered for a literary prize. I say that not just because of the "controversy" but because it really is not that good a book.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Neil Foxlee on 15 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I have given Village of Secrets one star to draw attention to the serious criticisms of it made by three people the author sought assistance from while researching her book, who feature significantly in it and who are well qualified to comment on its many inaccuracies. One of them, Pierre Sauvage, who made an award-winning 1989 documentary about the village in question, has given a very detailed critique of the book in a review at , supplemented by additional material at (which also reproduces the one-star reviews by Max Liebmann and Nelly Trocmé Hewett on

It should also be pointed out that, apart from Sauvage's documentary, the story has been told in English at least twice before - first in 1979 by the late Professor Philip Hallie in Lest Innocent Blood be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There - which Ms Moorehead criticizes strongly in her own book - and latterly by Dr Patrick Henry, in We Only Know Men: The Rescue of Jews in France During the Holocaust (2007).

Like Moorehead, Henry discusses Hallie's book and the controversies it aroused among some local inhabitants who felt left out of his account, though unlike Moorehead, he sees criticisms of Hallie as unfair (see pp. 6-8 and p.18ff. at and 'Look Inside').
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Pierre Sauvage on 18 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My parents were among the Jews who found shelter in the area of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, during the Holocaust--the subject of this astonishingly inaccurate book--and I had the good fortune to be born there at that time. I thus care deeply about the remarkable rescue mission that profoundly affected my life.

It is thus dismaying that this account of those events preposterously asserts that the French Protestant (Huguenot) dimension of the rescue effort has been inflated into a myth, that the village's remarkable pastor can be plausibly charged with being a self-aggrandizing pathological liar, that nonviolence was only a small part of the story, that unnamed atheists and agnostics played an equal role in providing shelter, that indeed the religious beliefs of the rescuers deserve only passing mention...

Furthermore, in the author's eagerness to be able to claim that she is, at last, setting "the record straight" and describing for the first time "what actually took place" in and around Le Chambon, she feels it necessary to go out of her way to malign the late Philip Hallie and me--who have told the story before her. In my case, she goes so far as to fabricate the utterly false allegation that key figures in Le Chambon's wartime events branded my well-received feature documentary on the subject, "Weapons of the Spirit," as nothing less than a "mutilation of historical truth." They did not, and it is not, as viewers will be able to judge for themselves when the new, remastered 25th-anniversary edition of the film premieres at the JW3 Cinema in London on Jan. 24.

For more information, please see:

Pierre Sauvage
President, Chambon Foundation
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