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Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in…

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

by Caroline Moorehead

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This is an interesting history of a small part of the war in France. It was something I knew little about and was by turns upsetting and heartening. Reading it post referendum in Britain and with many stories of refugees in the news it felt like a warning about how small innocuous steps can gradually lead to terrible outcomes. It was sometimes a bit long winded and confusing - too much detail and background information about too many people, but it's clearly meticulously researched and I'm glad I read it. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Oct 31, 2016 |
Of all the European nations torn apart by the 2nd world war and its aftermath, France is the one that has had the longest and greatest difficulty in dealing with it. It went through the immediate aftermath of dealing with a long list of collaborators and 'alleged' collaborators, then focusing for many years on the role of the 'resistance'. It was only in the 1970s that the country was forced to come to terms more fully with the extent to which the Vichy regime had not only co-operated with the Nazis but gone beyond what they were asked to do in relation to the jews and other 'undesirables'. Compared to other occupied countries, it did the least to protect its jewish citizens.
More recently, there has been a return to recognising the role that many ordinary French citizens played in protecting both jews and ooponents of the Nazis, coinciding with the naming of a wide range of individuals as 'Les Justes'. Caroline Moorehead's book concentrates on these citizens and tells the individual stories in grest detail and, at times, with almost thriller-like suspense. However, what is most interesting about the book is her analysis of why this particular area of the Central Massif and these particular people behaved in the way that they did. In passing, she also tells the other side of the story - the complicity and more than subservience of the Vichy regime in rounding up jews and others and sending them to the death camps.
Despite the fact that all this happened 70 years ago and there have been endless books written about it, ti is still a subject that fascinates and appalls. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
This is a wonderfully researched look at how a community in one section of France protected a number of Jewish people, especially children, from the Nazis during the occupation. Their heroism is something they themselves did not acknowledge; to them they were simply doing the right thing. To do the right thing they often risked their lives. What is most troubling about this book is the fact that too many French people used their anti-Semitism to identify and round up members of the Jewish faith, making it easier for the Nazis to deport them and massacre them. The author points out that other countries, even Italy, did not do so, despite Hitler’s threats. While the German people should remember this time period with shame, so should France. Excellent book. ( )
  Susan.Macura | Nov 27, 2015 |
In wartime occupied France, Jews are being rounded up and packed on to transport to concentration camps and an almost certain death. Villagers of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon took in many Jews, hiding them from the Nazis, and enabling them to escape to safety. The bravery of many is heart-warming. Food supplies decline but somehow the villagers manage to continue to feed all the extra mouths. Helped by the Plateau being snowed in for several months each year and therefore not easily accessible during winter, but with a large influx of visitors during summer months, the villagers hid some of the Jewish children in plain sight, before moving them on.

There are many stories of bravery in the villages, and across France with passeurs who risk everything to bring Jewish children to the Plateau. Also some of those with power became increasingly disillusioned with the Nazis, and therefore at the least turned a blind eye to what they saw, and often gave advance warning of imminent Nazi visits.

The author certainly made this period come alive - thoroughly recommended. ( )
  SusieH5 | Jul 26, 2015 |
This book is very, very well researched and it gives a very good history of the events in France and beyond during WWII. Right at the beginning of the book we are given a cast of characters and a historical timeline of events.

What killed me though was that there was SO MUCH background. I guess that's what you need to do when you write a book like this but I wanted to hear about the village defying the Nazis. I wanted to hear about the people saving lives. Instead what I heard was "well they only saved a few lives. It wasn't really that great...." That's the message I got.

In the end I ended up skipping sections of this book and jumping around. As it is a very detailed and vivid book, as most good WWII books are, the imagery is pretty horrific. If you are a sensitive reader this book may read like a horror story which I didn't expect. Again I was looking for the heroes and the good guys. Not the recounts of the mothers and children dying.

(sorry if this review is choppy. I got interrupted by phone calls and family 3 times while trying to write this.)
( )
  Icepacklady | Jun 3, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062202472, Hardcover)

From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Train in Winter comes the absorbing story of a French village that helped save thousands hunted by the Gestapo during World War II—told in full for the first time.

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village of scattered houses high in the mountains of the Ardèche, one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Eastern France. During the Second World War, the inhabitants of this tiny mountain village and its parishes saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, freemasons, communists, OSS and SOE agents, and Jews. Many of those they protected were orphaned children and babies whose parents had been deported to concentration camps.

With unprecedented access to newly opened archives in France, Britain, and Germany, and interviews with some of the villagers from the period who are still alive, Caroline Moorehead paints an inspiring portrait of courage and determination: of what was accomplished when a small group of people banded together to oppose their Nazi occupiers. A thrilling and atmospheric tale of silence and complicity, Village of Secrets reveals how every one of the inhabitants of Chambon remained silent in a country infamous for collaboration. Yet it is also a story about mythmaking, and the fallibility of memory.

A major contribution to WWII history, illustrated with black-and-white photos, Village of Secrets sets the record straight about the events in Chambon, and pays tribute to a group of heroic individuals, most of them women, for whom saving others became more important than their own lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:19 -0400)

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