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Pastor André Trocmé and assistant pastor Edouard Theis relax with their wives under a tree in the woods.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 40340

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    Pastor André Trocmé and assistant pastor Edouard Theis relax with their wives under a tree in the woods.
    Pastor André Trocmé and assistant pastor Edouard Theis relax with their wives under a tree in the woods.

Pictured clockwise from the top are: Edouard Theis, André Trocmé, Magda Trocmé, and Mildred Theis.


    Pastor André Trocmé and assistant pastor Edouard Theis relax with their wives under a tree in the woods.

    Pictured clockwise from the top are: Edouard Theis, André Trocmé, Magda Trocmé, and Mildred Theis.
    Circa 1940
    Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, [Haute-Loire] France
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Nelly Trocme Hewett
    Event History
    Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is one of a cluster of largely Protestant villages on the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon in the Haute-Loire region of France, where thousands of Jews and political refugees found shelter during the Second World War. The residents of these villages heeded the call of Pastors André Trocmé and Edouard Theis and other local leaders to extend aid to the persecuted even at the risk of endangering their own lives. The movement of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees into the region began in earnest in 1940. Some had enough money to rent their own homes, but most lodged with local families or in the many boarding houses that dotted the region. Their numbers increased after the defeat of France and the decision of the new Vichy regime to incarcerate refugees in internment camps. The height of the Jewish influx came in the spring and summer of 1942. At this time Christian relief organizations, such as the Cimade, Secours suisse aux enfants and the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), and Jewish groups like the Oeuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE) and the Eclaireurs Israelites de France (EIF) began funneling groups of Jews to the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon. These organizations, which had been operating small teams of relief workers in the internment camps, began, in the spring of 1942, to establish refugee homes in the Haute-Loire and other regions to receive groups of Jews who were being released from the camps on condition that they be placed in the charge of an authorized agency. Pastor André Trocmé, in a meeting with Burns Charmers, head of the American Friends Service Committee in Marseille, readily acceded to Charmers' request to house refugees (most of whom were children and teenagers) in the vicinity of Le Chambon. Several refugee homes were set up under the auspices of different relief organizations including Coteau Fleuri (Cimade), La Guespy (Secours suisse), Faidoli (Secours suisse), Les Grillons (Secours suisse), L'abric (Secours suisse) and Maison des Roches (Fonds Europeen de Secours aux etudiants). Other refugees were placed in private homes and boarding houses in the villages, and on farms in the surrounding countryside. When the police round-ups of Jews began in August 1942, the heretofore legal assistance of refugees provided by relief workers and local residents abruptly turned into covert resistance activity. Refugees were hidden during round-ups; false identification papers, birth certificates and ration cards were produced; groups of Jews were secreted away at night to the Swiss border and smuggled across with the help of such international organizations as the Comites universels des Unions chretiennes and the Conseil oecumenique pour les refugies. It is estimated that 5,000 refugees, including 3,500 Jews, were aided by the people of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon. In January 1943 Pastors André Trocmé and Edouard Theis and school director Roger Darcissac were arrested by the Vichy authorities and interned at the St. Paul d'Eyjeaux camp for political prisoners near Limoges. They were released four weeks later. The rescue operation that took place in the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon was unique in that it involved the majority of the population of an entire region --Protestant, Catholic and non-religious-- who banded together to carry out what they viewed as their Christian, moral or political duty. Pastor André and Mme. Magda Trocmé and Pastor Edouard and Mme. Mildred Theis were among 34 residents of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon who were later recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Eventually, the entire population of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon was so acknowledged, and a rock garden was planted in their honor in Jerusalem.

    [Sources: Hewett, Nelly Trocme, (interview, June 2000); Saville, Betty, "La plateau du Vivarais-Lignon," in Les Enfants caches, Bulletin No.29 (Paris, December 1999).
    Merle d'Aubigne, Jeanne, et al., Les Clandestines de Dieu, Bethany Press, 1970.]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Nelly Trocme Hewett

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    André Pascal Trocmé (1901-1971), French Protestant pastor who, during the Second World War, played a central role in a regional effort to rescue Jews and other persecuted individuals. Trocmé, who was born and raised in St. Quentin in northern France, was the son of a French father and German mother and the product of a strict Huguenot upbringing. As a young adult during the First World War he was struck by the destructive force of national and ethnic hatred and became a committed pacifist. Trocmé studied at the Faculté de Theologie in Paris. In 1926, while doing post-graduate work at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, he met Magda Grilli di Cortona, whom he soon married. Like Trocmé, she was of mixed parentage (Italian and Russian), well-educated and idealistic. An outspoken advocate of non-violence, Trocmé was considered a dangerous radical by the Église reformée de France (the Protestant Church), which sought to limit his influence by posting him in 1934 to the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon on an isolated plateau in central France. Ironically, Le Chambon was to become an influential center of the Christian non-violent movement. In 1938 Trocmé founded the first secondary school in the area and brought in Pastor Edouard Theis to be its headmaster. The school, called l'école nouvelle Cévenole, was a co-educational institution based on the principles of tolerance and internationalism. In its first years l'école Cévenole was to play a major role in sustaining the lives of the refugees who settled in the region by providing schooling for the youth and positions for displaced teachers and academics. Trocmé was acutely aware of the growing threat of Nazism, of which he was an early opponent. After the defeat of France and the establishment of the Vichy regime, Trocmé and Theis embarked upon a campaign of civil disobedience. On the first Sunday after the armistice, June 23, 1940, Trocmé and Theis delivered what became known as the "Weapons of the Spirit" sermon, in which they stated unequivocally, "The duty of Christians is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the Spirit... We will resist whenever our adversaries will demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the Gospel. We will do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate." Trocmé was able to motivate his parishioners by the force of his preaching and personal example. He established no formal resistance organization in the region, but was instrumental in building a tacit consensus of non-violent opposition to the unjust decrees of the Vichy regime, which set the stage for individuals to act on their own to aid the persecuted. Trocmé's commitment to the refugees was shared by his wife Magda, who worked tirelessly and fearlessly on their behalf. It was Magda who handled the many refugees who appeared at the door of the pastor's residence not knowing where else to go. She provided immediate assistance and put them in contact with the appropriate individuals and organizations that could help them. In addition, she sheltered several refugees in her own home over the course of the war years. In January 1943 André Trocmé was arrested along with Edouard Theis and school director Roger Darcissac and held for a month in the St. Paul d'Eyjeaux internment camp for political prisoners. Following his release, Trocmé continued his efforts on behalf of the refugees but soon was compelled to go into hiding himself for several months. After the war the Trocmés moved to Versailles, where they worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a non-denominational pacifist organization headquartered in New York. In the 1960s André Trocmé returned to parish work at the Church of St. Gervais in Geneva, where he remained until his death in 1971. His ashes were buried in the family grave in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.

    Edouard Theis was the assistant pastor in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, who together with André Trocmé, spearheaded a regional effort to rescue Jewish refugees and other persecuted individuals during the German occupation of France. A committed pacifist, Theis directed l'école nouvelle Cévenole, an international school based on the principles of non-violence. In January 1943 Theis was arrested for his resistance activity along with Trocmé and Roger Darcissac. The three were interned for a month at the St. Paul d'Eyjeaux camp near Limoges. Like Trocmé, Theis refused to sign a document pledging allegiance to Pétain and the Vichy government in order to secure his release. They were freed the next day, in any event, and soon returned to their rescue work in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Theis was aided in his rescue efforts by his wife Mildred, who worked to provide shelter and other forms of assistance to those seeking refuge from the Nazis.
    Record last modified:
    2009-11-04 00:00:00
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