I am a real history buff, especially when it comes to the 20th Century and anything to do with WW1 and WW2 ( my special interest subject in my last year of high school was “International Relations Between the Wars – yes, I’ve always been a bit of a nerd!). So when I heard author Peter Grose talking about his latest book on ABC radio I knew it would be the perfect read for me to fit into my Paris in July reading schedule.
A Good Place to Hide tells the story of the community of Le Chambon Sur Lignon in the Loire Valley of rural France (about 120 kms south of Lyon) and how they worked together to save the lives of thousands of refugees (predominately Jewish people) during WW2 by sheltering them in their homes and helping them to escape wartime France. The author has been able to interview residents of the town and survivors to gain a first hand account of the events that took place and how the community of largely protestant French undertook an extremely brave and risky campaign to save the lives of those at risk of the German atrocities of WW2.
This is an interesting and engaging non fiction account of a remarkable story that I had not been aware of before hearing the author’s interview on the radio. The book is accompanied by photos of the time adding a sense of authenticity and realism to the experience of reading about the very personal stories and it is also well backed up by extensive research including reviews of archives and one-on-one interviews.
The author concludes the book with a political and personal message by drawing links to the current situation involving millions of displaced refugees around the world:
I would hope that anyone who has read this book would approve of the actions of the people of the Plateau. If yes, then that leads to the question of whether there is anything any of us can do today to match their sheer decency and courage. Their story offers a ready alternative to selfish indifference, to the pitiless mantra of nothing-to-do-with-me. For those of us lucky enough to live in a liberal democracy, we can vote. If we followed the example of the people of the Plateau and vowed to be part of the resistance against injustice, we could do it. How? A vote against “toughness”, and a vote for anybody with a credible policy for let’s-do-something, would be a start.
This was a very different “Paris in July” read for me – but an important and timely one I feel.
Are there any other history buffs out there? How are you fitting history into your Paris in July experience?