It began in 1685. The king of France forbade French Huguenots to leave France and had them ruthlessly hunted down. A half million French citizens would die, but many would hide to escape persecution. In South Central France, the village of Le Chambon became riddled with secret rooms and secret paths leading to freedom in Switzerland. These rooms and paths would be kept secret… just in case they were ever needed again.
In the bitter cold winter of 1940, a Jewish woman, fleeing persecution, knocked on the door of Pastor Andre Tocme in Le Chambon. The pastor and his wife offered shelter and asked the mayor for help in securing false papers for her. He refused, and the pastor turned instead to his congregation, saying, “I do not know what a Jew is. I only know human beings.“ They swiftly set up a travel network. By what means? Oh yes, the well-kept secret of centuries past. There were only 5,000 villagers in Le Chambon, but they managed to save 5,000 Jews. You see, they remembered who they once were and knew who they now wanted to be. Thank you brave heroes.