Books shape us. They change our road choices, confirm (or demolish) our ideas, lead us away from or toward God. Here is another one that shaped and guided my mind, emotions, and spirit. Philip Paul Hallie Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There

Why hasn’t Hollywood or big studios taken up this story of Le Chambon? This is the story of actual people and town that said NO to Evil and lived out a faith and justice society in a time of war and in a land of injustice.–kas

Book Review:
“Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed”



      Books shape us. They change our road choices, confirm (or demolish) our ideas, lead us away from or toward God. Here is another one that shaped and guided my mind, emotions, and spirit.



Philip Paul Hallie
Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There)
(New York: HarperCollins, orig. 1979, rev. 1994)

This biography is about a Protestant pastor named André Trocmé and his village in the Haute-Loire region of southern France who defiantly concealed a total of 5,000 Jews during the Nazi occupation. Amazingly, the SS and Vichy authorities knew what Trocmé and his flock were doing. But they never stopped the trains that daily dropped off refugees into, what the Nazis called, “that nest of Jews in Huguenot country.”

Because of their pacifist convictions as Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), the Le Chambon residents believed they had a responsibility before God to protect the Jewish men, women and children seeking refuge from Paris and elsewhere. The quiet but steely faith of the villagers fits the Huguenot spirit of their ancestors who settled in the region in the 1500s to escape Catholic slaughter.

André Trocmé’s pastoral convictions were forged long before the outbreak of WW2. He and his family survived the decimation of World War 1, and he became a pacifist and a deeply religious soul. He studied theology at the University of Paris, then won a scholarship to Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

In secular America he encountered devout Marxists who hated the religion that made “people passive instruments and victims of a society that exploits the poor” (p. 62). Trocmé agreed with them to an extent, for he believed the Gospel was a “revolutionary force, driving people to bring loving cooperation into every aspect of social life.² He also met advocates of the so-called “Social Gospel,” who, like the Marxists, wanted to change the world, but in the name of religion.

But the Communists and Social Gospel people “lacked one element that was central to André Trocmé’s mind: the person-to-God piety” he had experienced as a young man in France. For him, “only this intimate relationship between a faithful person and God, only a person’s conscious obedience to the demands of God, could arouse and direct the powers that could make the world better than it is” (62).

Union Seminary’s liberal socialism did not satisfy Trocmé. He quit the school and took a job as French tutor of the children of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., founder of Standard Oil Company. In New York he also met his wife to-be, Magda Grilli, an Italian former Catholic who shared his pacifist, anti-materialistic, and mystical convictions. They returned to France and began a life together as pastor and pastor’s wife.

The author of the biography, Philip Hallie (1922-1994), was an American Jewish professor of ethics and philosophy at Wesleyan University and a veteran of WW2. In the book, he confessed he was deeply moved by the willingness of those people to risk their lives for his people. He called their acts incomprehensible “goodness” in the face of unfathomable evil. As such, he quoted a Jewish woman, whose children were saved by the Chambonnais, as saying: “The Holocaust was storm, lightning, thunder, wind, rain, yes. And Le Chambon was the rainbow” (p. xvii).

Hallie’s narrative itself is part of the telling of the Le Chambon story. Througout the book, it’s clear that he did not fully grasp the power and motivation behind the actions of André Trocmé and his fellow believers. He saw it and tried to explain it: Admiration and mystery. An outsider looking in. A Jew looking at what another Jew — Yeshua — accomplished through non-Jews.

The title of Hallie’s book is taken from Deuteronomy 19:10, in which Israel is instructed to provide cities of refuge when they go into Canaan — “. . . lest innocent blood be shed in the midst of your land, which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance.” In this case, the French Protestants provided a village of refuge for Jews fleeing the Nazis and the French government.

Filmmaker Pierre Sauvage tells the Le Chambon story in his 1989 “Weapons of the Spirit.” The film and other information are available from the Chambon Foundation website.


• Paul Sumner


About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Books shape us. They change our road choices, confirm (or demolish) our ideas, lead us away from or toward God. Here is another one that shaped and guided my mind, emotions, and spirit. Philip Paul Hallie Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There

  1. eslkevin says:

    Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.
    Excerpt: Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed
    Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed

    The Arrest of the Leaders

    At seven o’clock in the evening of February 13, 1943, an official black automobile stopped not far from the Protestant presbytery of Le Chambon.Automobiles—after three years of German occupation—were very rare in those days.But the car was not noticed much, partly because the street it stopped in was a secluded one, and partly, because in the last few months there had been an increase of official, especially police, activity in the village.The Germans were learning a new feeling, the feeling of danger.A few months before, the British and the Americans under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower had landed on the beaches of Morocco and Algeria, and Nazi North Africa was crumbling.To protect conquered France from new threat to the south, the Germans had moved their troops, their secret police, and their administrators across the demarcation line at the Loire and into southern France, where Le Chambon stood.Hitherto they had been content to stay above the Loire and on the vulnerable west coast of France, and had been content to give the French the illusion of governing themselves in the south, but now they had a southern flank to cover in Fortress Europe.Moreover, the Russians at Stalingrad had checked the momentum of the great Nazi military machine, when just a few months before that machine had seemed irresistible.And so the Germans were disturbed, and were showing their disturbance by sending their instruments, the police of Marshal Philippe Petain’s Vichy government, into the quiet regions of southern France in order to threaten or arrest anyone who might abet their now dangerous enemies.

    Out of the car stepped two uniformed Vichy French policemen: Major Silvani, the chief of police of the department of Haute-Loire, and a lieutenant.

    The winter wind, la burle, was twisting and piling snow around the gray, fifteenth-century presbytery when they knocked on the door.It was a very dark night, without moon or stars, but the accumulated snow vaguely lit up the long dining room in which the minister’s wife, Magda Trocme, was working.Through its three windows cut in the thick granite walls, the dim, reflected light made barely visible the sycamore and oak paneling on the ceiling and on the walls.

    Pastor Andre Trocme was away when they arrived.This was a day of”visits,” when he dragged his big-boned body across the village and countryside into the kitchens of his parishioners.On snowy days like this the visits were especially painful, for him because the snow was often hip-deep and his back was a girdle of pain as he trudged forward.Once, in far better weather, a farmer had found him stretched out on a hillock, paralyzed with pain because of all that walking to the far-flung homes of his parish.The farmer had brought him back to the presbytery in his milk cart.

    It was these visits, more than any other part of his ministry, that made him the trusted and beloved leader of Le Chambon.His sermons were powerful, but these visits brought him into the center of the daily life of. his people.In. the intimacy of a home his excitement and his drivingly penetrating blue eyes drew his parishioners to him.

    Some of the houses he was visiting were the homes of the responsables, the leaders of the thirteen youth groups Trocme hadestablished in the parish in order to study the Bible in intimate groups.When the Germans conquered France these groups and their leaders became the communications network and the moving spirits of a village committed to the cause ofsaving terrified foreigners from their persecutors.During the Occupation Trocme gave most of his instruction—on the Bible as well as on resistance—to these leaders as they sat in his somber office in the presbytery; but it was necessary that he visit them individually as well.He had to be the only person in Le Chambon who knew about the entire operation; he had to see to it that the groups operated as independently of each other as possible, so that if one leader were tortured, he could not reveal enough to destroy the whole rescue machine.This meant that each leader had a heavy, responsibility and had to make swift, intelligent decisions on his own when Trocme was not available.But it also meant that the responsables, many of them young people, often sought out the clarity of mind and the unswerving commitment of their pastor in order to do their essentially lonely jobs. And so Andre Trocme made their homes part of his itinerary of visits more often than he made the homes of others, except for the sick.

    Now that German troops and secret police were in the south, it was more important than ever that the young leaders make no mistake and that they never waver a hair breadth in their commitment to saving the lives of jewish refugees.Before the Germans came, Vichy had been known to be lax as far as reprisals were concerned, but the Germans were capable of massacring a village that dared to resist their will—and Le Chambon had the reputation of being a “nest of Jews in Protestant country.” The times demanded close communication between Trocme and his responsables.

    This is why Trocme was away when Major Silvani and his lieutenant knocked at the presbytery door.The wife of the minister was surprised to hear a knock at night.Refugees usually came during the daytime, after the one o’clock train; they usually knocked; but at night only villagers came to the presbytery and they knew they were expected to walk right in.Continues…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.