The Story of the Tiny Village That Stood Up to the Nazis and Saved Thousands
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. We are often taught about the horrors — but not the ordinary people who stepped up to help.
This is a story about an entire French village that stood up to the Nazis.
It’s a story you’ve never heard of, in a town you’ve never been to. Instead of fear and hatred, they chose kindness — and saved thousands of lives. It's a powerful story about why, now more than ever, it's important to stand up against hate.
This is the village of Le Chambon sur Lignon in Southern France. It’s a picture perfect village on the rolling hills of the French countryside.
During WW2, when the villagers saw what the Nazis were doing, they knew they had to take a stand.
The village’s pastor, Andre Trocme, was a pacifist who had long preached against hate and discrimination. Starting in 1940, he had already started secretly sending relief supplies to Jews held in concentration camps.
But Trocme wanted to do more.
Trocme openly announced that if any Jewish refugee came to Le Chambon, they would be protected. He knew the Nazis would target him, but he didn’t care.
When the rest of the villagers found out, what did they do?
They stood by his side. That’s right, the entire village of 5,000 people!
Even the children of Le Chambon stepped up. The Nazis had tried to start a youth camp in the village, but the kids refused.
No classes. No slogans. Nothing. The kids said it was against their religion to support violence.
As WW2 continued, some Jews were able to escape concentration camps, and other Jewish refugees had no where to go. Soon, word spread of a village in France where Jews would be protected.
The villagers took them in, hiding them in houses, schools, and even farms, They gave them food, shelter, and fake identity papers.
Most of the refugees in Le Chambon were children.
Imagine losing your parents, being on your own, and not having anywhere to go? The villagers made them feel safe, even enrolling them in school. In their darkest time, the people of Le Chambon gave the children whatever they could.
And that’s not all.
When the villagers got word of upcoming police raids, they would move the refugees further into the countryside. When they needed to escape further, they helped them cross the border into Switzerland using underground routes.
In 1943, the Nazis arrested Pastor Andre Trocme and two other men who’d been rescuing Jews. Even then, the villagers refused to stop. Trocme’s wife took over and led the rescue efforts.
Over the course of four years, the village of Le Chambon sheltered nearly 5,000 people from the Nazis. Every single person risked their lives – and in some cases, lost their lives – to protect the innocent.
To do what was right.
The people of Le Chambon were of different ages, beliefs, and probably even different political opinions. But none of that mattered.
In that moment, they chose kindness. They had a choice — and they chose to help.
There’s still a plaque in the village to this day!
Even in our darkest moments, the best of humanity finds a way to shine through. It’s what keeps goodness alive.
These are the stories we need more of, now more than ever.