Protection of the Jews in France By the PBCC During Nazi Occupation – Part 3/4
It was not just in sympathetic circumstances that the French Plymouth Brethren hid fleeing Jews; other recounts from areas surrounding Le Chambon tell of reproach they suffered from their compatriots for their sympathies.
The family of Paul VERGNON lived at Cabasse, near St. Agrève in the Ardèche region, took care of a Jewish couple from St. Etienne. This was a very perilous undertaking, as the Mayor of St. Agrève was sympathetic to the Nazis.
While it was too hazardous for the VERGNONS (who had six children) to hide the couple in their own house, they used an uninhabited residence in the middle of the forest to house the couple. The house was far from any frequented path, and the VERGNONS supplied them throughout their time there with wood for the fire and food from the farm – butter, cheese, milk, eggs, potatoes, cabbages etc.
In return, the Jewish couple, who owned a boutique in St Etienne gave the family clothes and lengths of fabric. This Jewish couple came back to thank their benefactors after the war, for everything they had done.
In La Voulte, two Belgian families of Jewish origin sometimes came to the Plymouth Brethren gospel meetings held in a meeting room next to the GÉRY pottery workshop at St Laurent. In one family, only the father was a Jew, but his wife was arrested as a black market trader. Her husband asked a Robert GÉRY to take their 8 year old daughter (who was ethnically Jewish according to the Nazis) into their house, until her mother was released. They agreed on condition that she could accompany them to church. The schoolchildren in La Voulte reproached the Brethren children for caring for the Jewish girl. One night, 150 people were rounded up near to La Voulte, and deported to concentration camps. Only one ever returned.
The other Jewish family in La Voulte managed to escape and caught a train to Le Chambon, with the help of Mr. GÉRY. He found lodgings for them with another PBCC member – Mr Samuel PELISSIER – at Le Mazet, a nearby village. They were thus able to escape deportation and, no doubt, certain death.
To be continued…