Protection of the Jews in France By the PBCC During Nazi Occupation – Part 1/4

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a small village in the Haute-Loire region of France, has experienced religious persecution dating back hundreds of years. With a history of taking in refugees, in World War II the village and the rest of the Vivarais Plateau united in their resistance to the Vichy regime and Nazi Germany.

Two protestant pastors in Le Chambon co-ordinated the campaign to save the lives of as many people as possible, inspired by the scripture ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’. The area became a ‘City of Refuge’, opening the doors of the school, hotels, farms and private homes. Whilst one school and a number of boarding houses were funded from outside Le Chambon, a great number of private homes were used to hide refugees from the occupying and Vichy Governments. Forged identities, passports and ration cards were created, and many people were guided to freedom across the Swiss Border.

Plymouth Brethren - Le Chambon

Le Chambon

As part of that community, the Plymouth Brethren in the region helped with this effort. One researcher noted at the time that ‘a great number of private homes on distant farms were owned by the ‘Darbyists’. (as all followers of Mr. Darby were known) ‘Believing that the Bible is the inspired word of God, they had a thorough knowledge of the history of the Jews in the Old Testament and considered it a privilege to have a ‘representative of the Chosen People in their home’.

One PBCC family, the BLACHONs, hid a Jewish doctor. They renovated the stable, with a hole in the floor where the doctor could hide. The entrance to this hiding place was concealed by a cupboard with no floor. The man was able to observe the comings and goings in the stable from this vantage. Daniel BLACHON, who was five at the time, recalls that the doctor never left the house, and returned to his hiding place even when the postman visited. Mr BLACHON was very relieved to find out many years later their visitor had survived the war, when he sought them out to thank them again for their care for him.

Plymouth Brethren Le Chambon

Near Le Chambon

The BLACHON family also hid and provided for another Jewish family with two children. They organised with other brethren in the Rhône Valley to hide them in a remote farm in the woods at Famore. Daniel and his sister Marthe regularly delivered milk to the farm and would remember in future years the Jewish mother always dreaming of Jerusalem “When we were at Jerusalem” …. “When we go back to Jerusalem…” After the war, they never heard if this family survived.

Typical terrain near Le Chambon where escapees were hidden

In August 1942, Lamirand, Minister of Youth, undertook an official visit to Le Chambon. He found a sombre village, with no flags in the windows. The school students even petitioned him on behalf of the Jews. However, he was unimpressed by the attitude of resistance displayed in the village, and his visit resulted in threats and repression.

The head of the police in the Haute Loire region was the next to visit. He demanded a list of the Jews in hiding and required that they should present themselves for a census. Buses were lined up on the market place, ready to deport them, but the many Jews had ‘vanished’, with only one unfortunate Austrian half-Jew (who was later released) and one woman arrested.

Plymouth Brethren Le Chambon

Les Gardes – Maison Blachon

Read part 2 here

15 thoughts on “Protection of the Jews in France By the PBCC During Nazi Occupation – Part 1/4”

  1. DavidM says:

    I was thrilled to read this page. We are fortunate to be able to look back from a time of relative peace, but who knows what is before us the hatred of the Nazis is still around and a change of circumstances could quickly bring it out. The Tribulation will come. A look at the history of the Hugenots is an eyeopener on the faithfulness of Christians in these parts. Thank God for
    Le Chambon.

  2. Macca says:

    Very interesting. Please bring on Chapter 2.

    1. Baldy says:

      Yes. looking forward to parts 2, 3 and 4. Just realised that the PBCC are still making stories like this that will go down in history.

    2. jane says:

      Absolutely agree, Baldy- no doubt about it…

  3. Anonymous says:

    this is truly awesome

  4. I says:

    wow!!!!! i had forgotten about that!!!! amazing hey?

  5. adjudant says:

    you just wait, there is much more to come of this story, it is wonderful!

  6. Andrew Heywood says:

    I’m glad this has come up. I first heard about the brethren helping the Jews in 1961, when I was doing some teaching work in the school in Le Chambon. It is a fine story of true Christian charity, and is now well documented in books and films, and the place itself, and individuals in it, are recognised in Israel as “Righteous Among the Gentiles.” The same love and generosity is alive today!

  7. Véronique says:

    I know these people,
    Yes they are TRUE persons!
    They’ll never let you down!…still now!
    And by the way, this is a beautiful place!

    1. Hutchsl says:

      Absolutley agree with you Veronique, we also happen to know the Blachon family, and were truly impressed by their giving spirit – we also went to see ‘maison blachon’ – a building soaked in history. Also we learnt, that J N Darby wrote the Hymn ‘sing without ceasing, sing’ – which contains the line ‘our way is upward still’, while he traveled on foot up the mountains to Le Chambon, and Faussimagne. Amazing what travails he went through!

  8. > says:

    Very interesting, I can’t wait to read the rest. The families of Le Chambon must have been very courageous. Imagine the possible danger of petitioning on behalf of the Jews!

  9. Hazi-Hammenuhoth says:

    The Jewish community will be eternally grateful for these incredible acts of bravery and courage by the Plymouth Brethren during WW2. One is reminded of the wonderful story of Rahab in the second book of Joshua, Chapter 2, which says
    “ And the men answered her (Rahab), Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee….Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall…. And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way… And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not.”

    Thank you and Shalom.

    1. jane says:

      Hazi-Hammenuhoth, you are most welcome. I am sure that the PBCC would have no hesitation about being protective of those of the Jewish faith again, should it ever be necessary (who knows, in the very uncertain world we are living in?). Yes, times have changed, but by definition, history repeats itself. Wish you all the best.

  10. Tim says:

    would take some strength of conviction to take a risk like that – the Nazis and Vichy collaborators were merciless

  11. Baldy says:

    This is a truly touching story, showing how the Plymouth Brethren don’t only look after their ‘own’.

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