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PIERRE SAUVAGE ON VILLAGE OF SECRETS (ctd.)

—SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

 

TO MY ARTICLE IN TABLET, Oct. 31, 2014 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

IS VILLAGE OF SECRETS INDEED “RIDDLED WITH ERRORS”?

MORE ABOUT THE SCHMÄHLING AFFAIR AND OSCAR ROSOWSKY’S VENDETTA

VERBATIM CAROLINE MOOREHEAD ON WEAPONS OF THE SPIRIT —AND MY DETAILED COMMENTS

MORE ON MOOREHEAD’S DISMISSAL OF MY FILM AND OF MY EFFORTS THROUGH THE CHAMBON FOUNDATION.

MORE ABOUT MOOREHEAD’S CLAIMED DISCOVERY OF THE ROLE OF CATHOLICS AND DARBYITES

MORE OF CAROLINE MOOREHEAD’S EMAILS TO ME: “I SAY NOTHING BUT NICE THINGS”

 

 

IS VILLAGE OF SECRETS INDEED “RIDDLED WITH ERRORS”?
Please see document Lists of Mistakes.

 

I apologize for the repetitions and infelicities of style and appearance that exist in this document. This is simply a working document for those who may have reasons for wanting to know more than I was able to include in the Tablet article—which remains my key effort to address Village of Secrets.

I begin with a few additional words about Village of Secrets' cover and title.

While I know that authors don’t always get to choose their books’ titles, it is a little bizarre that Moorehead proposed or allowed title Village of Secrets.  A key mission of the book seems to be cut down Le Chambon-sur-Lignon’s claims to our attention; her map even replaces where Le Chambon-sur-Lignon would have been with a spot identified as “Plateau Vivarais-Lignon”—although such a designation is anachronistic and would have been completely unrecognizable at the time of World War II.

The respective roles of Le Chambon and the surrounding plateau in the rescue effort have become hot-button issues because of local rivalries.  It has thus become increasingly “politically correct” to refer to the Plateau rather than to Le Chambon, and to avoid stressing the unmistakably key role of the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in what took place in the area during the Nazi occupation.

For my part, when I refer to “Le Chambon,” I usually and primarily mean the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon—though I may occasionally use this shorthand to refer to the area of Le Chambon, that is to say, what they knew then simply as “the Plateau.”

But the errors hardly stop with the covers. This was true of the British edition, and it would seem that all the mistakes have been carefully preserved in the American edition, with no further editorial scrutiny being given to the book and no fact-checking apparently occurring.

Obviously, book publishing is going through very difficult times, but do we readers realize that at least some publishers feel free to publish at least some non-fiction books with no editing or fact-checking?

Indeed, except for a very few changes, the American edition is virtually identical to the British and Canadian editions—presumably, a cost-cutting measure—and has essentially the same page layout, even using British spellings and distinctive words (“dishonour,” “lorries”).  This is how a book gets published today in the U.S.?

I should mention that among the very few changes to the American edition are some alterations of references to me and to Weapons of the Spirit—obviously meant to decrease the chances of a defamation lawsuit—as well as the omission of photographs the Chambon Foundation had unwittingly provided for the British edition.  (These photographs had been used without permission, payment, or acknowledgment, in the American uncorrected proof edition of the book that was published by HarperCollins in July).

The alterations in the text of the American edition will be duly noted below when I detail Caroline Moorehead’s false and malicious charges against my film Weapons of the Spirit and against me.

 

MORE ABOUT THE SCHMÄHLING AFFAIR AND OSCAR ROSOWSKY’S VENDETTA

 

In Tablet, I outlined what I believe to be Oscar Rosowsky’s key role in Moorehead’s attack on my film.  Rosowsky, I will recall, was the young Jew who played an important role in forging false papers on the Plateau.  He is also the person who in my film provides the estimate that five thousand Jews found shelter there, at one time or another (see below an analysis of the debate over these numbers).

As it happens, Oscar Rosowsky died on Nov. 7, 2014, just as I was preparing this document for Internet access.

The genesis of Rosowsky’s rage had been a private screening of the Weapons of the Spirit work-in-progress that had been held at my cousin Samuel Pisar’s home in Paris in July 1986.  I was subsequently deluged by protests from Rosowsky about what was then a much longer sequence about Schmähling and included testimony about an alleged meeting between the German officer and the pastor of Le Chambon.

Though the longer Schmähling section was soon hugely abridged—Schmähling was not, after all, the subject of the film—I nevertheless retained one reference in the film to the German officer.  This is the full text of that sequence in the film—the sequence that according Rosowsky “favored the spread of revisionism.”

Elsewhere, the German occupation of France was no laughing matter.

Towards the end of the war, one French village was burned to the ground in a military reprisal against the Resistance, its men shot, its women and children herded into the church where they were machine-gunned and set on fire.

 

How is it that the village's name was Oradour-sur-Glane and not Le Chambon-sur-Lignon?

How is it that the S.S. and the Gestapo paid so little attention to what was going on here?

 

Almost till the end of the war, the commanding officer for the district was Major Julius Schmähling of the Wehrmacht.

Could it be, as the evidence suggests, that he too knew full well that Le Chambon was full of Jewsand steered his fellow Germans elsewhere?

Could it be that you just never know who might get caught up in a conspiracy of goodness once you launch it?

And those German soldiers in Le Chambon didn't have far to go to spot Jews.  They were right next door.

 

With regard to Schmähling, I cited in the Tablet article part of Rabbi Jean Poliatchek of Jerusalem testimony in 1992.

But he had also mentioned that there was a rumor that Maj. Schmähling would almost every day receive letters of denunciation directed towards the rich Jews who allegedly hogged the most precious food staples.  According to Poliatchek, it was said that the major would systematically throw these letters in the trash so that that they wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Gestapo.

Poliatchek closed his testimony with a last paragraph that I take particular pleasure now in recalling:

I provided you my testimony as much because of the need to say the truth (cf. Péguy) as by the sympathy (sympathie) that the effort that led you to make this film evokes in me.  The testimony you have received in your favor support mine and it seems to me that you should say to yourself, philosophically: “The dogs bark and the caravan passes.”

But yes, as a commendably active member of the French Resistance, Rosowsky was entitled to continue to believe that their particular adversary was the incarnation of Hitlerian evil.

What he was not entitled to do is lie about me and my film.  What Moorehead was not entitled to do is to repeat Rosowsky's lies in a book—and in reckless disregard of the easily ascertainable truth, as she does in discussing Weapons of the Spirit.

Of course, Moorehead does not cite my rebuttal to Rosowsky that was also published in Le Monde Juif, a publication to which she refers, even though in the American edition she adds a reference in her source notes to the very issue that included that rebuttal.

Moorehead also does not mention other letters protesting this ridiculous “affair,” even from scholars she cites respectfully in her book, such as Jacques Poujol (who deplored this “tempest in a teapot”) or historian Michael Marrus—whom Moorehead refers to as “the late Michael Marrus”!

Marrus, co-author with Robert Paxton of the ground-breaking Vichy France and the Jews and a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the Chambon Foundation—and still happily very much with us!—wrote to Le Monde Juif as follows:

I would have thought that the film speaks for itself.  Its homage to the villagers, evident to those who have seen it, ought to be sufficient to guarantee director Pierre Sauvage’s good faith.  The question he raises very briefly in the film about Schmähling seems to me entirely relevant and appropriate and responsible [emphasis added].  I will even add that it is my view that the film would not have been complete if he had avoided making this reference.

Raymond Dreyfus, as widower of Madeleine Dreyfus who plays an important but mischaracterized role in Moorehead’s book, also wrote a letter to Le Monde Juif, which he authorized me to disseminate after the publication declined to publish it.  As mentioned in Tablet, it was Weapons of the Spirit that had first brought Madame Dreyfus’ work to public attention and first showed her now “famous” notebook from that time (Moorehead’s description of it seems to come from my film).  Mr. Dreyfus had also known the area of Le Chambon during the war.  I was thus very touched by his words:

In my capacity as husband of Madeleine Dreyfus, activist of the O.S.E. during the Occupation (…), I can testify to the value and authenticity of Pierre Sauvage’s film and reject with contempt everything that his detractors [have written].  (…) My memory is good enough for me to testify that Pierre Sauvage’s film deserves every praise and the thanks of everybody, and in particular of all Jews.  I consider as accomplices of the revisionists those whose maliciousness attempts to raise doubts with regard to the good faith and the devotion of Pierre Sauvage, and express to him my total solidarity and sympathy.

 

VERBATIM CAROLINE MOOREHEAD ON WEAPONS OF THE SPIRIT —AND MY DETAILED COMMENTS

 

What follows are all the explicit references to Weapons of the Spirit and to me by Caroline Moorehead in the British, Canadian, and American editions of the book.

Moorhead does not mention the film in the body of her work—even when she draws on it (see the reference in Tablet to her account of Madeleine Dreyfus)—but suddenly defames the film and the filmmaker in the afterword of Village of Secrets (pp. 331-333).

The quotations from Village of Secrets that follow are indented, and changes that have been made to the American edition of the book are identified.  Some extraneous material is cited as well, in order to convey the context of her remarks about the film and about me.  The cited sections of Moorehead’s book are intercut with my comments and corrections.

It might be noted that while the book’s entire list of source notes is extraordinarily skimpy for a book claiming to be a work of scholarship (6 pages), Moorehead’s source notes for her accusatory afterword are especially absent: the British edition had only four, while the American edition adds a fifth.

Of these five sources, the first and obviously most important is: “Oscar Rosowsky, interview with author.”

After several paragraphs trashing the late Philip Hallie’s widely-acclaimed 1979 book Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, Moorehead comes to Weapons of the Spirit and to me. 

 

ALL EDITIONS:

Then, in 1987, Pierre Sauvage, a film-maker who happened to have been born on the plateau, decided to put together a documentary film on its war.  He gave it the title Weapons of the Spirit.

As I indicated in my Tablet article, Moorehead withholds from the reader that I didn’t just “happen” to be born on the plateau. Of course, had she not chosen to withhold the relevant information from her readers—details she knew perfectly well having seen the film and presumably glanced at the materials on the Chambon Foundation website—those readers might have begun to wonder why this filmmaker would have been as willing as she claims to distort the truth about the circumstances of his birth.

 

ALL EDITIONS:

A reviewer for Le Monde at the Cannes film festival called it a “hymn” to the Protestant peasants who had behaved so selflessly.

 

ALL EDITIONS:

In the film, Sauvage took up many of Hallie's points about Trocmé's remarkable actions and about the all-pervasive spirit of goodness that shaped and steered the minds of his parishioners.

I comment on this in my Tablet article.

 

BRITISH AND CANADIAN EDITIONS—ALTERED IN U.S. EDITION UPON RECEIPT OF A LETTER FROM MY LAWYER:

[Sauvage] filmed an interview with Roger Bonfils, the proprietor of the Hotel du Lignon, home to the convalescent German soldiers, in which Bonfils described a meeting between [pastor André] Trocmé [of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon] and [Major Julius] Schmähling [of the Wehrmacht], at which only he had been a witness, and at which some sort of agreement to shelter the Jews had been tacitly forged.

AMERICAN EDITION (following the quotation cited below):

Roger Bonfils, the proprietor of the Hôtel du Lignon, home to the convalescent German soldiers, was heard to describe [emphasis added] a meeting between Trocmé and Schmähling, at which only he had been a witness, and at which some sort of agreement to shelter the Jews has been tacitly forged.

ALL EDITIONS:

The claim made by Bonfils was ridiculed, both because he had been one of the very few suspected collaborators on the plateau, and because there was no other evidence at all that Schmähling and Trocmé had ever discussed the Jews in the village.

The claim about the alleged Trocmé-Schmähling meeting had indeed been made by the onetime hotelkeeper in an interview I had filmed—but had used only in an early version of the work-in-progress!  This section is not and never was included in the released film—as Moorehead had to have known since I had provided her with the DVD and she had reported seeing the film (saying—privately—that it was “extremely good”)

But in the British edition, Moorehead inescapably and falsely implies that the claim that was “ridiculed” was a claim that was made in the film, further defaming the film.  Moreover, the key person doing the ridiculing was, again, Oscar Rosowsky (after he was invited to see the workprint). 

Never acknowledging what the film actually contains—including the first-hand testimony of many of the protagonists in her book—Moorehead maliciously reduces the film, at least for the British, to a sequence that is nowhere to be found in it!

As a footnote, I will mention that unlike Moorehead, who has never seen this footage, I am still not sure what to make of Bonfils’ claims.  What made me delete the allegation, aside from the fact that it couldn’t be substantiated, was Magda Trocmé’s categorical assertion that while she and her husband had known that the German officer was honorable (quelqu’un de bien), her husband had only met Schmähling after the Germans surrendered.

To date, I have only publicly shown footage related to this alleged encounter once, at a Columbia University conference on the Holocaust in France, chaired by the eminent scholar of Vichy France, Dr. Robert Paxton.  One historian in attendance said that he didn’t think the hotelkeeper was lying.  Moorehead’s remarks prod me to consider showing this footage again.

 

ALL EDITIONS:

Hallie, meanwhile, still in search of more goodness, gave a lecture in the US in which Schmähling emerged as the protector of the Jews on the plateau, a flawed, compromised man but ultimately noble.

BRITISH AND CANADIAN EDITIONS—ALTERED IN U.S. EDITION UPON RECEIPT OF LETTERS FROM MY LAWYER:

What followed was outrage.

AMERICAN EDITION:

What followed was consternation in some quarters (emphasis added).

ALL EDITIONS:

There were letters, reviews, protests.

BRITISH AND CANADIAN EDITIONS—ALTERED IN U.S. EDITION UPON RECEIPT OF LETTERS FROM MY LAWYER:

Efforts were made to have Sauvage's film banned from certain festivals.

AMERICAN EDITION:

An effort (emphasis added) was made to have Sauvage’s film banned from an event (emphasis added).

The allegation in the British and Canadian editions that what followed the release of Weapons of the Spirit (and Hallie’s lecture) was “outrage” is itself outrageous.  What followed the release of Weapons of the Spirit was considerable success for a documentary (see review excerpts at the end of this document).

By deleting from the American edition the implication that Weapons of the Spirit contains the interview that allegedly produced either “outrage” or “consternation,” Moorehead lays it instead at Philip Hallie’s feet.  (In the incriminated lecture in question, Hallie had said that Schmähling “seems” to have had a meeting with pastor Trocmé in Le Chambon, but had made no reference to Roger Bonfils.  Indeed, the protest letter to Hallie “defies” him to identify the alleged eyewitness, clearly implying that Hallie is inventing an encounter “that never took place.”)

“There were letters, reviews, protests.”  This sentence, following the previous one indicating the “outrage” inescapably suggests to the British and Canadian reader that these alleged “letters, reviews, protests” all expressed the “outrage” Moorehead claimed followed Hallie’s lecture about Schmähling and the release of my film.  The American edition seems to limit the “consternation” to Hallie’s lecture, but the reference to “reviews” has remained in the American edition, which in this context still suggests to the reader that it was also Weapons of the Spirit that was being protested—when it was not.

Of course, Moorehead does not acknowledge that the “letters” in question, were all written and spearheaded by just one man, Oscar Rosowsky, on whose slanders Moorehead’s account is transparently based (see below). 

For the British and Canadian reader, I must point out that to my knowledge no “efforts”—plural—were made to have my film “banned from certain festivals”—which suggests that there was some sort of righteous consensus among people joining together in these alleged “efforts” to have an obviously horrendous film “banned” from these alleged festivals.

As I had mentioned to Moorehead in the email cited in the Tablet piece, there had been one failed effort by Rosowsky—and his misguided sidekicks of the moment—to have the film banned at the “Remembering for the Future” Holocaust scholars' conference in Oxford in 1988.  The preposterous and probably defamatory charge was made that showing the film would—because of the question I raise about Schmähling in the film—“favor the spread of revisionism”—the denial of the Holocaust.  (Even this document did not precisely accuse of being a “revisionist.”)

Rosowsky had corralled four prominent people to sign his petition.  At that time, Rosowsky had been stubbornly refusing to see the film—and two of the others who had lent their names to the petition (including France’s leading expert on revisionism) hadn’t seen it either.  As it happens, the two who had seen the film had congratulated me after a screening in Paris, one of them publicly; such is life.

But these four were willing to sign on to Rosowsky’s charge that to show this film in a Jewish context or in one dealing with the Holocaust would constitute “an extremely perverse situation.”

They claimed to have studied the file, and that “there exists no testimony” favorable to the German officer.  I subsequently provided the names and the testimony of 11 people who had provided such testimony (this didn’t include yet the testimony of Rabbi Poliatchek cited above).

But yes, as I had informed Moorehead, the late and wonderful Elisabeth Maxwell had told Rosowsky and company to get lost, and Weapons of the Spirit was ultimately shown (along with Shoah)There was no subsequent perceptible rise of revisionism.

Mrs. Maxwell shared with me the letter she sent to Rosowsky in this regard on July 27, 1988.  It made a point of putting on the record the slanderous charges Rosowsky had obviously made to her in a phone conversation (the emphases are added).

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to hear you tell me directly your objections to Pierre Sauvage’s film.  (…)  I don’t agree with you either on the importance of the film [I believe the context makes clear that she means the “nefarious” importance] or that his intentions are those of a scoundrel (des intentions scélérates qu’il pourrait avoir), any more than he has engaged in hidden collusion with sinister promoters (pas plus qu’à des collusions inavouées avec des promoteurs sinistres).

I think Pierre Sauvage has made a good documentary of which the good that may come of it far exceeds whatever reproaches may be made to him.  I think that the financing of this film almost ruined him financially and I believe that he is justified in seeking financial help.  I think that if he had received financial help from revisionist sources, he wouldn’t be out of money since their means seem limitless.

Lesley Maber, the late British schoolteacher who spent 30 years in Le Chambon, is an important figure in Moorehead’s book (and in my film).  She attended the two screenings held at the Oxford conference, and answered questions with me after the screenings.  She protested the Rosowsky campaign in her own letter to Le Monde Juif, which Moorehead has also surely seen, but doesn’t cite, of course:

The film interests and moves people.  The positive actions of the people of the Plateau inspired most of the questions.  Nobody noted the role of the major [Schmähling].  The film underscores the shame of the Vichy government that was collaborating with the Germans in arresting and deporting the Jews, as well as the indifference of most of the French.  Is this not a rebuttal to the revisionist spirit?

Since Moorehead is very interested in Miss Maber, I will mention that Lesley remained a friend throughout her life, as the voluminous correspondence in the Chambon Foundation archives attests.  These archives also include the original English draft of Maber’s unpublished manuscript about Le Chambon, Bundle of the Living, for which, upon Lesley’s request, I had provided a preface.  (The French version of the manuscript is abundantly drawn upon by Moorehead, not always with proper attribution.)

In 2006, Maber attended a screening of Weapons of the Spirit at the French Institute in London, and wrote me afterwards referring to the “splendid” and “wonderful” film, and adding that it “shows the Chambon life so vividly that people wanted to go home and think about it quietly.”

She closed with a remark that I wish Moorehead could have pondered before engaging in such rank and malicious competitiveness in the promotion of her book:

As I get older, I try to enjoy the goodness and the beauty that is in life and nature, and let other people try to win the rat race.  I think you feel the same way, don’t you?

Yes, Lesley, sometimes—but not this time!

I will admit that I still shudder at the damage that would have been done to Weapons of the Spirit and to my reputation if Elisabeth Maxwell hadn't insisted on showing the film: Holocaust scholars from all over the world would have learned that this film had been banned from the conference because it was suspected of favoring the spread of revisionism!

But Moorehead delights in citing these efforts—this effort—to have the film banned, without indicating that it was Rosowsky who was leading the charge—and without the merest suggestion of disapproval and the slightest indication of how unjustified and indeed outrageous this effort had been.

Moorehead doesn’t quote Rosowsky’s name as she slings mud around, but familiar claims of his are recognizable behind many of her statements in this regard.  What follows is one example.

Caroline Moorehead:

 “Were the Mennonites, possible backers of a film of Hallie’s book, not the very people who had given sanctuary in South America to Dr. Mengele after the war?”

Oscar Rosowsky (letter to Nitza Spiro, May 27, 1988):

 “On the basis of Philip Hallie’s [book] and his ideas, [a movie was contemplated] “with funding from Mennonite sources.  (…) For the record, let us recall the role of Mennonite communities in South America as a refuge for important war criminals such as Dr. Mengele.”

 

BRITISH AND CANADIAN EDITIONS—ALTERED IN U.S. EDITION UPON RECEIPT OF LETTERS FROM MY LAWYER:

In Le Monde Juif, which ran the story over several furious weeks, Oscar Rosowsky, Madeleine Barot and Pierre Fayol all put their names to a detailed critique of what they called a ‘mutilation of historical truth’ by ‘revisionists’.

AMERICAN EDITION:

In Le Monde Juif, which ran the story over several furious weeks, Oscar Rosowsky, Madeleine Barot and Pierre Fayol all put their names to a detailed critique of what they called a 'mutilation of historical truth.'  [The single quotation marks here and later, as well as the punctuation following the closing quotation marks, are not typos by me.  HarperCollins apparently wants to change American practices in this regard.]

BRITISH AND CANADIAN EDITIONS—ALTERED IN U.S. EDITION UPON RECEIPT OF LETTERS FROM MY LAWYER:

Both Hallie and Sauvage were accused of 'approximations, inexactitudes and extrapolations'.

AMERICAN EDITION:

There was talk of ‘approximations, inexactitudes and extrapolations’.

Madeleine Barot, of course, was the wonderful rescuer who figures very prominently in Moorehead’s book (and has been added to the upcoming new edition of Weapons of the Spirit), while Pierre Fayol, a Jew, was the local leader of the French Resistance, and is also repeatedly discussed in her book.  Their opinions, if accurately stated, would indeed matter greatly—as they understandably will to everybody reading her book.

But yippee!  At least, Philip Hallie and I are no longer accused by them in the American edition of being revisionists!

Nor are we are explicitly “accused of approximations, inexactitudes and extrapolations”—although the “talk” in this context could only be referring to Hallie and Sauvage since there is nobody else mentioned that could have been the object of such “talk.”

The specific words Moorehead cites are instead from a letter that Rosowsky addressed to Philip Hallie on Dec. 1, 1987.  It is in Rosowsky's distinctive high-pitched style.  Because of his Resistance record, his status as a Jewish survivor, and his important role in Le Chambon during the war, Rosowsky had always been good at bamboozling people to go along with him to sign on to his histrionic campaigns about Schmähling—usually to their subsequent regret.  (I hope the same fate will befall Moorehead.)

But it was not my film but specifically—and unfairly—Philip Hallie's 1979 book about Le Chambon that was accused of “approximations, inexactitudes and extrapolations”!

What had fired up Rosowsky was a more recent lecture that Hallie had given on Maj. Schmähling, and it is that lecture that Rosowsky hysterically calls “nothing less than the mutation of the historical truth into its opposite.”  At no point in what Moorehead praises as a “detailed critique”—I would characterize it instead as a hodgepodge of one-sided, hyperbolic nonsense—is Weapons of the Spirit accused of being a “mutilation of historical truth”!

Which it is not—although she blithely allows the false allegations to pollute her readers’ minds unchallenged.

But despite my lawyer’s letters to HarperCollins, the American edition persists in engaging in an act of defamation that rests on an outright fabrication.

The fact is that not only is there no merit whatever to the alleged charges, but—to repeat— the charges were never made!  Madeleine Barot and Pierre Fayol never accused my film of being a “mutilation of historical truth,” never accused me of being a “revisionist,” and never accused me of “approximations, inexactitudes and extrapolations.”

While this may well be what Rosowsky told her, Moorehead could easily have tracked down the document in question and determined how false these charges were.  (In the American edition, she adds a reference to the document in her source notes—in apparent indifference to the fact that the document does not contain the charges she makes!)

Moorehead only omits in the American edition the obviously preposterous charge that Philip Hallie and I were “revisionists.”  In the British edition, she puts the word in quotation marks although the word is simply not in the letter (Rosowsky does make a vaguely analogous and typically smarmy claim about Hallie).  Indeed, Rosowsky mentions me only in passing at the very end of the letter, without naming me but suggesting that I may have been “a victim” of Hallie’s words.  A far cry from being called a revisionist!

For some reason, Moorehead entirely omits the fact that Magda Trocmé, widow of the pastor of Le Chambon, had also misguidedly lent her name to the letter to Hallie that was published in Le Monde Juif.  My understanding is that Rosowsky provided the letter to the publication without the consent of the other signatories.

Indeed, Barot and Fayol were both fans of my film, and happily attended screenings of it.  I cherish a photograph of Barot smilingly congratulating me after one such screening, at the French Senate.

Moreover, while claiming that Pierre Fayol attacked my film she chooses not to mention that in the very same issue of Le Monde Juif that she seems to have seen—she cites other elements from that spread—there is an outraged letter from… Pierre Fayol:

I have just received from my friend Pierre Sauvage a letter in which he informs me of the attack against him and against his film [in your publication] (…) I was scandalized to learn that you had published (…) a private letter that I had signed.  Moreover, this letter was in reference to a specific text by Professor Hallie and had nothing to do with the film [emphasis added].

Because I believe that Rosowsky’s vendetta all stemmed from his participation in the Resistance and note that it is others who were in the Resistance that he was most easily able to convince to sign on to his petitions, I would like to clarify a discrepancy between the Resistance’s point of view on all this and my own.

The story I was obviously telling in my film is about what was achieved in that area through the “weapons of the spirit”—the title of the film.  Of course, as the film mentions, there was also an armed resistance on the Plateau.  I do not venture into an assessment of how significant it was, notably in comparison with Resistance activities elsewhere in France.

Nobody understood this better than our friend Pierre Fayol, the prominent alleged Sauvage-basher.  In giving me a copy of his unpublished manuscript on the legendary Virginia Hall (the Resistance heroine who is also an important character in Moorehead’s account, though Moorehead was obviously unaware of the existence of Fayol’s valuable manuscript), Fayol inscribed the book as follows:

For Pierre Sauvage, whose very beautiful film presents one aspect of Le Chambon during the war and who will find in these pages another aspect.  In friendship, July 3, 1988.  [This is shortly after Fayol signed the letter Moorehead claims attacked the film.]

There has been a growing consensus that all Resistance activities were unduly magnified in the postwar years.  Rescuers of Jews, incidentally, were not officially considered resisters.

But however significant the Resistance was on the Plateau, it was obviously not the presence of an armed Resistance, towards the end of the war, that made the area distinctive.  Nobody would be paying much attention to the armed Resistance on the Plateau if it hadn’t been for the effectiveness of the moral resistance that relied on “spirit” rather than on weaponry.

As for Magda Trocmé’s role in the letter to Hallie, she would tell me how much Rosowsky had hounded her.  Perhaps Moorehead does not mention her because she saw the excerpt from a letter I received from Magda about the silly Schmähling affair and that she allowed me to use in my rebuttal:

I would have wanted your film (ton film) to be above the fray and above criticism.  Your film is a film of peace, a very good film that I like very much.

Yes, as Moorehead indicates, there was controversy around the documents published in Le Monde Juif.  But Moorehead also chooses not to mention that what had helped to fuel the controversy was the inaccurate and incendiary title over the Rosowsky texts published in the initial attack: The Myth of the SS Major Who Sheltered the Jews.  The officer in question was in the Wehrmacht, not the S.S.

In making these particular false charges, Moorehead is either repeating what Rosowsky told her without bothering to check the allegations—or she is deliberately distorting what the document says.  For that matter, in her source notes, Moorehead indicates “Oscar Rosowsky, interview with author” as the main source for all of this.  Though I had warned her of Rosowsky’s vendetta, she felt no need to check anything Rosowsky told her with me.

Oscar Rosowsky, on his own, had indeed long engaged in such calumny, as he obviously did to Moorehead, and presumably did to his other new friend, author Peter Grose (Grose writes that Rosowsky is “delightful,” which I indeed remember him being before he started grinding his axe against me).  I am all the more grateful that Grose’s The Greatest Escape doesn’t repeat the slander about me and my film.

But Moorehead, despite the fact that I had warned her in one of my first email responses to her, in late 2010, of Rosowsky’s vendetta against me, apparently felt under no obligation to make the slightest effort to verify the accuracy of the claims that were being made about the film—even to ask the filmmaker, with whom she was in regular and ostensibly friendly email contact (see below), his response to them.

Le Monde Juif didn’t run the story “over several furious weeks.” The periodical, no longer in existence, appeared every three months.

 

ALL EDITIONS:

Schmähling's 'goodness', and what Hallie elsewhere described as his 'passionate compassion', were vehemently denied: had he not arrested and deported 234 people from the Haute-Loire?  Had he not referred to the Milice as 'the best French children'?   Were the Mennonites, possible backers of a film of Hallie's book, not the very people who had given sanctuary in South America to Dr Mengele after the war?

I don’t know how accurate the information about deportations from the Haute-Loire area is; I know that historians, most notably Serge Klarsfeld, indicate that the Occupation in that part of France was comparatively mild.  If Schmähling made the statement that is attributed to him—and this is not just another Rosowsky fabrication—it is regrettable.  But what matters most will remain what he did or did not do.

As to the bizarre reference to the Mennonites, linking them to both Mengele and Hallie—thus suggesting a vague link between Hallie and Mengele—I have already pointed out that here Moorehead is blatantly parroting what Rosowsky has written to others and presumably repeated to her.

ALL EDITIONS:

Dr Le Forestier's widow and his son Jean-Philippe were drawn into the fray and declared that for anyone to maintain that Schmähling had no idea that Le Forestier would be killed was absurd, as was his claim to have persuaded his senior colleagues not to execute the doctor on the spot.

I’m not aware that there was ever any joint statement by Danielle Le Forestier and her son.  Indeed, I don’t believe the late Madame Le Forestier was ever “drawn into the fray.”  She always resolutely refused to make any public statement on the death of her husband or Schmähling’s degree of responsibility for it.

Continuing to echo Rosowsky, Moorehead goes on to repeat his canard that the German "presided over the tribunal that dispatched [Roger] Le Forestier to his death."  In reality, the good doctor and nonviolent resister Dr. Le Forestier had been assigned to a work detail in Germany; he had then tragically fallen into the hands of Nazi thug Klaus Barbie.

As for Madame Le Forestier, I was the first Le Chambon person in decades to make contact with her in the ‘80s.  What she told me is radically different from what Moorehead quotes her as saying to her.  Danielle Le Forestier told me that she just didn't know what role the German officer had played in her husband's death.

For his part, Joseph Atlas, a Jew from Le Chambon, told me that after the screening they both attended that she had told him that she had no objections to the reference to Schmähling in the film.

Nevertheless, I conveyed to Madame Le Forestier that I would take out this reference if it offended her; I owed that much to the family of the doctor who had delivered me!  Madame Le Forestier never asked me to do so.

Indeed, she subsequently provided me with letters suggesting some goodwill on the part of Schmähling.  The Chambon Foundation is also proud to have in its archives Le Forestier’s album from his time working at Albert Schweitzer’s hospital in Gabon in Africa (Moorehead thinks it was in Cameroon).  I have a picture of Madame Le Forestier attending the screening of the film at the Cannes Film Festival with her two sons; she is smiling at me as I take the photograph.

Son Jean-Philippe Le Forestier, on the other hand, who may have been Moorehead’s real interlocutor in this matter, later did indeed become obsessed with Schmähling’s villainy and with my own for having raised the question that I do in the film; at an event in Le Chambon, he went so far as to accuse me of having invented the fact that his father had delivered me.

While we don’t know what Madame Le Forestier actually told Moorehead about what Schmähling’s role may have been in her husband’s murder, we do know that Madame Le Forestier apparently didn’t share with Moorehead her husband’s first name.  Though there are numerous references to “Le Forestier” in Moorehead’s book, he is nowhere appropriately identified as Roger Le Forestier.

 

ALL EDITIONS:

Commenting on Trocmé's memoirs, the Protestant writer Jacques Poujol told Piton, the former scout and passeur to Switzerland, that they were nothing but the work of 'a poor man who had become paranoid writing far too long after the events to be credible'. Trocmé's words and deeds were picked over, analysed, ridiculed.

BRITISH AND CANADIAN EDITIONS—ALTERED IN U.S. EDITION UPON RECEIPT OF LETTERS FROM MY LAWYER:

In the wake of Hallie and Sauvage came more attacks and counterattacks, reams of accusatory letters, oceans of calumny.

AMERICAN EDITION:

In the wake of all this came more attacks and counterattacks, reams of accusatory letters, oceans of calumny.

Moorehead chose to delete in the American edition the explicit British reference here to “Hallie and Sauvage” triggering “reams of accusatory letters” and “oceans of calumny.”  But we presumably remain nevertheless among the chief villains.  Since “all this” has to refer as well to Trocmé’s memoirs, we are in flattering company.

We are not told who was “ridiculing” Trocmé’s words, except for the fact that the late Pierre Piton allegedly stated that Protestant scholar Jacques Poujol had expressed to him this critical view of Trocmé.  (I comment further on all this in the Tablet article.

ALL EDITIONS:

Sauvage can be forgiven for remarking that it was all rather excessive, and that Schmähling was not, after all, 'a very dynamic enemy'. Schmähling himself lay low.

In Moorehead’s least pejorative reference to me, I am “forgiven” for a remark she found somewhere.  (I pointed out in the Tablet article that Schmähling did indeed “lay low” during the Rosowsky controversy: he was long dead.)

 

ALL EDITIONS:

The disputes rumbled on. Then, in 1990, a young Protestant pastor, Alain Arnoux (…) had the idea of holding a colloquium, to which all involved would be invited. He was sick to death of the bickering, the animosities, the films [emphasis added], books, speeches, each one more inaccurate than the last [emphasis added] (…)  For three days in October 1990, the war on the plateau was rehashed.

BRITISH AND CANADIAN EDITIONS—ALTERED IN U.S. EDITION UPON RECEIPT OF LETTERS FROM MY LAWYER:

All those neglected by Trocmé, Hallie and Sauvage [emphasis added] - Eyraud, Fayol, Bonnissol, the maquisards, the people of Tence, Mazet and Fay, the many other Protestant pastors, the Catholics, the farmers who hid the children, the children themselves, now grown into adults - were heard.  (…)

AMERICAN EDITION:

All those previously neglected, etc.

In the American edition, Trocmé, Hallie and Sauvage are no longer explicitly charged with having neglected all the people and groups Moorehead lists.  But given the text that preceded, who else could be doing the neglecting?  The reader unfamiliar with Trocmé, Hallie and Sauvage will, of course, assume that once again they are the culprits.

And who are most of the people and groups allegedly neglected by my film?

ALL EDITIONS:

The sniping continues, between historians and academics, pacifists and resisters, bystanders and rescuers. Rosowsky and Sauvage, locked in disagreement, have each in their own way become custodians of the plateau's history, recruiting and shedding adherents, endlessly debating the exact hour at which Le Forestier was or was not arrested, the precise tone of Schmähling's words, whether or not Bach and Schmähling were ultimately good or bad.

Talk of the pot calling the kettle black!  It is Moorehead’s very afterword that engages in the most underhanded and malicious sniping!

I have never claimed to be “a custodian” of the plateau's history.  I have never "recruited" adherents, and if I ever had any “adherents” I'm not aware of having shed any.  I do not “endlessly debate” the relatively minor things Moorehead mentions.

Yes, I find myself endlessly debating Village of Secrets now—but only because I surely have a right to defend my reputation, and hopefully to impugn Moorehead’s under the circumstances.

 

MORE ON MOOREHEAD’S DISMISSAL OF MY FILM AND OF MY EFFORTS THROUGH THE CHAMBON FOUNDATION

 

Although I founded the Chambon Foundation in 1982 to “explore and communicate the necessary lessons of hope intertwined with the Holocaust’s unavoidable lessons of despair,” and have been active since then in honoring the memory of what happened in Le Chambon, Moorehead suggests—by omission and commission—that my role has been entirely negative, as a mythmaker.

She omit any reference to the film in the main body of her book, as well as in her six pages of source notes, in her eleven-page bibliography, or in her acknowledgements: she displays that she felt under no moral obligation to thank me for the many leads I had provided her.  On the other hand, in the British edition I am falsely acknowledged as having been among those  “telling [her] their stories.”  (This is accurately omitted from the American edition.)

Though Moorehead sought and obtained photographs from the Chambon Foundation archives, Moorehead similarly may have been under no obligation to include any reference to those archives in her extensive archival sources list, or to seek information from these voluminous archives.

But then there is the fact that it was Weapons of the Spirit that first brought many of the people in Moorehead’s book to public attention.  This information Moorehead withholds as well—even though this is, for most of them, the only first-hand testimony available from these people, who are almost all deceased.

For the record, among those Moorehead includes in her account and who first became known because they first provided testimony in Weapons of the Spirit are:

In addition, there are still more people who provide first-hand testimony in Weapons of the Spirit and who appear in her book; they were first brought to public attention in that other work she maligns, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed.  (She misidentifies author Philip Hallie as a historian; he was a professor of philosophy.  Contrary to her statement, he did not discover the story of Le Chambon in the Trocmé papers at Swarthmore College.)

Under the circumstance, I must admit that I especially appreciate rival author Peter Grose’s claim that he must have watched Weapons of the Spirit “50 times or more”—I hope for him that this is very generous Aussie exaggeration—as well as his comment that the documentary was “crucial” to his research.

 

MORE ABOUT MOOREHEAD’S CLAIMED DISCOVERY OF THE ROLE OF CATHOLICS AND DARBYITES

 

“The village and its parishes” writes Moorehead, saved “resisters, Freemasons, communists, and, above all, Jews.  That list includes people who weren’t “saved” by the area at all (communists?  Freemasons?), and Le Chambon was one parish, although there were, to be sure, other parishes on that Protestant plateau.

In the Tablet article, I mention that the only example of Catholic rescue Moorehead gives—while claiming that the Catholic role is one of her discoveries—is “Madame” Roussel, who had a first name: Marguerite.  I pointed out that Moorehead learned of Marguerite Roussel from Weapons of the Spirit (though she doesn’t acknowledge this).  Here is the testimony in question.

As the danger grew obvious, Madame Roussel and her family offered shelter to the Bloch family.

The Roussels were Catholics, then a tiny minority in Le Chambon.


MARGUERITE ROUSSEL:

What you must understand is that if the area remained peaceful, without denunciations or problems, it's because everybody basically had the same attitude.

Even if we had different responsibilities.

We all felt affected by what was going onit wasn't only the Jews.  In 1940, when the Germans came in, all of us were threatened.  So it was important to remain united.  But none of this was obvious.

We had no theories, for instance.  It happened by itself.

 

Moorehead also claims to have discovered the existence of such independent Protestant sects as the darbystes.  Of course, these groups are also represented in my film, which includes the eloquent testimony of one such member of these Protestant sects, Marie Brottes.

Here is the testimony of my friend Madame Brottes.  When she is introduced, it is mentioned that one third of the population belonged to these sects (the French version of the film specifically refers to the darbystes by name).

MARIE BROTTES (voice-over):

[Off-camera] One Sunday during services in Tence, the pastor knocked on the door and said, “Three Old Testaments have arrived.”

And we knew that “Old Testament” meant Jew.

            

 

One of the Brethren got up, an old Christian, and he said, “I'll take them.”

And he took them to his farm in the middle of a meadow.  And he hid them.

Among the most welcoming to the Jews were the area's independent Protestants, who did not recognize the authority of the clergy, and sought to live, as best they could, according to scripture.

One third of the population belonged to these groups—including Marie Brottes.

 

MORE OF CAROLINE MOOREHEAD’S EMAILS TO ME: “I SAY NOTHING BUT NICE THINGS”

 

I mention in the Tablet article must finally underscore that while she was researching and writing the book, Caroline Moorehead and I had engaged in a long and very cordial email relationship that ended shortly before her book’s publication.

Though quite a few emails were exchanged, I will cite here the ones that seem especially significant to me in retrospect.  The few quotes in the Tablet article are here provided in context.

First email (excerpts) from Caroline Moorehead, Nov. 17, 2010

I have your email from the web page of the Chambon Foundation, and wonder whether you might very kindly help me.  (…) It was in the course of writing [my last book] that I came across the story of Chambon-sur-Lignon.  I have agreed with my publishers—Chatto and Windus in the UK, Harper-Collins in the US—to write a second book, this time about the other side of the coin, those who did what they could to save Jews, resisters and communists from the Germans.  (…)

I am aware of all the work you have done on the subject [emphasis added] and would, before anything else, value the chance to talk to you.  Are you permanently based in California?  If so, might I perhaps call you and we could talk a bit?   I should be most grateful for your help and suggestions and I would like to hear more of the work of the Foundation [emphasis added].

I had responded the same day to this first email, expressing my willingness to help.  I chose to overlook the slight warning flag that had gone up when she had described her desire to write a book about rescuers who saved “Jews, resisters and communists” from the Nazis.  She hadn’t begun her research after all, and it probably just hadn’t dawned on her yet that there was a huge difference at that time between saving Jews—and “saving” resisters and communists.

But I thought it would be presumptuous of me to volunteer any of this so early on, so instead I offered to send her a DVD of Weapons of the Spirit, which in a way makes the very points that I had decided not to convey to her in my return email.  She accepted my offer of the DVD, which led eventually to the email below.

Email (excerpt) from Caroline Moorehead, Dec. 8, 2010

I have now had a chance to view your extremely good film [emphasis added].  (…) I am really most grateful:  it was very helpful to me indeed [emphasis added].

Email (excerpt) from Caroline Moorehead, Nov. 13, 2011

I would be sad to write this book without having a chance to meet you, since your film and your involvement with the plateau are so crucial to this story [emphasis added].

Email (excerpt) from Caroline Moorehead, July 1, 2013

Only a few paragraphs, at the end of the book, touch on Weapons of the Spirit.  I say nothing but nice things!

I am repeating this last, astonishing statement (in retrospect): “I say nothing but nice things!”

My main point here is not her seemingly inexplicable about-face—which was due, I feel certain, to her encounter with that legendary charmer Oscar Rosowsky: virtually all the negative information she alleges and sometimes distorts with her own embellishments obviously comes from Oscar’s treasure trove of falsities.

My main point is that it would have been the easiest thing in the world for her to email me or to call me to get my side of the story!

But Caroline Moorehead wasn’t going to let the facts stand in the way of her claim to be recounting, for the first time, “what actually took place.”


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