Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

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Today’s nonfiction post is on Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead. It is 384 pages long including notes and a bibliography. The cover is a picture of village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. The intended reader is someone who is interested in War World 2 history and hopeful, real life bravery. There is no sex, no language, and the violence is just talked about. The story is told from third person close with letters and interviews added in for depth. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- Le Chambon-sur-Lignonis a small village of scattered houses high in the mountains of the Ardeche, one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of eastern France. During the Second World War, the inhabitants of this tiny mountain village and its parishes saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, Freemasons, communists, OSS and SOE agents, and Jews. Many of those they protected were orphaned children and babies whose parents had been deported to concentration camps.
With unprecedented access to newly opened archives in France, Britain, and Germany, and interviews with some of the villagers from the period who are still alive, Caroline Moorehead pains an inspiring portrait of courage and determination: of what was accomplished when a small group of people banded together to oppose their Nazi occupiers. A thrilling and atmospheric tale of silence and complicity, Village of Secrets reveals how every one of the inhabitants of Chambon remained silent in a country infamous for collaboration. Yet it is also a story about mythmaking, and the fallibility of memory.
A major contribution to WWII history, illustrated with black-and-white photo, Village of Secrets sets the record straight about the events in Chambon, and pays tribute to a group of heroic individuals, most of them women, for whom saving others became more important their own lives.

Review- I found this to be a very inspiring story. One group of people led by both their local leaders and their own sense of right decided that no one was going to the Germans. This village was truly something unique. Over the course of the occupation only 12 people were taken from Le Chambon-sur-Lignonis. They hid at least 883 people and if you count all the people who hid there for a short time or just passed through to get documents the numbers become staggering. The writing is approachable. The story is moving and the real people are interesting. Moorehead wants to try and set the record straight about this little village and the province that it is in. The people who live and lived there value silence so there has been rumor with little to no fact checking but Moorehead was able to get more information. With archives opening up, interviews with children who lived there and through the war, and just plain old research she wants to lift the veil on this story. I think she did but I knew nothing about this place and its people before reading this book. I am going to be doing some personal research into this now to see for myself.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.