Antisemitism permeated German and European society in the early 20th century. The Nazi Empire, in particular, regarded the Jewish people as a threat to the “purity” of the Aryan race. It enacted legislation, most notably the Nuremberg Laws, to strip Jews of their freedoms. The atrocities culminated with the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” This “solution” led to mass killings of over six million Jews and five million “undesirables”—gypsies, the mentally handicapped, homosexuals, and political agitators. Extermination camps like Auschwitz and Dachau are testaments to the Holocaust and the horrific consequences of prejudice and racism.
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Pastor Andre Trocme
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France
“These people came here for help and for shelter. I am their shepherd. A shepherd does not forsake his flock. I do not know what a Jew is. I know only human beings.”
Andre Trocme, a Protestant pastor in the small French mountain village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, uttered these words in the face of Vichy authorities during World War II. Andre Trocme, along with all the citizens of his village, rescued 5,000 Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in their town and assisting them in escaping to Switzerland or Spain.
Andre Trocme was a pacifist and teacher, who encouraged his followers to resist the Vichy and Nazi regimes. The town of Le Chambon hid Jews in private homes, on farms, and in public institutions like boarding schools. Several times Nazi officials arrived in an effort to find Jews, but the citizens of Le Chambon never revealed their secret. The Vichy government knew what Trocme and his followers were doing and Trocme was eventually arrested but avoided staying in jail for long. Andre Trocme’s cousin, Daniel Trocme, was sent to Majdanek where he died. This kind of intimidation meant Andre had to go into hiding while his wife continued his work until the end of the war. In 1990, the town of Le Chamon-sur-Lignon became the first community honored by the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. Amazingly, not one townsperson ever revealed any Jew to the authorities. Andre Trocme and those around him saved Jews because it was right. They were an example of doing what’s honorable in the face of great danger.