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.
O
n the edge of violence.

Protected, without question
  Given food and a future
  At the risk of everything
I
n open defiance.


One life saved, f
or 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
A
nd despite their fears.


Committed, as one, to uphold humanity

To do what was right
To the preservation of life 

 An immaculate deception, in the face of the enemy

Five thousand.
Hidden amongst them
Five thousand.
Their c
onviction, 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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SHELTER

Suppressing the urge to start anew

He knows just what he shouldn’t do

Never opens his doors at all

Never leaves from within his walls

 

His eyes may be open wide

But usually he will choose to hide

Safe within a world of doubt

Deafening whisper, reticent shout

 

Room to room with scattered thoughts

Kitchen cupboards holding empty pots

Basement depths, in cold calamity

Off-white walls, housing humanity

 

Ghosts remind him of past pains

Dragging demons like heavy chains

Apparitions fade into darkest night

Dissolved by cracks of laden light

 

An echo of places and names and places

Unfamiliar feelings and familiar faces

Hallways filled with hollow laughter

Closets shelved with before and after

 

Room to room with scattered thoughts

Kitchen cupboards holding empty pots

Leaking fixture, in bathroom vanity

Off-white walls, housing his sanity

 

His room is colder than ever before

Bitter draft through hardwood floor

He pulls the covers over his head

But feels no warmer in this bed

 

Sleepless hours afraid to dream

Lost alone in a recurring theme

Sheltered from the break of dawn

He always keeps his curtain drawn

 

Room to room with scattered thoughts

Kitchen cupboards holding empty pots

Low ceilings, in harsh tranquility

Off-white walls, housing humility

 

Room to room, in sheltered resistance

Off-white walls, housing existence

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