Sunday, February 19, 2017

Here's some of my reading for A Flame in the Night

Well, I said I'd do Holocaust rescuer stories every other week for awhile, and this is an off week, and I'm just coming off a huge push on the novel. (I now have three weeks to revise five chapters and a secondary storyline, much better!) So for something a little easier on me this week, I want to share some titles from my research reading.

Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: the original source text for everything, the first book written about the Le Chambon story. It's not a history book, it's by a philosopher of ethics (the late Philip Hallie), and it spends a lot of time exploring and analyzing the moral choices involved. It's been criticized as offering a narrow or incomplete view of what happened (especially identifying Le Chambon as if it had been the place of rescue, whereas actually the whole plateau around it was involved), but if you take it as simply Hallie's perspective (and by extension the perspective of the Trocmé and Théis families whom he got to know well) it's extremely valuable. I do wish it was in chronological order though. Very readable, definitely recommended as an intro to the story.

We Only Know Men: a set of essays on the rescue of Jews in southern France during the war by (if I understand correctly) another ethical philosopher, Patrick Henry. The title (a little awkward out of context if you ask me) comes from what André Trocmé said when a government official asked him to hand over a list of Jews and threatened him: "We do not know what a Jew is. We only know men."

I'm extremely grateful for the information offered in this book, especially more details on the story of the Maison des Roches, the boardinghouse in Le Chambon that suffered the only successful raid. Nineteen people were arrested and deported, including the director, who was André Trocmé's cousin. Now here's the thing: this story gets told over and over in the places on the Internet where the Le Chambon story is told. And almost every time, Trocmé's cousin is the only one named and the only one whose final fate is actually told. (He died of illness in a concentration camp.) I have always felt this was not right. Those eighteen Jewish young people had names. And yet I couldn't find them out! This book lists the names of each of them and identifies which ones survived. Thanks to Henry I can honor the victims properly in my historical note to A Flame in the Night. (In which I tell this story, because it's relevant to the novel. I shouldn't say more.)

Lyon Contre Vichy (Lyon versus Vichy): This history thesis in French tells in great detail the story of how a group of Catholic and Protestant aid orgs (and a Jewish one, secretly) rescued hundreds of recently arrested people from the Vénissieux "sorting camp" near Lyon--including all of the children under 16. It was a bureaucratic rescue, accomplished almost entirely through manipulating red tape, including the theft of a crucial telegram.

This story is in A Flame in the Night, from the point of view of a rescued 15-year-old. It's the part of my research that moved me the most deeply and I've worked hard to present it accurately in every way. It's a story that deserves to be told.

Hidden on the Mountain: this is actually in some sense a children's book, and it's one of the ones I'd recommend for anyone who wants to learn about this story--young or old. It's full of true testimonies of Jewish children and young people who were hidden in Le Chambon, written from interviews with them later in life. They're written up in a very simple, direct style, in the present tense, dated as if they were diary entries, I think to help child readers enter into these young people's experience. These stories gave me a sense of the atmosphere of the sponsored children's homes like the one Magali works in in Defy the Night, and for this coming novel they offered new insight on a very important true story... that I shouldn't even summarize here, because it would give too much away.

Paroles de Réfugies, Paroles de Justes: This translates to "Words of Refugees, Words of the Righteous [among the Nations, aka Holocaust rescuers]". It's another book of testimonies & personal stories, in French this time--over 25 of them. Jewish families hiding in the countryside, Jewish young people in the boarding school and the children's homes, the pastors in the rescue movement and those involved with them, and the Maquis (armed resisters based in the countryside)--it offers all these different voices. This one has been incredibly valuable to me--I got a fuller picture of the town with each story I read, and many of them contained facts or insights that went into the book.

moignages de Résistants (Testimonies of Resisters)
More testimonies, mostly of armed resisters far from Le Chambon. I'll read those someday, but so far I've read just one testimony in here--and it has shaped the novel fundamentally. The testimony of Pierre Piton not only offered a ton of information on what it was like to be a young passeur (refugee smuggler) but also opened my eyes to the fact that Pastor Edouard Théis--the man whose counterpart in the novel is the main character's father--was heavily involved in organizing secret passage to Switzerland for Jews. This let me put the father at the heart of the novel.

Résister: Voix Protestantes
(Resist: Protestant Voices)
A collection of anti-Nazi or anti-Vichy sermons by various Protestant pastors in France during World War II. It includes a sermon by André Trocmé and a sermon by Edouard Théis, as well as another sermon preached in Le Chambon that was in a sense related to them. For awhile I read this during my devotional times, actually. One of the sermons is summarized in the book.

And maybe that's enough for now! I may share more in a week or two.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! A great deal of background research. Best wishes for the remaining revision...