From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Train in Winter comes the absorbing story of a French village that helped save thousands hunted by the Gestapo during World War II—told in full for the first time.
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village of scattered houses high in the mountains of the Ardèche, one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Eastern France. During the Second World War, the inhabitants of this tiny mountain village and its parishes saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, freemasons, communists, OSS and SOE agents, and Jews. Many of those they protected were orphaned children and babies whose parents had been deported to concentration camps.
With unprecedented access to newly opened archives in France, Britain, and Germany, and interviews with some of the villagers from the period who are still alive, Caroline Moorehead paints an inspiring portrait of courage and determination: of what was accomplished when a small group of people banded together to oppose their Nazi occupiers. A thrilling and atmospheric tale of silence and complicity, Village of Secrets reveals how every one of the inhabitants of Chambon remained silent in a country infamous for collaboration. Yet it is also a story about mythmaking, and the fallibility of memory.
A major contribution to WWII history, illustrated with black-and-white photos, Village of Secrets sets the record straight about the events in Chambon, and pays tribute to a group of heroic individuals, most of them women, for whom saving others became more important than their own lives.
About the Author
Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France; A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France; and Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An acclaimed biographer, Moorehead has also written for the New York Review of Books, the Guardian, the Times, and the Independent. She lives in London and Italy.
Table of Contents
Principal characters 1
Part 1 Escaping
Chapter 1 Mea culpa 15
Chapter 2 The camps of shame 35
Chapter 3 Deportation fever 59
Chapter 4 A national disgrace 75
Part 2 Arriving
Chapter 5 Walking near the Lord 93
Chapter 6 A pure spirit 112
Chapter 7 On Vichy's map 129
Chapter 8 Rats in a trap 151
Chapter 9 An open pen of chickens 171
Chapter 10 A lethal year 190
Chapter 11 An unknown and unknowable oblivion 207
Chapter 12 Crossing the border 222
Chapter 13 Living on a volcano 235
Chapter 14 Whatever else we do, we must save the children 251
Chapter 15 Perfect Maquis country 274
Chapter 16 Today, I have nothing to say 293
Chapter 17 Memory wars 315
List of Illustrations 341
Source notes 351
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a story about the WWII experiences of real people in their quest to save the Jews and stay alive themselves. I had a hard time putting it down, it was that good. The fact that so many actually lived was due to the brave non-Jews in their towns in Vichy France. The end of the book had a recap of what happened to the selfless people who guided the children over the border into Switzerland. Just the thought of what those people went through, the Jews and their saviors, was hard for me to imagine. If you are at all interested in WWII, or stories of bravery beyond my imagining, you will love this book, as I did.
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... Incidentally, among the many dozens of misrepresentations and errors in this sloppy book are the very photograph on the cover: the reader has no way of knowing that the "Village of Secrets" portrayed is not Le Chambon! 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." This is very mean-spirited fiction indeed! For more information, please see: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/186652/moorehead-le-chambon Pierre Sauvage President, Chambon Foundation
This story is unbelievable - it makes you think and wonder how you would act in similar circumstances. The people in this book are amazing in the steadfastness of their faith & their ability to live what they believe. I loved the book.
This is an OK book. Parts about the Vichy government were interesting for me as my knowledge in this area of WW II is lacking. I felt at times she got a bit bodged down in some of the personal accounts but other then that it is an interesting book.
I discovered lots of things that I never knew about France and the Holocaust.
This books is frustrating. I learned a lot about France and Vichy France during the German occupation. I also learned a lot about one small part of that: Chambon. Chambon is a plateau on which those fleeing persecution - mostly Protestants had long taken refuge. It was also a place used to having visitors as an refuge of the natural world and containing many pensions and other places that catered to visitors. It was thus a place of refuge for Jewish children who could be hid and spirited to Switzerland, and thus out of Europe. The cast of characters is strong and the word pictures of their human greatness and sometimes pettiness is good. The narrative moves forward in a chronological order. My biggest complaint is the numbers of people involved. There were so many that I found myself tossed in a sea of names. It not only involved the inhabitants of the plateau but others scattered throughout France who both collaborated with the Germans and opposed them. The number of organizations and their initials were also bewildering In spite of that I would recommend this for insights into a time and place I knew little about
Ihave paid for the book but all i get is the first 50 pages. Hummm. Wont do that again...