Archive for the ‘The Russia House (1990)’ Tag

Feast of Andre, Magda, and Daniel Trocme (April 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  France, 1941

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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DANIEL TROCMÉ (APRIL 28, 1912-APRIL 6, 1944)

French Educator, Humanitarian, and Martyr

nephew of

ANDRÉ TROCMÉ (APRIL 7, 1901-JUNE 5, 1971)

French Reformed Minister and Humanitarian

husband of

MAGDA TROCMÉ (NOVEMBER 2, 1902-OCTOBER 10, 1996)

French Humanitarian

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RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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You have to think like a hero merely to behave like a decent human being.

–Bartholomew Scott Blair in The Russia House (1990)

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Only to your fathers was YHWH attached, to love them, so he chose their seed after them,

you, above all (other) peoples,

as (is) this (very) day.

So circumcise the foreskin of your heart,

your neck you are not to keep-hard anymore;

for YHWH your God,

he is the God of gods and the Lord of lords,

the God great, powerful, and awe-inspiring,

he who lifts up no face (in favor) and takes no bribe,

providing justice (for) orphan and widow,

loving the sojourner, by giving him food and clothing.

So you are to love the sojourner,

for sojourners were you in the land of Egypt;

YHWH your God, you are to hold-in-awe,

him you are to serve,

to him you are to cling,

by his name you are to swear!

–Deuteronomy 19:15-20, Translated by Everett Fox (1995)

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It is very dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

–Voltaire

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Robert Ellsberg, in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), lists April 7 as the feast of André Trocmé.  One could, I suppose, also choose April 6, April 28, June 5, October 10, or November 2, if one were restricting oneself to birth and death dates.  However, on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, April 12 works fine.

Being a merely decent human being can be difficult and mortally perilous.  Those who behave as decent people during such circumstances are moral giants.

André Trocmé, born in Saint-Quentin-en-Tourment, France, on April 7, 1901, identified with the downtrodden and understood the Biblical mandate to care for them.  He, of Huguenot (properly pronounced U-guh-NO; the “t” and “s” are silent) stock, knew the history of the persecution of French Calvinists.  André had also been a poor refugee during World War I.  He studied theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, where Henry Sloane Coffin taught and, in 1926, became the president of the institution.  In New York City André met and fell in love with Magda Grilli, Italian-born yet of Russian ancestry.  Members of her family had resisted authority in both Italy and Russia.  The couple married in 1925.

In 1934 André became the pastor in the Huguenot village of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon, or Le Chambon, for short.  He, Magda, and their children settled in the town, whose population went on in just a few years to commit great and unfortunately rare acts of morality and heroism.  For Pastor Trocmé  the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ was to live according to the ethical standards of the Sermon on the Mount–to love God and one’s neighbors.  He also emphasized the portion of Deuteronomy I have quoted at the beginning of this post.  He was also a pacifist.

Pacifism, of course, does not necessarily mean surrender to injustice.  No, it means resisting injustice by nonviolent means.  This is a fact that some of the college students to whom I teach U.S. history fail to grasp.  I recall, for example, one pupil who, even after I corrected him in writing, insisted on describing Quakers as “passive-aggressive,” not pacifistic.

Above:  A Portion of Southern France

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The location of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon is slightly to the southeast of Yssingeau, in Haute-Loire.

The inhabitants of Le Chambon were neither passive nor aggressive.  No, they were Christian and merely decent.  In 1940, after the Third Reich took over France, the German government established a puppet state (the French State, in English), commonly called Vichy France.  The rest of France fell under direct German rule.  Le Chambon fell within the borders of Vichy France.  The Trocmés resisted the ultranationalism of the French State.  Resisting authority came naturally to them, especially Magda.

So did sheltering refugees.  As I have written, André had been one.  Also, Magda had worked in a camp for refugees from Francisco Franco’s Spanish Christian Fascists (Falangists, technically), officially neutral during World War II yet sympathetic to the Nazis.  Starting in 1940, with the help of the American Friends Service Committee, the Trocmés led the village in resisting the laws of the Third Reich and of Vichy France while obeying the laws of God.  Le Chambon and the neighboring farms became centers for sheltering Jews, many of them illegal aliens.  In 1942 the order to deport French Jews took effect.  The body count of that order exceeded 83,000.  In Paris alone, in the summer of 1942, the number of deported Jews was about 28,000.  Over years, however, the villagers of Le Chambon, led by the Trocmés, sheltered and saved no fewer than 2,500 Jews–perhaps as many as 5,000.  Vichy and Nazi authorities noticed yet never could capture any Jews there.  A doctor who forged documents died in a concentration camp.  Starting in early 1942 André had to go on the run, so Magda, who had helped him lead the village’s efforts, performed more duties.  There were, after all, documents to forge and deliveries of food and clothing to make.

The villagers of Le Chambon did not consider their actions in sheltering Jews remarkable.  This was an expression of their faith, after all.  Those actions were, however, relatively rare in France during World War II.  They also met with the disapproval of the leader of André’s denomination.

Daniel Trocmé, born on April 28, 1912, was André’s nephew.  Daniel, a science teacher and a compassionate man, had fragile health, including a heart condition.  He taught at Masion Les Roches, a Huguenot boarding school, in Verneuil.  In 1941 he accepted his uncle’s invitation to become the principal of Les Grillons, the boarding school for Jewish children at Le Chambon founded by the American Friends Service Committee.  Daniel was a kind and conscientious educator.  Eventually he left to assume the leadership of Maison Les Roches.  There Daniel sheltered Jewish youth.  Agents of the Gestaop raided the school on June 29, 1943.  Our saint did not flee the authorities, who detained him, along with 18 pupils.  He did not deny sheltering Jews.  No, Daniel told the agents that sheltering Jews was the morally correct action.  He spent the rest of his brief life as a prisoner, dying, aged 31 years, at Maidanek Concentration Camp, Lublin, Poland, on April 6, 1944.

André continued to live out his faith after the liberation of France.  He served as the European secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.  And, during the Algerian War, our saint cooperated with Mennonites to help French conscientious objectors.  He died, aged 70 years, at Geneva, Switzerland, on June 5, 1971.

Magda died, aged 91 years, in Paris on October 10, 1996.  She lived long enough to witness the villagers, her husband, Daniel, and herself recognized formally as Righteous Gentiles.

Some of the passages of scripture that trouble me the most are those that counsel submission to authority–especially, in historical context, that of the Roman Empire.  Although freedom cannot exist amid anarchy, there are times when defying “legitimate” political authority is the only morally correct course of action.  This is a nuance I do not detect in the germane New Testament passages.

The Trocmés understood that nuance well, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUIS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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