Philip Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood be Shed. Harper Colophon, 1980
DURING THE GERMAN OCCUPATION IN World War II France, the villagers of Le Chambon hid, at great peril to themselves, thousands of Jewish refugees. Philip Hallie recounts this marvelous story about how the villagers, led by Pastor André Trocmé, peacefully resisted the edicts of the Vichy government and refused to surrender the refugees even in the face of the threat posed by a nearby division of the Nazi SS. Yet Trocmé never wavered from his insistence on nonviolence, no matter how great the danger to himself or the village. Hallie writes that the villagers who helped hide refugees scoff at any notion that suggests heroism on their part. Instead, we realize that their actions arose out of a deep caring for their fellow beings, and their staunch belief in the Ten Commandments above other laws when there is conflict among them. Most gratifying of all is to read about how the act of caring can be so appealing that it becomes infectious. The Trocmés frequently received anonymous phone calls from a reliable source warning them that a roundup was planned for the next day. In one anecdote, a distraught policeman orders a man he mistakes for a Jew to get out of the area, adding that he couldn't arrest him if he didn't see him.
Without being didactic or self-righteous, Lest Innocent Blood be Shed reaches into the heart and soul of the reader with its vivid portrayal of the courage and faith of André Trocmé, his family, and the villagers who refused to do harm or let harm be done to others.
Watch for the upcoming presentation of "Weapons of the Spirit," the highly acclaimed feature length film about Le Chambon by Pierre Sauvage, an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker. Sauvage himself was among the Jews sheltered in Le Chambon.