The town hall in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Eliane Wauquiez|
|Area1||41.71 km2 (16.10 sq mi)|
|• Density||63/km2 (160/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|INSEE/Postal code||43051 / 43400|
|Elevation||874–1,139 m (2,867–3,737 ft)
(avg. 1,000 m or 3,300 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Residents have been primarily Huguenot or Protestant since the 17th century. During World War II such residents made the commune a haven for Jews fleeing from the Nazis. They both hid them within the town and countryside, and helped them flee to neutral Switzerland. In 1990 the town was one of two collectively honored as the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel for saving Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. The other town awardee was the Dutch village of Nieuwlande.
World War II
With the leadership of local minister André Trocmé and his deputy pastor Edouard Theis, the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon risked their lives to hide Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime and sent to the death camps. They hid the Jews in private homes, on farms in the area, as well as in public institutions. Whenever the Nazi patrols came searching, the Jews were hidden in the mountainous countryside.
After the war, one of the villagers recalled: "As soon as the soldiers left, we would go into the forest and sing a song. When they heard that song, the Jews knew it was safe to come home." The situation took a more tense turn when the Germans invaded the South Zone in 1942. Local people continued to protect the Jews in open defiance of the authorities. For instance, they gave Vichy Youth Minister Georges Lamirand a petition against the deportation of the Jews when he visited the village in 1942.
In addition to providing shelter, the citizens of the town obtained forged identification and ration cards for Jews to use. They helped them cross the border to the safety of neutral Switzerland. Some of the residents were arrested by the Gestapo such as Rev. Trocmé's cousin, Daniel Trocmé, who was sent to Maidanek concentration camp, where he was murdered.
It was estimated that the people of the area of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had saved between 3,000-5,000 Jews from certain death. However, more recent estimates lower the figures to between 800 and 1000.
- In 1981 the entire town was awarded an honorary degree by Haverford College in Pennsylvania in recognition of its humanitarian efforts.
- In 1982, documentary filmmaker Pierre Sauvage—who was born and sheltered in Le Chambon—returned there to film Weapons of the Spirit (1989).
- In 1990, for their humanitarianism and bravery under extreme danger, the entire town was recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations". A small garden and plaque on the grounds of the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust in Israel was dedicated to the people of Chambon-sur-Lignon.
- In 2004 French President Jacques Chirac officially recognized the heroism of the town.
- Panthéon in Paris.
Alexander Grothendieck, a central figure of 20th century mathematics, was among the Jewish children sheltered during the war.
The town lies in the middle of the commune, on the right bank of the Lignon du Velay, which flows north-northwestward through the commune and forms part of its north-western border.
- Hallie, Philip P (1979). Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-011701-X.
- Sauvage, Pierre (1989). Weapons of the Spirit (Les armes de l'esprit) (Documentary). USA/France: Chambon Foundation. Aired in the United States by the PBS.
- Matas, Carol (April 1, 1998). Greater Than Angels. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-689-81353-8. A book for youngsters.
- Moorehead, Caroline (2014). Village of secrets : defying the Nazis in Vichy France. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-06-220247-5.
- Sémelin, Jacques (2013). Persécutions et entraides dans la France occupée : comment 75 % des juifs de France ont échappé à la mort (in French). Paris: Seuil Arènes. ISBN 978-2-35204-235-8.
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