Obituary: Magda Trocme
Tuesday 29 October 1996
It is true that well over half of them were Jews of foreign origin, so perhaps they did not count. But this was not simply a period of raids and round-ups, the forceful separation of mothers from their children, the organisation of trains and transit camps. It was also a time when many people devoted themselves to saving the Jews in spite of the personal dangers involved. Such a heroine, as she deserves to be called, was Magda Trocme, who has died at the age of 94.
Magda Grilli came from Italy but had Russian forbears. It appears that both in Russia and in Italy her family were well known as people who contested the authority of the state. She was with the Italian com- munity in New York when she met fellow Protestant Andre Trocme, who was studying at the Union Theological Seminary. They were married in 1925, and shortly afterwards Andre Trocme became the pastor at Le Chambon-sur- Lignon. It was here that the two of them were to create a haven for Jewish refugees during the war.
Le Chambon, as it was called, was a remote village in the department of the Haute-Loire, some 60 kilometres from Saint-Etienne. Frequently cut off from the outside world by snowdrifts during the winter, the village itself normally had a thousand people living there, but perhaps double that number lived in surrounding farms and hamlets.
As early as the winter of 1940 to 1941 some Jews and other refugees wandered into the village, probably by chance, although it could have been that Andre Trocme's reputation as a pacifist and a preacher against the discrimination of the Vichy government's early social laws attracted them.
By the spring of 1942, as the French police intensified its round-up of the Jews, usually at the bidding of the Germans, Le Chambon became much known as an ideal place of refugees. Some 5,000 Jews found shelter there.
Magda Trocme was particularly active in this work. In February 1943 Trocme and his fellow pastor were arrested for a month, but immediately went into hiding. Magda continued her husband's work and in no small measure contined to save lives.
Although she did not possess the Protestant memory of persecution in the Cevennes, she knew other traditions of resistance. She had worked in the Spanish camps, where refugees from Franco were placed, and in the terrible camp at Gurs, created for those Jews who had been deported from Germany.
In any case, much of the work at Le Chambon had to be done by women. Food and clothes had to be delivered, sometimes medicines and money. False papers had to be procured.
This meant that there was continuous movement. For men this was unwise. They would be stopped and asked for their papers. Women with large bundles were more easily accepted. Women too were often best at persuading those in official positions that a form could be given an official stamp or that a name on a list could be obliterated. Magda Trocme created an army of women helpers as well as organising the Protestant boy scouts of the region.
The outstanding success of this harem can only be explained by the solidarity of the village and the surrounding countryside, a solidarity which was the accomplishment of Andre and Magda Trocme. Andre died in Geneva in 1970.
He and his wife, after the war, had continued to work for the cause of peace and for religious unity. Their memory is kept alive in Israel.
It was Magda who told the story of Le Chambon, mainly to Americans, especially American Quakers. She also helped Pierre Sauvage with his film Weapons of the Spirit, first shown in America in 1989.
Magda Trocme requested that after her death, a service should be held in a French Protestant Church. Then that her ashes should be scattered in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
Magda Grilli, humanitarian: born Florence 2 November 1902; married 1925 Andre Trocme (died 1970; one son, one daughter); died Paris 10 October 1996.
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
- 5 Ryan Gosling posts tribute to 'Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal' creator Ryan McHenry
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...
£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...