5,000

 

During World War II, starting in the winter of 1940-41, in and around the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in Nazi-occupied France, 5,000 Jews were sheltered…by 5,000 Christians.

The Protestant Huguenot villagers, mostly poverty-stricken themselves, protected the Jews at the risk of their own lives. Every home took in Jews, fed and protected them, right under the noses of the Gestapo. They were often hidden in the countryside when the authorities came to investigate. For four years they defied the Nazi régime and a French government that was collaborating with the Nazis. The citizens of Le Chambon sheltered these strangers, educated their children, and arranged for hundreds to flee to Switzerland or Spain via an intricate, wooded, underground escape route.

True to their beliefs, some citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon penned a letter to the Nazi-influenced Vichy government, feeling spiritually obligated to admit that they were indeed sheltering Jewish refugees. They were clearly defiant in their determination to protect them – “We feel obliged to tell you that there are among us a certain number of Jews…whose only fault is to be born in another religion…We have Jews. You’re not getting them.”

No resident of Le Chambon, it is believed, ever turned away or betrayed a single Jewish refugee.

            “I do not know what a Jew is.  I know only human beings.”
André Trocmé, the Huguenot pastor of Le Chambon


5,000
They were welcomed.

Given shelter and refuge,
without hesitation,
on the edge of violence.
Protected, without question.
Given food and a future,
at the risk of everything,
in open defiance.

One life saved
For every hero
From a man
From a horrific plan
From a power
Aiming for zero

Five thousand.
Spared a hateful demise
Five thousand.
Strong and assured
Five thousand.
Sharing one single purpose
Five thousand…
And no one said a word


Hiding strangers.
Sharing what little they had,
without hesitation,
for a number of years.
A beacon of hope.
Sharing an indomitable spirit,
without reservation,
and despite their fears.

Committed, as one
For simple humanity
To do what’s right
To the preservation of life 
To an immaculate deception
In the face of the enemy

Five thousand.
Hidden amongst them
Five thousand.
Conviction, silently heard
Five thousand.
Sharing one selfless will
Five thousand…
And no one said a word

                                               Gary Greentree


Happy are those hungry and thirsty of justice…for they will be satisfied.”
-André Trocmé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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