Non-fiction Book of the Month - Village of Secrets

Posted on 1st August 2015 by Jonathan O'Brien
How a small French village saved thousands of lives during World War Two
During the German occupation of Paris during World War Two, the Vichy Government were complicit in the Nazi's barbaric plan to exterminate the Jews. While other countries managed to help their Jewish populations escape to safely neutral countries, the French government, reduced to puppet status by the invading German forces, sent tens of thousands of people to German concentration camps.

Thankfully, across France there were pockets of resistance who were determined to protect the victims of Nazi persecution. None more so than in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a remote whose inhabitants saved thousands of lives, and the subject of Caroline Moorehead's Village of Secrets.

Moorehead brilliantly brings to life the events of the 1940s. How the villagers, isolated in the French mountains, had the bravery and conviction to defy the occupying army. Led by the pastor André Trocmé, hundreds of Jewish children were sheltered. Often hidden in plain sight from the German troops stationed nearby, the Jewish children would play outside with the village's inhabitants. They would be smuggled in through code referring to new arrivals as 'books'. Those placed on the Nazi's 'Death Squad' lists were often smuggled over the border into nearby Switzerland where they would be safe.

It's gripping throughout but Moorehead never lets you forget the inherent danger. The entire village were putting themselves at risk and had they been discovered they would have almost certainly faced death themselves.

Moorehead's reporting takes us past the war, into the aftermath and how the children separated from their parents fared once they were free. Those who survived the concentration camps often returned to find their children changed, having spent years apart.

Village of Secrets is neither a happy nor sad story because that isn't what war itself is. In parts it's hugely uplifting, at others it's understandably upsetting.It's a story of a group of people showing extraordinary bravery to save others in need. It's a fascinating and expertly told account.


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