The Village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon: Righteous Among the Nations

“The Righteous thought they simply had to live through history. In fact, they wrote it.”
–Simone Veil.

Join us as we discuss how The Righteous of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and the surrounding villages lived and rewrote history through civil resistance and rescue, with Hanne and Max Liebmann, Nelly T. Hewett, Renée K. Silver, Patrick Cabanel, Peter Grose, and Paul Kutner.

During WWII, the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and surrounding areas risked their lives to save Jewish refugees from the occupying Nazi forces. In 1990, the entire town was recognized by the Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” for their humanitarianism and bravery under extreme danger, and in 2004, French President Jacques Chirac officially recognized the heroism of the town.

In English. Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary. Please note that seating is limited, and available on a first come, first served basis.


Hanne Hirsch Liebmann was born in Karlsruhe in 1924 and Max Liebmann was born in 1921 in Mannheim. On October 22, 1940, they were both deported from the region where they lived and were surprisingly sent to France. The French authorities did not know about or expect the arrival of this transport, but they were sent to the concentration camp in Gurs, operated by the French.

In the camp, Hannah met Max Liebmann, then 19. In 1941, with the help of the Children’s Aid Society (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants; OSE), Hanne left the camp, and received live-saving help from the villagers of Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose long memories of the persecution of Huguenots fueled their resistance to German and Vichy crimes. Max followed in July 1942. He got out of the camp and was sheltered illegally in Le Chambon until he could get into Switzerland. Hanne reached Switzerland in 1943. Max and Hanne married in 1945 and immigrated to the United States in 1948. Hanne Liebmann volunteers once a week at the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives at Queensboro Community College, and regularly speaks at schools and synagogues.

Max Liebmann was, until recently, the Senior Vice-President and the Treasurer of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, which put him on the Board of Directors of the Claims Conference. He was interviewed in 2012 by Marvin Scott of WPIX 11 News for Yom HaShoah.

Renée Kann Silver was born in Saarbrüken, Germany but her family quickly moved across the border to Diemeringen, France during the rise of Nazism. After spending time in a jail in Bar-le-Duc followed by internment in the Gurs concentration camp in France for being Germans, they ended up in Villeurbanne near Lyon where Renée first experienced anti-semitism. During the summer of 1942, when she was 11 years old, she and her younger sister were hidden in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon before being reunited with her family and taken to Switzerland where they waited until the end of the war. Author of And Yet I Still Loved France, Mrs. Silver was 16 years old when she came to the United States and became a French teacher at Townsend Harris High School in Queens. Today, Renée continues to speak at groups. She never forgot Le Chambon, she always thought of it as a “Difficult Adjustment.”

Nelly Trocmé Hewett was born in northern France in 1927. In the early 1930s, her family moved to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a rural community in southern France, at the invitation of the Protestant church, where her father, André Trocmé, was a minister. In a town of about 900 people and “lots of cows,” Nelly noticed that people with strange accents came into or passed through town, and her family’s house was “Grand Central Station” for many of them. Some of her teachers also had accents, and in her classes there were fellow students she didn’t ask about. Not until much later did she understand and appreciate what the town and her parents were doing: rescuing, sheltering and hiding Jews. Nelly’s parents were the leaders of that effort. Her parents also had a hand in the opening of a secondary school in Le Chambon. During the war, it swelled to accommodate both refugee children and refugee teachers. As refugees increased, her father and his friends used funds from the Swiss Red Cross, the American Quakers, and French refugee services to open boarding homes for the incoming refugees and especially for young children, ensuring that the children continued their education, whether at the public school, at the secondary school, or with professional training of some kind.

Patrick Cabanel is a Professor of Contemporary History and the Director of studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. His work includes research on the history of religious minorities in France, the building of nations and a secular pepublic, as well as the Holocaust, the rescue of Jews, and spiritual resistance. He has published Juifs et protestants en France ; les affinités électives : xvie-xxie siècle (Fayard 2004). He has completed two reference works on the Protestants history in France (2012) and the Righteous history in France (2012), and a biographical dictionary of French Protestants from 1787 to the present in 4 volumes. He recently published De la paix aux résistances. Les protestants en France 1930-1945 (Fayard 2015) about the history of French Protestants in the 1930s and 1940s. Patrick Cabanel is a member of the scientific committee of the Lieu de Mémoire in Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, where he participated in the creation of the permanent exhibition, and co-directed La Montage Refuge, Accueil et Sauvetage des Justes autour du Chambon-Sur-Lignon (The Mountain Refuge, Reception and Rescue of the Righteous around Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon) (Albin Michel 2013).

Peter Grose started his working life as a journalist on the Sydney Daily Mirror, moved to London as a foreign correspondent for The Australian, switched to literary agency with Curtis Brown, first in Sydney then back in London, switched to book publishing with Martin Secker & Warburg in London, stayed as a publisher, first on his own and then with Australian Consolidated Press (UK). He is the author of A Very Rude Awakening, An Awkward Truth, and A Good Place To Hide, which tells the story of the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and the surrounding communities in the Auvergne region of France, where some 3500 Jews were rescued from the Nazis during World War 2.

Paul Kutner is a Prep School French Teacher. Recipient of a grant from The French Embassy and one of only ten French teachers in the United States going to Paris for a three-week program at the Alliance Française. Later he got another grant and did research at Le Chambon. Has over 20 hours of interviews with survivors and the Righteous of Le Chambon. He is currently translating the book Lieu de Mémoire au Chambon-sur-Lignon into English.