Many people distinguished themselves for their valor in World War II, but none more than André Trocmé. Trocmé never fought on the battle fields but he took risks, lived bravely, and saved many lives. He was the Protestant pastor in a village on the French border with Switzerland. When the Germans took over France and set up the Vichy government they complied with Nazi orders in 1942 to isolate and then deport French Jews to German concentration camps.
Jewish families began to make the dangerous journey over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. Many found their way to a small village where Rev. Trocmé was pastor. As soon as they arrived Rev. Trocmé encouraged his congregation to welcome them, as people of the Bible and fellow believers. The village and its outlying areas were quickly filled with hundreds of Jews, some found permanent shelter in the hilly outpost. Others stayed temporarily and then continued on their way across the mountainous border to safety.
Despite the danger, the Jews were housed with local farmers, at community centers and at an orphanage. With townspeople’s help some were escorted on dangerous trails to the border. Through the rest of the war they gained inspiration from a pastor who set a clear example of what Christian obligation looked like. At one point the Vichy authorities came to the village to demand that the rescue operations cease, but Rev. Trocmé was defiant; “these people came for help and shelter and I am their shepherd, and will not desert my flock.” The Vichy government were unable to intimidate the villagers and retreated, their operation a failure.
I am always fascinated by what inspires people to be so brave. Sometimes it is gutsy defiance, but often it is stubbornness too. The Protestants were experienced in defiance. They knew how hard it was to be in the minority in a Roman Catholic nation. They also lived in a mountainous village that cultivated an independent streak. But the thing that stiffened their resolve the most was their faith. They believed that Jesus told them to treat their neighbors as themselves and these Jews were their neighbors.
For saving hundreds of Jewish families, 1974 Yad Vashem recognized André Trocmé and his wife Magda as Righteous Among the Nations, a rare Israeli honor awarded to very few Protestants.
In the Religious News -
Nov. 2 at the Annual Meeting of our three UCC Conferences - Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, delegates voted to complete the process of uniting to form the South New England United Church of Christ Conference. Read more about it at this link: https://www.ctucc.org/newsdetail/southern-new-england-conference-it-is-13004