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on November 7, 2014
Caroline Moorehead is an excellent writer whose book "A train in Winter" was highly praised. I read it with great interest.
However with her new book "Village of Secrets", Moorehead seriously damages her reputation as a reliable writer. To start with, her title should have been "Villages of Secrets"!
Where is her historical scholarship? Who helped her with fact-checking for even simple details like the correct spelling of people she mentions? Why didn't she consult the internet? Her text is loaded with egregious errors and personal sarcastic judgments. Her distortions go from some historical facts to the most trivial little stories.
Yes, Moorehead writes very well and her research is extensive judging by the unusually large list of books in her bibliography...yet her errors are the proof she did not read them all, including the most recent and important ones. Yes, she honors deserving people like Pastor Daniel Curtet or Simone Mairesse. But these people were recognized years ago! Strangely enough, one wonders whether she has a special contact with the world of the dead when she thanks for their interview Leon Eyraud who died in 1953 and Madame Marguerite Roussel who passed in 1996.
There are always several sides to a story. It is regrettable and sad that Moorehead fell under the spell of a disgruntled crowd and some jealous people. The 12 Plateau Vivairais-Lignon villages and all the different types of rescuers, the nonviolent resistance and the armed resistance have not been forgotten in the small WWII museum that opened in LE Chambon - sur - Lignon in 2013. Yet this disgruntled group refused to join the project and did everything possible to kill it.. They even convinced Moorehead that the very capable Mayor Eliane WAuquiez-Motte who raised the funds and organized the professional planning deserved to be demeaned!
You don't have to read Village of Secrets: go straight to the Foreword and especially the Afterword to get a general impression of the tone of the book. If Moorehead is absolutely right in praising important people such as Charles Guillon, Oscar Rozowsky and Marc Boegner ( all recognized years ago), she did not need to trash other important people such as the ethicist ( and not the historian) Philip Hallie who in 1979 put Le Chambon -sur-Lignon on the map, or the excellent documentary producer Pierre Sauvage who describes his personal story and the reason why he was allowed to live as a Jewish baby born during the Holocaust, and finally two of the several idealists and catalists of the effective nonviolent resistance, Pastors Edouard Theis and Andre Trocme.

I ought to know: I am Trocme's daughter and I grew up In Le Chambon during WW II.I also had Caroline Moorehead as my house guest in the United States and I gladly let her interview me. She was friendly.
I now understand better why total silence followed her visit...
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on October 28, 2014
This book is a scandal; it pretends to be a chronicle of history, which it is emphatically NOT. contains so many errors that it should not have been published at all in its present form.
We Hanne (Hirsch) and Max Liebmann are featured in this book as survivors of the only deportation from Germany to France , prisoners of Camp de Gurs French internment camp as well as having been sheltered in Le Chambon sur Lignon. As we have told the publisher and author, we protest the misleading information about ourselves as well as our families and the general misinformation about this particular time period. People not familiar with the event of 1933 - 1945 will get a totally wrong impression. That such a book should even be considered for a literary book award in Britain is totally ludicrous.
Just to cite a few of the many errors :
Chapter 2; Moorehead states that in Camp de Gurs we ate dogs, cats and rats. There was not a single dog or cat in camp. Plenty of rats, but nobody ate them.
Throughout the book Moorehead maligns Pasteur Trocme, a person of the highest moral and ethical integrity. recognized by Yad Vashem as "Righteous Gentile" In addition she denounces Prof. Hallie who with his book "Lest innocent blood be shed" put le Chambon on the map for the world
Hanne and Max Liebmann .
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on October 28, 2014
My parents were among the Jews who found shelter in the area of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, during the Holocaust--the subject of this astonishingly inaccurate book--and I had the good fortune to be born there at that time. I thus care deeply about the remarkable rescue mission that profoundly affected my life.

It is thus dismaying that this account of those events preposterously asserts that the French Protestant (Huguenot) dimension of the rescue effort has been inflated into a myth, that the village's remarkable pastor can be plausibly charged with being a self-aggrandizing pathological liar, that nonviolence was only a small part of the story, that unnamed atheists and agnostics played an equal role in providing shelter, that indeed the religious beliefs of the rescuers deserve only passing mention... Incidentally, among the many dozens of misrepresentations and errors in this sloppy book are the very photograph on the cover: the reader has no way of knowing that the "Village of Secrets" portrayed is not Le Chambon!

Furthermore, in the author's eagerness to be able to claim that she is, at last, setting "the record straight" and describing for the first time "what actually took place" in and around Le Chambon, she feels it necessary to go out of her way to malign the late Philip Hallie and me--who have told the story before her. In my case, she goes so far as to fabricate the utterly false allegation that key figures in Le Chambon's wartime events branded my well-received feature documentary on the subject, "Weapons of the Spirit," as nothing less than a "mutilation of historical truth." This is very mean-spirited fiction indeed!

For more information, please see: [...]

Pierre Sauvage
President, Chambon Foundation
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on November 21, 2014
I do not pretend to know all the facts referred to in this story. I can only refer to those details with which I am directly familiar. My family was interned by the French in Gurs in May 1940 and as a 7 year old and 9 year old, my little sister and I experienced this camp first hand. The description of the Spaniards and the members of the International Brigade is quite inept and inaccurate. he photograph claiming to be Gurs is not Gurs. We were also brought to Le Chambon from Villeurbanne, near Lyon, by Mme Dreyfus in early July 1942. Both experiences are described in my book And Yet I Still Loved France. We were two of the anonymous ones who found refuge "in the mountains."

Furthermore Ms Moorehead's explanation as to what happened to the Spaniards (working on the Maginot Line) when France fell to the Germans is ludicrous. Her reference to the deportation of Jews from "recently annexed territories of Baden and the Palatinate" is a revelation of her total lack of knowledge of both history and geography of that part of the world.

There is also a reference to an event featuring Christian de Monbrison and Jack Lewin. Not only does she misspell Mr. de Monbrison's name but mistells the story which I learned first-hand from Mr. de Monbrison in 1990.

Recognizing errors in details with which I am familiar, I wonder how many more misrepresentations there are. Most of all i question her attacks on people who have sought to tell the beauty of the Plateau's story before. I also wonder how the reviewers have become such experts on the subject as to determine her book is the "definitive" word on the area.
Renée Kann Silver
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on December 13, 2014
When I first read Pierre Sauvage's searing response to Caroline Moorehead's book in Tablet (online magazine), I was shocked. It was difficult to believe there were that many factual errors. It was also difficult to believe all that was disingenuous suggested by Sauvage's citing emails between himself and Ms. Moorehead. I have now read the book. I obviously cannot comment on whatever went on within the confines of email and other personal communication. But I can comment on facts and their interpretation.

Regarding facts, the book is rightfully described by many here and elsewhere as "riddled" with errors. Some of these are relatively trivial (except perhaps for those involved): vitally alive people are described as "late" (i.e., dead); people's names--including some central to the book--wrongly given; memorial tablets are described in ways that do not resemble their actuality. And on and on.

But it is interpretation that is the core. Before I read the Moorehead book, I made the comment below on Tablet regarding Pierre Sauvage's film, Weapons of the Spirit. The film is essentially dismissed in this book. I have used the film in my course for many years.

"Among the points that my students spontaneously get from the film: (1) it was not only Protestants who were involved (the film goes out of its way to demonstrate that). (2) Le Chambon was one of a network of villages on the plateau that were part of the rescue effort (the film includes a map to illustrate that). (3) The Trocmes are not presented as "the whole story" by any means, including assertions by Magda Trocme herself about the complexity and decentralized nature of rescue and resistance (4) the role of a range of non-church organizations, and the wider history of the region's tradition of resistance (most recently before WWII during the Spanish Civil War) is also portrayed clearly in the film (to the extent that any single film can capture such complex history). So far, I have not heard anything at all that is "new" in what Moorehead, or her publicist, claim to offer us."

Having now read Moorehead's book, I would say even more strongly that I find nothing new in what she provides that is of historical significance, and a great deal that muddies the waters. Characters appear who, while interesting in themselves, have nothing to do with the wider story she claims to clarify. Conversely, there are plenty of key people like Daniel Trocme (Andre Trocme's cousin, wrongly identified by Moorehead as a nephew) who are accurately described in the Sauvage film as neither pacifist nor deeply religious: precisely the kind of people whom Moorehead asserts have been excluded from the Le Chambon "myth." Meanwhile, passages appear--notably, a key memory from the Jewish rescuer, Madeline Dreyfus--the source of which Moorehead does not cite (almost certainly the Sauvage film) and which, insult to injury, is otherwise misrepresented.

There are certainly "memory wars" that concern what happened in Le Chambon, but this book does not help us know how to sift through them. In my view, it does the opposite.
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on July 29, 2017
Good read but nothing spectacular. In addition the book is biased, claiming Switzerland didn't do enough! The Swiss helped financially and took in some Jews and shared the little available. Anyone blaming Switzerland for not doing enough doesn't understand the times and the amount of lives saved.
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on January 12, 2016
Very interesting insight into the role of French Huguenots and Darbyists in saving Jews and others sought by the Nazis in Vichy France. The writing is stilted, dry and, at times, the vocabulary, word choices and phrasing are poor and/or confusing.
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on March 15, 2018
This book details the journeys of many good people who stood up against the horrors of the holocaust. The intricacies and stumbling bigotry of the collaborators have lessons for all of us today. I shuddered when i read that the Vichy regime said that the only Jews beimg rounded up and sent to camps were "criminals". Does it sound familiar? The book is long and detailed, the characters often got confused in my mind, and yet I had no trouble staying with it to the end and beyond, through the afterword.
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on August 29, 2017
I read A Train in Winter and was struck by the detailed research conveyed in a compelling story. So I decided to buy Village of Secrets but hesitated because the first reviews on Amazon by at least two apparently noted authorities were so critical. There were other stellar reviews that followed but the accusations in the initial reviews, both personal attacks and attacks on the accuracy of the work, were off-putting to say the least. I did a quick search and found an interview of Moorehead, responding to the critiques, and I decided that I needed to see for myself. I'm so glad that I did. The book is excellent, well-researched, balanced in its approach, and the story itself is one that everyone should read. It may not be ground-breaking to conclude that people in times of extreme danger, conflict, and morally depraved acts, are at best inconsistent, not wholly good nor wholly evil. That some rise to the occasion is not surprising either. The reader can't help but ask throughout "what would I have done?" I hope others are not put off by the negative reviews from apparently self-interested parties -- this is a book worth reading, as was A Train in Winter.
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on April 17, 2018
This book was very hard for me to read and I didn't finish the book - almost unheard of for me. It was too much of a historical documentary - which some may want. I needed more focus on just the heart of those who helped the children.
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