Residents of Vichy France Save Thousands

The citizens of Vichy France were lucky, in that they did not see the same level of Nazi occupation seen by many of their fellow countrymen. That is not to say that they did not see any Nazi occupation whatsoever, but some regions were entirely separated from the issue. They took advantage of this, not simply to live peacefully, but to save the lives of thousands who were not so lucky. The residents of Vichy France saved the lives of thousands by taking in those who had nowhere else to turn.

The aforementioned saviors were primarily Protestants who lived in the small town of Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon. Many French Protestants had experienced hardships before at the hands of Catholics, and as such they were not complete strangers to the plight of the Jews. Many residents of Vichy France were all too familiar with the idea that a person might be killed for something as simple as their heritage or their religious beliefs. These people therefore saw that they had the opportunity to help others due to the remote nature of their whereabouts, and they leapt at the chance to save Jews and the Allied soldiers fighting to liberate them.

Not all of these residents were your run-of-the-mill Protestants. Many were Darbyists, members of a specific offshoot of Protestantism who believe that everyone is required to perform good deeds. A large number of residents from Vichy France were also Huguenots. These were Calvinist Protestants who were forced out of their homes due to religious persecution. This made them especially apt to help the Jews out of their plight whenever possible, The reports.

Jews and Allied soldiers who were not given refuge were often sent out of the country as a means of keeping them safe. It is important to note that this aid was primarily given by those on the Ardèche mountain plateau. Other citizens in Vichy France often helped the Nazis to intern those who would generally resist them. Despite the fact that the region was somewhat secluded, the Nazi occupation still managed to reach a number of its farther corners.

While much of Vichy France was giving in to the Nazis, Protestants living around the plateau were helping Jews and Allied soldiers to survive. More information on these Protestants and the good deeds they performed can be found in the new book by Caroline Moorehead, entitled Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE