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Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Train in Winter comes the extraordinary story of a French village that helped save thousands who were pursued by the Gestapo during World War II. High up in the mountains of the southern Massif Central in France lie tiny, remote villages united by a long and particular history. During the Nazi occupation, the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and the other villages of the Plateau Vivarais Lignon saved several thousand people from the concentration camps. There were no informers, no denunciations, and no one broke ranks. Together, the villagers held their silence, and kept persecuted people – resisters, freemasons, communists and above all Jews, many of them children and babies – from danger. During raids, the children would hide in the woods, their packs on their backs, waiting to hear the farmers’ song which told them it was safe to return. After the War Le Chambon became one of only two places in the world to be honoured by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations.

Just why and how Le Chambon and its outlying villages came to save so many people has never been fully told. But several of the remarkable architects of the mission are still alive, as are a number of those they saved. Caroline Moorehead travelled across the world to interview these people, and searched archives that few have seen, to bring us the unforgettable testimonies of many of those involved in this extraordinary account. It is a story of courage and determination, of a small number of heroic individuals who risked their lives to save others, and of what can be done when people come together to oppose tyranny.

About the Author

Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead is the biographer of Bertrand Russell, Freya Stark, Iris Origo and Martha Gellhorn. Well known for her work in human rights, she has published a history of the Red Cross and a book about refugees, Human Cargo. Her biography of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Dancing to the Precipice, was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award in 2009. Caroline's most recent book was A Train in Winter. She lives in London.

 

Read our longlist Q&A with Caroline Moorehead here

Read a blog by Caroline Moorehead here

Read an extract from Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France here.

 

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