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Village of Secrets Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead

Village of Secrets Defying the Nazis in Vichy France


Sue Baker's view...

A myth has grown up around the villages of France’s mountainous Massif Central and the part they played in aiding refugees and escaping Jews. While extraordinary acts of daring and bravery were carried out the history has become over-simplified and mythologized. Caroline Moorehead has unearthed the facts bringing us a far more fascinating and multi-layered account of the people who defied the Nazis and rescued Jewish refugees, keeping them hidden, in the most part very successfully; many people owing their lives to their bravery. With interviews with some of those involved, testimony and official records, this is an account of people working for good even when surrounded by evil.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. In the mountains of the southern Massif Central in France lie remote villages that, during the Nazi occupation, saved several thousand people from the Nazi concentration camps. Villages, such as Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, and others of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon, were united in their desire to keep persecuted people safe – freemasons, Jews, many of them children and babies, and communists – and they never broke ranks. There were no informers, no denunciations, an extraordinary record. How and why Le Chambon and its outlying villages saved so many people has never really been investigated, but several of those involved are still alive. Caroline Moorehead has interviewed them and researched in archives that few have seen, to bring us the unforgettable testimonies of many involved in this extraordinary enterprise. After the war, Le Chambon became one of only two places in the world to be honoured by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations.
~ Julia Hamilton

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Village of Secrets Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead

High up in the mountains of the southern Massif Central in France lie tiny, remote villages united by a long and particular history. During the Nazi occupation, the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and the other villages of the Plateau Vivarais Lignon saved several thousand people from the concentration camps. There were no informers, no denunciations, and no one broke ranks. Together, the villagers held their silence, and kept persecuted people - resisters, freemasons, communists and above all Jews, many of them children and babies - from danger. During raids, the children would hide in the woods, their packs on their backs, waiting to hear the farmers' song which told them it was safe to return. After the War Le Chambon became one of only two places in the world to be honoured by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations. Just why and how Le Chambon and its outlying villages came to save so many people has never been fully told. But several of the remarkable architects of the mission are still alive, as are a number of those they saved. Caroline Moorehead travelled across the world to interview these people, and searched archives that few have seen, to bring us the unforgettable testimonies of many of those involved in this extraordinary account. It is a story of courage and determination, of a small number of heroic individuals who risked their lives to save others, and of what can be done when people come together to oppose tyranny.


Brilliant... It is refreshing to read a book that so confidently abandons the rhetoric of heroism and tries to see its subjects for who they were... Moorehead has had to master a huge amount of background material, and she pulls it off with skill and a remarkable lightness of touch -- Keith Lowe Mail on Sunday Riven with complexity... Stories of this weight could occupy several volumes and would still disorientate with all the possibilities - both altruistic and malevolent - of human nature -- Sinclair Mckay Telegraph unsparing yet balanced account of the Vichy years...we need books like this to make it impossible for us to forget. -- Alan Judd Spectator An especially poignant story... enthralling and meticulous book... amidst the horror of the Holocaust - and such horror is painfully evident in the lives of those left behind - this book shows that human kindness endured undimmed by the propaganda, the threats of violence and the vast rewards on offer for submitting to the will of Nazis -- Harry Hodges Daily Express Moorehead draws vivid portraits of those who helped...The emotional heart of the book beats in the children's stories...The story does not end with Liberation. Moorehead, a biographer and historian, scrupulously records the emotional fallout from the children's experiences -- Edward Stourton The Times A lot is known about the authors of this unhuman cruelty, the Nazi overlords and their villainous Vichy accomplices. Less well-documented are the heroes, the ordinary, decent people, who put their lives at risk by hiding and saving Jews from death camps. Village of Secrets is an impressive attempt to set straight the record, an uplifting tale of courage and morality...Moorehead travelled the world interviewing survivors and had access to archives that few have seen -- Matthew Campbell The Sunday Times Compelling and authoritative...latterly, Moorehead writes, there has been an emphasis on 'minimising collaborators and celebrating resisters'. She sets that record straight -- Sue Gaisford Financial Times Moorehead is not the first to have written of this remarkable safe enclave, but she has investigated the most thoroughly, tracking down survivors among the protectors and among the children...this is an inspiring book

-- Peter Lewis Daily Mail 'Book of the Week
A tremendously well

-written and important book and a testament to the qualities Camus lent La Peste's hero: 'humane, optimistic, tolerant, free-thinking, ever alive to injustice and acts of inhumanity
Rebecca K Morris Independent Caroline Moorehead

's remarkable book is in essence the story of how a community, or rather group of communities, survived the travails of war with dignity. It is also a tale that gives a larger meaning to Hemingway's macho phrase, 'grace under pressure'... Moorehead is wary of attempts to simplify history and ignore the complications of memory... What, as the last memories dim, was the truth? Moorehead's question is implicit: is there such a thing? The reader is left with another question, equally difficult: 'what would I have done?'
Ian Bell The Herald Fascinating and heartening story

... Thorough, objective and readable... captivating

-- Roger Hutchinson Scotsman Brilliantly captures the actions of an astonishing, taciturn wartime community -- Dermot Bulger Sunday Business Post A story of courage and determination, of heroic individuals...and of what can be done when people come together to oppose tyranny Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead wrote a column on human rights first for The Times and then for the Independent (1980-91) and made a series of TV programmes on human rights for the BBC (1990-2000). She has written the history of the International Committee of the Red Cross (1998); and has helped to set up a Legal Advice Centre for refugees in Cairo, where she has also started schools and a nursery. Currently she works as a volunteer on the legal team for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, while also continuing to review and write on human rights in many different papers. Her latest book, a biography of Martha Gellhorn, is available in Vintage.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Caroline Moorehead

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