This 10-part series from Waging Nonviolence explores a little-known WWII rescue story, showing what happens when ordinary people won’t ignore the horrors surrounding them.
Wanting to study a place that specialized in peace, anthropologist Maggie Paxson came to Le Chambon — only to discover that its good deeds aren’t just in the past.
Influenced by the nonviolent resistance and rescue Camus witnessed during World War II, “The Plague” insists that solidarity, compassion and saving lives is the only way forward.
While governments fail to meet basic humanitarian requirements, rescue organizations like Sea-Watch are taking life-saving action on the frontlines of the European migrant crisis.
After the war, the Trocmés wrote and spoke about the rescue operation in Le Chambon often, yet the tale eluded widespread attention for decades. This is the story of the story — how the plateau’s nonviolent resistance came to be recognized and the impact that has had on those involved.
As the war came to an end, André Trocmé took on the unpopular task of ministering to German POW soldiers and engaging in reconciliation efforts to prevent further death and destruction. Through this process he came to find out why the Nazis didn’t wipe out Le Chambon and its surrounding villages, like they did to so many others who opposed them.
As Germany began to lose the war, France’s armed resistance movement swelled in ranks, threatening not just the Nazis but also the nonviolent spirit of Le Chambon and the refugee haven the area had become. Facing pressure from all sides, André Trocmé had to make a crucial decision regarding both his safety and that of the plateau region.
For the first couple years of the war, Le Chambon was able to protect itself and the refugees it was sheltering from roundups and other reprisals. But in 1943, the dangerous work of resisting Nazism finally caught up with the people on the plateau, including the Trocmés.
As Le Chambon’s refugee population increased, so too did unsettling visits to the community by Vichy police. Meanwhile, raids and roundups were becoming a growing threat throughout unoccupied France. All this meant that escape to Switzerland became a necessary — and daring — part of the rescue operation.