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André Trocmé continues to challenge and inspire

In the Guardian earlier this week, Savitri Hensman has a nice article about the amazing life and writings of André Trocmé, who is one of my favorite nonviolent heroes, forty years after his death. She writes:

Trocmé was no armchair scholar. Nor was he an easily swayed follower of cultural trends. He is best known for his remarkable work as pastor of Le Chambon, a French village, in the early 1940s.

Jewish people in France – including those who had escaped from other parts of Europe – found themselves in mortal danger when the Vichy regime agreed to collaborate with Nazi Germany. “The duty of Christians is to use the weapons of the Spirit to oppose the violence that they will try to put on our consciences,” he and his fellow-pastor Edouard Theis urged their Protestant congregation. “Loving, forgiving, and doing good to our adversaries is our duty. Yet we must do this without giving up, and without being cowardly. We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the gospel.”

Under the leadership of Trocmé and his wife Magda, the villagers saved the lives of thousands of refugees, hiding them and smuggling some to safety across the Swiss border. He was arrested and held for some weeks, after which he went into hiding, and his cousin Daniel died in a concentration camp. But the villagers continued to shelter those in danger, despite the risk to themselves.

This incredible story, which is perhaps the most powerful example of how nonviolence could work even against the Nazis, is recounted in a wonderful book called Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed that I couldn’t recommend more. Hensman also mentions one of Trocmé’s own books, Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution, which is also a must-read and can actually be downloaded for free here.