Many individuals committed acts of tremendous bravery in hiding Jews during the National Socialist holocaust in World War II. This documentary film by Pierre Sauvage chronicles the work of an entire village that took a stand for righteousness.
Sauvage, who is Jewish, was born in 1944 in the French village Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a tiny, dirt-poor farming community, where his parents were being sheltered from the Nazis. As an adult, he goes back to discover why the village of French Protestants took such enormous risks. Some 5,000 Jews were saved from the Nazis by some 5,000 Christians. “The Jews kept coming and the people of Le Chambon kept taking them in. I returned there to find out why.”
The film details the history of the unorganized resistance that sprang up in Le Chambon. First, it was against the Vichy government in southern France which collaborated with the Nazis. Later, when German forces occupied the region the resistance was directly against the Nazis. From hiding Jewish children in their fields to stashing forged identity papers in beehives, these tenacious country folk tell the Gestapo: “There are no Jews in Le Chambon.”
Sauvage narrates the film in English. It includes sub-titled interviews with Jewish survivors and with Christian villagers in Le Chambon. One of the most moving aspects of the film is the obvious humility in obedience to biblical principles demonstrated by the villagers. When asked why they risked death themselves to hide so many Jews, over and over again the villagers responded simply with statements such as: “It needed to be done,” or “Christ said to love your neighbor.”
The documentary grapples with some difficult questions. For instance, why did this “conspiracy of goodness” emerge in Le Chambon? Part of the answer lies in the history of the area. Most of the villagers are descendants of the French Huguenots who, for more than four centuries, were a Protestant minority in Catholic France, often persecuted for their faith.
A more painful question emerges. There were other Huguenot villages in France. Why was Le Chambon one of only a few communities to stand against the deportation of 75,000 Jews to the death camps? The film details the efforts of a village pastor and his assistant, who encourages resistance to the Nazi regime using the “weapons of the Spirit” from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5:
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every though to make it obedient to Christ.”
The story suggests the miracle-working power of this Scripture, as demonstrated by the Nazi officer later assigned to Le Chambon who curiously deflects Nazi activity away from the area. With much Scripture, the film is beautifully and lovingly crafted. It provides a wonderful look at the testimony created by simple obedience to the word of God.