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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Righteous of Le Chambon.
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...
Published 2 months ago by Dr Barry Clayton

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Boring
Published 15 days ago by S. H. Klarmann


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Righteous of Le Chambon., 12 July 2014
By 
Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (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'. It was not the only place in France that helped the threatened but its work was quite remarkable and in some ways unique.

The saved were, of course, mainly Jews (36%). The decision to do this was the result of a meeting between Andre Trocme, the pastor of the village and some Quakers in Marseilles. Trocme was a pacifist. He was half French, half German. He was instrumental in saving some 5000 ( this figure is disputed) communists and Freemasons as well as Jews. Trocme and many others helped to take hundreds of children to the safety of the farms on the plateau. Some were smuggled to safety in Switzerland. Trocme was a firm believer in the power of non-violence, and hence a supporter of Gandhi's beliefs. He died in 1971. Not everyone subscribes to the view he was a hero. The author explains why. A remarkable aspect was that several recuperating German soldiers were in the area for weeks yet they never realised who was being sheltered near them.

Moorehead points out that many others, teachers, scouts, Darbyists, Ravenists, doctors and agnostics all played key parts in the saving of lives. The vows of silence taken by the Darbyists made it easy for them to avoid inadvertently giving away what they were doing.

Those that were caught doing this were tortured and murdered. The decision to risk their lives for the sake of Jews had also a religious base; the area had a reputation over centuries for resisting. The Bible was at the core of their beliefs. Moorehead writes that this meant the villagers 'were alive to the fate of the Jews, the chosen people, whose salvation was implicit for their own'.

At the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, which all ought to visit, some 70 people from the plateau on which Le Chambon is located, are listed as 'Righteous Among the Nations'. Only one other place has been given this honour.

It is frequently forgotten that Vichy France had concentration camps. Many thousands of Jews were incarcerated in them. The villagers rescued many of the children in these dreadful camps. Those who could not be rescued ended up in
Auschwitz; many were aged under 4. Their fate, and that of many thousands of others, never ceases to provoke horror and hatred of their willing executioners.

After France was liberated, Moorehead tells how those children who had been saved suffered again once reunited with their parents. It is a harrowing tale she describes. Many parents were 'simply unable to behave like proper parents again'. All involved were deeply scarred.

As the author reminds us, the Vichy period, from June 22nd 1940, was not erased from the memory of the French once liberated. To this day it is a wound very easily reopened. Memories of collaboration with the hated Germans still linger and fester.

One of the great virtues of this book is the way Moorehead destroys much of the myth surrounding what went on. As she says, the truth is much more interesting.
She points out that the myth has caused feuds, jealousies, hearsay and prejudice, pitting Catholics against Protestants, pacifists against resisters, and those who seek glory against those who prefer silence. To this day the whole topic is heated. In 2004, President Chirac called le Chambon: 'la conscience de notre pays'. Moorehead says what took place on the plateau during the terrifying years of German occupation is not only about bravery and morality, it is also about 'the fallibility of memory'.

This book is a reminder that brave people risked their own lives to protect those of all ages who were threatened by a murderous and evil regime led by Hitler. They should never be forgotten.

The illustrations are very good. They include maps and photographs. The detailed list of the principal characters is very useful.

Highly recommended.

Readers may like to note that another book covering the same topic has just been published: 'The Greatest Escape' by Peter Grose. An unfortunate piece of timing- for the authors that is, as his book covers virtually the same ground as Moorehead's. The book is also based on interviews with some of the survivors.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare and unusual story of resistance to the German occupation of France in WW2, 27 July 2014
By 
Andy_atGC (London UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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Village of Secrets is the wartime story of the residents of a small group of slightly remote mountain villages within France's Massif Centrale where they mutually acted in total defiance of the German occupiers. Hiding Jews, protestors, Communists and whoever else the Germans were keen to find, they were able to feed them and initiate escapes when possible and thus kept them out of the concentration camps where they were likely to die by design or neglect. When raided, the villagers were able to move those that were hidden to temporary safe places in the woods and elsewhere. There was one other rare and curious fact - none was betrayed from within the communities.

In general, individuals and small numbers in many locations acted personally and collectively within more organised groups to hide Allied airmen, Jews, escapees and others from the Germans. The usual methodology was to have a contact in one location who passed an escapee to another elsewhere and by a series of short journeys over days, weeks or months, hopefully effect an escape. None in a typical circuit would have known more than two or three others limiting any potential damage caused by exposure. Within the villages, that was not an issue.

Each chapter within the book tells a different story and, collectively, they combine to form a rare and unusual story. Whether you have a family connection to one of the villagers, to one whom they helped, to anyone helped in similar circumstances during WW2 elsewhere in occupied Europe or an interest in similar activities, then the book is a must read.

This is one of a great many books that is now appearing at a time when even the youngest of the participants will either be approaching great age or, more likely, will have died some years ago. Any embarrassment or other negative consequences of the release of long-forgotten involvements will thus be severely limited. The story is unique among many simply because of the numbers of participants.

The villagers' efforts in respect of their help with saving Jews was rewarded by Israel by a collective memorial at Yad Vashem, a rare achievement for so many. The help rendered to so many others deserves similarly recognition; reading this book may help.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Light on a destination of youth, 28 July 2014
This review is from: Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (Kindle Edition)
I spent a summer holiday helping at Colonie de Vacance in 1970 on the plateau between Le Chambon and St Agreve. It was beautiful, working with the children was fun and it helped my French speaking enormously.

What I didn't know then were the amazing secrets of the region.
It's been enlightening and nostalgic to read this account. We're these heroes the folk in the pews when I attended church in Le Chambon?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courage, 1 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (Kindle Edition)
This is a must read book. An incredible story about about a small tightly knit community making a difference at no concern to their lives or deaths.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars at least the book shows there are some beautiful people in the world who were saints given the ..., 12 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (Kindle Edition)
Suffer the little children, oh such sadness, how people could be so wicked, at least the book shows there are some beautiful people in the world who were saints given the situation, The main characters are well portrayed by Caroline, it is a very deep read, it is not an exciting thriller it tells of human emotions and the endeavours to continue with life despite the situation. Unfortunately the world is very slow to learn from the past, perhaps Carolline;s book will just jog some memories of the past. Even if only saves one life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Village of Secrets well worth reading, 25 Aug 2014
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The story is true and compelling, and Caroline Moorehead has researched and written the story of the french, the germans and the horrible events occurring during the Occupation very well. The massif centrale of France, a mountainous area of people who were very independent and even more so because of a strong protestant ethic in catholic France, was isolated and well suited to hiding those the germans sought. The families of these villages took in jewish children and adults, resistants and anyone the germans wanted. The book is well written, though the reading is sometimes difficult because the facts are so dreadful. This was a group of very courageous French, glad that Ms. Moorehead has written their story. Well worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An account of self sacrifice and bravery!, 7 Sep 2014
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These were historical WW2 events that I was already aware of from a variety of sources but this was a truly excellent account of the courage of those who protected and sheltered Jewish children in the remote mountain villages of the southern Auvergne. It gains from the author's unsentimental tellling of the story, leaving the reader to marvel at the selflessness and bravery of the many heroes. The final chapters that followed some of the children into their post-war lives were also very moving.
Caroline Moorhead was a find for me!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A well researched book, 15 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (Kindle Edition)
Quite a difficult book to read and a complicated story or at least I found so. Well researched and surprising in many ways. Not every Frenchman comes out well, but times were difficult. It made me think of how would the British have behaved in the same circumstances.
There were many heroic episodes. I learned a lot and would recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars she tells me the book is excellent and well worth, 6 Sep 2014
By 
Highland Lady (Burton-on-trent) - See all my reviews
I bought this for my mum after she saw it advertised in the Daily Mail at a considerably higher price; she tells me the book is excellent and well worth reading
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good account of French history of the 1930's & 40's- ..., 6 Sep 2014
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A good account of French history of the 1930's & 40's- useful background information , for the descriptions of courage in the presence of evil.
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