French Pastor Who Spoke Out Against Fascism
André Trocmé was the Protestant pastor of the small village of Le Chambon in France. Born into a Huguenot family in Catholic France he understood first-hand the experience of living in a religious minority. Then, in World War I, he was a refugee as his family fled the horrors of the trenches. Perhaps these experiences helped shape his compassion toward those who were vulnerable and homeless.
Resistance to Fascism
When he took the pastorate at Le Chambon in 1934, Trocmé preached on the principles of love of God and one’s neighbor, based on Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Those principles, lived out by Trocmé and Magda, his wife, filtered into the congregation. Then in 1940, France fell to Nazi Germany. Le Chambon was in the formally independent Vichy region, but as fascism spread into the countryside Trocmé spoke against the rising spirit of fear and hatred. As the stand of the village against fascism was passed on by word of mouth, refugees and those fearing persecution made their way to Le Chambon.
Sheltering of Jews During Nazism’s Reign
In 1942 the Nazis ordered all Jews to be delivered for deportation. Formal resistence to the deportation began around the church elders and presbytery. Jewish refugees were hidden in the village and surrounding homes in spite of searches by the Vichy police and later the Gestapo. Trocmé was arrested briefly and later went into hiding himself, but the resistance continued.
Approximately 2,500 Jews were sheltered by the villagers of Le Chambon, a small number amid the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust. But, in the entire nation of France, Le Chambon was the safest place for Jews to be. As the preacher and conscience of his community, André Trocmé called his flock to a faith that was willing to risk one’s own life to protect the lives of those victimized by hatred and bigotry.
André Trocmé died in 1971. In the following year Israel posthumously awarded him the Medal of Righteousness. A tree was planted in the Yad Vashem memorial, honoring him as one of the