WEAPONS OF THE SPIRIT (1987)

Product by:
Pierre Sauvage

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On May 12, 2015
Last modified:May 17, 2015

Summary:

During the Nazi area the villagers at Le Chambon, without losing a single one, while they ere passing through.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 31 min. Documentary.

Our star rating (1-5): 5

 I was a stranger and you welcomed me…

Matthew 25:35b

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During the terrible Nazi domination of France more than 75,000 Jews were turned in, many of them by their neighbors. 10,000 of these herded off to the camps were children. Yet in the little village of Le Chambon 5000 Jews were hidden. Not one was betrayed. To find out why this village was so different, filmmaker Pierre Sauvage journeys back to interview many of the rescuers and the rescued. He has a personal stake in his findings — he himself was born and given sanctuary in the village during that era. The result of his quest is one of the most uplifting and rewarding films you are likely to see this year (in case, like me, you missed it both in the theaters and on PBS).

He soon discovers that he is in Huguenot country where the local Protestant church preserves a long tradition of resistance to persecution. The pastor then was Andre Trocme, ably assisted by Edouard Theis. At the beginning of the occupation Trocme penned the statement that the people accepted as their charter:

“The duty of Christians is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their conscience through the weapons of the spirit. We will resist whenever our adversaries demand obedience contrary to the order of the Gospel. We will do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate.”

The villagers and farmers interviewed lived up to the last part of the pledge remarkably well. They talk matter-of-factly about the dangerous task of taking in refugees, feeding them on their own meager rations, and hiding them under the noses of the Germans. When pressed as to why they took such chances for strangers they respond that this is the right thing or this is what a Christian does. They were all involved in what Trocme called “a conspiracy of goodness.”

There are some wonderful stories told, such as of the forger who started a village industry of forging identity papers and of them being hidden in such places as bee hives; of Jews staying in the hotel right next to a building full of Germans. There are sad stories, too, not only of the refugees who lost so many loved ones to the extermination camps, but also of the arrest and death of one of the teachers associated with the pastors. Trocme himself was arrested and held for a month.

The villagers apparently had some influence upon and subsequent help from high officials in the Vichy government. When a group of these came to Le Chambon to urge cooperation with the Nazis, the villagers went about their business, their leaders making it clear what they believed. The Germans seemed very lax compared to those in other parts of the country; there is the possibility that the local commander sympathized with the villagers.

This 90-minute documentary (some of it in French with subtitles) is a tonic for anyone tempted to give up on humanity. It is more exciting, and certainly more inspiring than a dozen fictional adventure films

Reprinted from the March 1992 issue of Visual Parables.

Available on DVD for $9.99 (plus $2.99 postage) from Myth Express at:

https://mthexpress.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=985&search=dvd&page=34

 

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During the Nazi area the villagers at Le Chambon, without losing a single one, while they ere passing through.

Comments

  1. Pat Shufeldt says:

    The Chambon Foundation website states that a 25th anniversary “revised and remastered” edition will be released on DVD during 2015. (http://www.chambon.org/weapons_en.htm)

    • Ed McNulty says:

      Pat, this is wonderful news! This is such a finel documentary. Let’s both of us keep on the lookout for the release. I appreciate your sharing this.
      You might be interested in a personal anecdote connected with this film. In the early 1990s I spent a February visiting art centers in Europe in conjunction with my D. Min. these on Christ, art and film. I stopped over in Geneva to visit theologian Hans-Reudi Weber, known for his collecting and writing about Christian art by Third World artists. I gave the Webers the March 92 issue of Visual Parables, and their eyes opened wide–the lead review was of Weapons of the Spirit. “Le Chambon!” Mrs. Weber said, and then they explained that the two of them worked at one of the schools where they helped take care of some of the Jewish children. They, of course, new Trocme very well, so through them I felt a connection with this great leader myself.

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