Everybody wants things to be different, but nobody wants to be different. It is the different people, though, who make the biggest difference. The people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon were always different, which is why they made the difference they did.
Le Chambon Was Different
Le Chambon is a small town in southwestern France, and for centuries it had been the home for a population of French Protestants called Huguenots. The Huguenots had been influenced by John Calvin and had been persecuted by the Roman Catholic French state during the wars of religion. The Huguenots, therefore, knew what it meant to be different and knew what it meant to suffer.
André Trocmé and the Jews
When World War II began, Pastor André Trocmé led the people of Le Chambon in welcoming and sheltering refugees and fugitives, many of them Jews. The people of the town refused to declare allegiance to the collaborationist government in Vichy and devised ingenious ways to disguise the Jewish population around them.
In August of 1942, the police came to the town and demanded that Le Chambon give up the Jews they were hiding. On August 30, André Trocmé ascended the steps of the pulpit in his packed church.The pastor told the people to “do the will of God, not of men.” The authorities left the town without making any arrests.
In 1943, however, Pastor Trocmé was arrested and detained for 5 weeks, and after his release he had to go into hiding until the end of the war. His wife Magda carried on his work and provided leadership to the effort to shelter and save Jewish refugees.
Approximately 5,000 Jewish refugees were sheltered in Le Chambon (a town of only 5,000 people) over the course of the war; not a single Jew was given over to the Nazis.
There is a memorial to André and Magda Trocmé at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
If You’re Not Different, You’re Not Any Good
Nobody wants to be different, which is why the world is the way it is: everybody is just like everybody else.
It’s like salt. Salt is meant to flavor and preserve, but if salt loses its saltiness, it’s good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot.
The people of Le Chambon were different, and so they made a difference.
In memory of the people of Le Chambon, the salt of the earth and “righteous among the nations.”