Resistance remains a common response, today and yesterday.
When I worked in Chambon-sur-Lignon in France, I heard whispers that the townspeople saved 5000 Jewish children and adults during World War II. I assumed all the surrounding towns must have hidden Jewish children and adults. Not true. Other villages saved a few, but Chambon-sur-Lignon, near the demarkation between occupied France to the North and the Resistance of Southeast France, saved many more lives than the surrounding small towns.
The farmers and townspeople hid the children in barns, the woods, and false closets. They “hid” them in plain sight in schools and dormitories. Jewish teachers escaped certain death or death camps, if they had remained in large cities. The people of Chambon never hesitated to imperil their lives to save others. Andre Trocme, the minister in this Huguenot enclave, encouraged the entire town with his mantra of righteousness.
More than twenty years after the war, I traveled to Chambon. When I lost my suitcase and needed a job, a lady in Chambon found work for me in a rehabilitation center. The director loaned me clothes. Kindness surrounded me. I learned the importance of loving others, no matter what. The people of Chambon treated me as they treated the Jewish children during the war.
Throughout my life, the lessons I learned helped me with personal and professional strife. Ten years ago, when my husband and I decided to return to see where I worked, my research included watching Weapons of the Spirit (a film by Pierre Sauvage) and scanning a few books. I decided someday I would write about my experience.
Last year my memoir, Gift of the Suitcase was launched after struggling with deeper research, recollections and the writing process. My scrutiny and networking continues. When an online alert notified me that Pierre Sauvage would speak in Tulsa for two appearances in mid-November, I wanted to attend.
A serious illness attacked me, called the Yebbits. Yeh, but what if I get lost? Yeh, but what if he forgets we connected online? Yeh, but what if I can’t find the hotel, the theater, a place to eat? Yeh, but what if the hotel isn’t safe? I pushed my resistance aside. Yeh-but I’m going!
And I never got lost on my 500-mile round trip to Tulsa.
The Movie and Message
Pierre’s remastered Weapons of the Spirt film will be re-released in 2018. His talk on Sunday commemorated the Jewish holiday Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), when thousands of Jewish businesses and synagogues in Germany were destroyed, considered the beginning of the Holocaust in the late 1930s.
The powerful message resonated with the people, as the audience had lost relatives and friends among the six million killed. Pierre spoke about the persecution of the Huguenots centuries before they migrated to Chambon. He reminded the audience about the massacre in Tulsa in 1921 when homes of African Americans were destroyed and as many as 300 lost their lives. He noted the sexual harassment in the movie industry near his home in Los Angeles.
Pierre is working on several other documentaries. He is dedicated to making the world a better place. We both want a better world.
We do not want another Holocaust. With so much hatred, vengeance, and ugliness in the news, his message of kindness adds value in a world of chaos. Let’s all reach out with kindness every day.
Let’s replace grouchy with grins. Let’s smile more, befriend more, and remember the humble citizens of Chambon. Chiseled in stone over the door of their small Chambon church, it says aimez vous, les uns, les autres. (Translation: Love one another.)
“Don’t look away.” Pierre Sauvage