by Caroline Gutmann-Guillot
Translated by David Presburger-Hauser
The « Lieu de memoire »
Sponsored by Mrs. Simone Veil, a Place of memory of the Plateau du Lignon devoted to the « Righteous Among the Nations » and the Resistance of the Plateau was opened on Monday, June 3, 2013 in the presence of many officials, as well as eyewitnesses who sometimes were travelling from far away. Survivors, children of righteous and old people of Chambon comrades gathered with palpable emotion.
the building will be completed later on by a terraced garden.
In the Protestant church of Chambon-sur-Lignon, transformed into a theater,
young people from the Middle school of Lignon performed a play entitled « Juste des Enfants! »
Highly symbolic place because it is from the pulpit of the church that part of the local Résistance was born under the leadership of ministers André Trocmé and Edouard Theis and the minister and town mayor, Charles Guillon. During his interview by the police in the summer of 1942, André Trocmé said: “We do not know what a Jew is, we only know of Human beings”.
Photo 4: André and Magda Trocmé - Photo 5: Edouard and Mildred Theis
Photo 6: The protestant church of Chambon-sur-Lignon: interior
The young actors were given a standing ovation by the audience that had completely filled the pews and aisles of the church.
Facing the temple, the “lieu de memoire” was opened for a preliminary visit ; it is not a museum that was erected (no collection is displayed), it's more of a historical journey tracing the history of the Plateau from the Reformation to WWII and a memorial gathering space filled with many testimonials.
Photos 7, 8 and 9: Interior of the “Lieu de mémoire”
The purpose of this site is primarily to allow transmission of this unique adventure in the tragic history of WWII. This place is conceived as a message of hope and life. On the panels, pictures of smiling alien and French Jews, children, teenagers and students, ministers, teachers and other anonymous rescuers from the Plateau mingle.
Photo 10: Sack races, volleyball games or distribution of afternoon snacks:
the iconography of the Plateau is filled with quiet joyful moments.
On Sunday evening, at the Chambon arthouse movie theatre was offered to a crowded room a screening of Pierre Sauvage’s “Weapons of the Spirit”, recognized and praised as a work of reference by historians of the Plateau and the scientific committee present that evening. Strangely, this movie was poorly distributed in France but had a large success in the United States. The slightly modified 25th anniversary version of this documentary (2014) was screened and followed by a round table.
Photo 11: Movie Poster of Pierre Sauvage’s “Weapons of the Spirit” - Chambon Foundation
Surrounding the mayor of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, Eliane Wauquiez-Motte were Patrick Cabanel, Jacques Sémelin, Olivier Lalieu and others. In the room, many eyewitnesses were testifying or asking questions.
The official opening
The official inauguration took place on Monday at the door of the “lieu de mémoire” and in the courtyard of the elementary school.
Photo 12: Just before the entrance to the courtyard of the school, was affixed on the side of a house in 1979
a plaque honoring the actions in favor of the refugees during the war.
Photo 13: Cutting the traditional inauguration ribbon
Photo 14: Mrs Wauquiez-Motte welcoming her prestigious guests
A male choir sang Le Chant des Partisans (a nice slow and deep version) followed by young students of the College cevenol (established at the initiative of Rvd. Chambon in 1938). Children recited the names of all the righteous from the Plateau, distinguished among the thousands of people who received this honor collectively.
Photo 15: The male choir
Many personalities attended this important event: the Minister for Educational success Mrs. George Pau-Langevin; Laurent Wauquiez, representative of Haute-Loire, former Minister and son of Eliane Wauquiez-Motte; Yossi Gal, Israeli Ambassador to France; Samuel Pisar, UNESCO Honorary Ambassador; Gérard Roche, Senator and President of the General Council of Haute-Loire; David de Rothschild, President of the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust; Eric de Rothschild, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial and many more.
Photo 17: Mrs Wauquiez-Motte, Mayor of Chambon - Inaugural Address
Photos 18 and 19: Guests of honor waiting for their turn on the pulpit
Photo 20: The Scientific Committee also responded positively to the invitation for the inauguration
Photos 21 and 22: If Simone Veil couldn’t get to Chambon for health reasons (she supported the project from the start and is the godmother), the Klarsfelds honored this great ceremony by attending. Edith Cresson, in the first row, deeply moved.
After all the speeches, the deep voices sang again this time with the lyrics of « La Cevenole »,
a hymn commemorating the revocation of the Edit of Nantes and considered to be the Cevenols Protestant anthem :
it is called the « Huguenot Marseillaise ».
Finally, after the audience raised, the choir sang a vibrant Marseillaise.
When the ceremony was over, guests who had not yet discovered the new building entered the Lieu de Memoire. Guidebooks were available for them.
In the courtyard of the school, snacks were served to guests of the town and all were able to share memories. Jews from America, England or elsewhere, French Jews, former hidden children, all those white-haired heads got closer and many were those able to reunite with their friends or the descendants of their local saviors, to whom they related by a long friendship. Others had the great surprise and deep emotion of finding faces they had not seen since 1944 ... Contacts were established, addresses exchanged, pictures fixing these intense moments taken in addition to the exchanged words.
Photos 23-25 : Exchanges between survivors, local children and members of the Resistance (here are Gabriel Eyraud, resistance fighter born in 1924 - Philippe Gutmann reuniting with Jean Lebrat whom he had not seen since 1944).
The Plateau of Lignon remains a bubble, the values (so simple and natural) that animated the spirits during the terrible wartime are still present and those who carry them work hard to pass them on to the young generation. For the last witnesses of that period won’t live forever…it was urgent to build a place of transmission, living tribute of a treasured memory.
In addition to the visit of the new building, we mention the inevitable Memory Path offered by Mrs. Claire Souvignet of the Tourist Office of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
An article about the history of the Plateau du Lignon will be published soon in the magazine GenAmi
Lieu de Mémoire
Route du Mazet
43400 Le Chambon-sur-Lignon
Tourist office of the Haut-Lignon