High in the mountains in south central France, in the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a circular stained glass window draws the eye to a command etched in stone above the door: “Aimez-vous les uns les autres”. Love one another.
For four years during the second world war (1940-1944) the villagers of Le Chambon sheltered refugees from the Nazi regime, mainly Jews. The penalty for hiding a Jew was death for the whole household. Yet everyone in Le Chambon and the surrounding villages risked their lives to help those they believed were being forced outside the circle.
During a sermon in June 1940, the church’s pastor, André Trocmé, asked the villagers not to passively submit to the anti-Semitic laws but rather to welcome refugees being sent to the village as a safe haven, and to develop non-violent ways of dealing with the authorities who would eventually come to round up Jews who they suspected were hiding there. Very few refugees were ever found, for they were successfully hidden in surrounding forest or disguised as relatives or employees of villagers and farmers. The small population worked silently, never revealing even to each other who was hiding in their homes. The command to ‘love one another’ was often referred to in sermons during these years to justify continued resistance to Nazi laws. Many of the people of Le Chambon attended this church and read the words ‘Aimez-vous les uns les autres’ every time they went through the door.
Thousands of Jews and other refugees who were sent to Le Chambon during those four years survived the war, thanks to the actions of these villagers.
Now take a look at Ailsa’s circle shots: http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/12/07/travel-theme-circles/