April 6, 2021

Pastor Andre Trocme – the rescuer from Le Chambon-sur-Lignon

The Jerusalem Post - Israel News

The French pastor who made his village a haven for Jews in the Holocaust

Upon the occupation of France in June 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy regime, Trocme urged his followers to grant shelter to the “People of the Bible.”


PASTOR ANDRE TROCME and wife, Magda. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

PASTOR ANDRE TROCME and wife, Magda.(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 Pastor Andre Trocme was born on April 7, 1901. Together with his wife, Magda, he orchestrated a collective rescue operation during the Nazi occupation, converting his village, Chambon-Sur-Lignon, in a safe haven for the Jews.Trocme was the spiritual leader of the Protestant congregation in the town, and co-founder, together with Reverend Edouard Theis, of the College Lycee International Cevenol in le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, a tiny town located at the Haute-Loire department in southeastern France.

Upon the occupation of France in June 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy regime, Trocme urged his followers to grant shelter to the “People of the Bible.” He was diligently assisted by his Italian wife, Magda, and by Reverend Theis.Under their leadership, the villagers of le Chambon-Sur-Lignon risked their own lives to protect Jews in private residences and farms as well as in public buildings, helping many refugees to flee to Switzerland with forged documents.

Whenever the Nazi patrols came to the town to search for Jews, the local people organized an intricate network that facilitated the transfer of the persecuted ones to the adjacent mountains.A cousin of Pastor Andre, Daniel Trocme, was in charge of the children’s home in Le Chambon, and in that capacity he saved a great number of Jewish children. Regrettably, his activities were discovered by the Nazis and in 1943, and he was deported to Majdanek, where he was murdered. Andre himself was arrested, but managed to get away.

All in all, it is believed that some 5,000 Jews have passed through Chambon-Sur-Lignon and its neighboring hamlets, thus saving their lives.Pastor Andre Trocme, his wife, Magda, his cousin Daniel, Reverend Theis and 32 other residents of the town were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. In addition, Yad Vashem issued a special certificate to the village of Chambon in recognition of the collective nature of the rescue operation.

The role played by Magda Trocme was pivotal. With the encouragement of her husband and thanks to her natural organizational skills, she was in charge of identifying local families willing to provide refuge to the Jews and she helped the schools to absorb the influx of Jewish children.

She created a network of volunteers who went to the railway station to welcome the refugees and take care of their shelter in safe houses.The Vichy authorities became aware of this large-scale operation and threatened Pastor Trocme to shut-down his network. His reply was loud and clear: “This people are coming here to get help and shelter. I am a pastor and as such, I do not abandon my herd… I do not know what a Jew is. I only know human beings.”

Pastor Trocme did not fear to speak up. On one occasion, in 1942, during a visit made by George Lamirand, Vichy secretary of state for the youth, he openly confronted the official, voicing his opinions about the protection of the Jews. A few days later, the Gendarmerie came to the town to try and purge the “illegal” residents, but their efforts failed.In February 1943, Trocme and two colleagues, Reverend Theis and the teacher Roger Darcissac, were arrested and interned at the Saint-Paul d’Ejyeaux camp near Limoge. During his five-week imprisonment, the commander of the camp tried to persuade Trocme to sign a commitment to cease his lifesaving activities and comply with the Vichy orders, but he declined. Eventually, he was freed and was forced to go underground, but his followers continued to act according to his moral teachings.

On January 31, The Jerusalem Post reported that Eric Schwam of Austria, who passed away on December 25, 2020, bequeathed a large portion of his assets to the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon as a token of gratitude for having saved his life and the lives of his extended family in 1943.

The mission of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is to preserve and divulge the courageous legacy of the rescuers, such as Pastor Andre Trocme, his wife, and the noble people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.

Their humanitarian deeds will live on for generations.

Eduardo Eurnekian and Baruch Tenembaum are the chairman and founder, respectively, of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a global NGO devoted to keep alive the remarkable legacy of those who reached out to the victims of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide.