Wednesday, June 08, 2016
Review of "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed" by Philip Hallie - How Goodness Happened In Le Chambon During WWII
Until I read this book, "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed," I had not been aware of the heroic acts undertaken by the citizens of the French village of Le Chambon during WWII to save the lives of many Jews. Author Philip Hallie has meticulously researched what happened during the years of the German Occupation of France when Le Chambon transformed itself into an unlikely City of Refuge for those fleeing Nazi persecution.
Pastor Andre Trocme was the pastor of the Protestant church in this village high in the Haute-Loire region of South Central France. Based on his faith and his interpretation of the teachings of Jesus, he was convinced of the value of each human life and of the importance of non-violence in fighting against evil. Through his teaching and sermons on Sundays, as well as his mentoring of thirteen small group leaders, called responsables, he inculcated his personal beliefs into the ethos of his church and his village.
Using primary sources and many interviews with those who lived in Le Chambon during the years of Nazi Occupation, Professor Hallie leads the reader through an understanding of what happened, and an understanding of why it happened in Le Chambon and not in neighboring villages. Pastor Trocme and his wife, Magda Grilli Trocme, are at the center of this real life drama, along with Assistant Pastor Edouard Theis. The book is divided evenly between rehearsing the facts of what occurred in Le Chambon, balanced with discursive philosophical explorations of the ethics and theology behind the acts of kindness that were undertaken at great risk for strangers.
The book is tremendously uplifting in that it highlights courageous acts that are little known outside of the small circle of those who study the history of the Holocaust or the German Occupation of France.