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Fade-up on opening title card:
"There There always comes a time in history when the person who dares to say that two plus two equals four is punished with death.
And And the issue is not what reward or what punishment will be the outcome of that reasoning. The issue is simply whether or not two plus two equals four."
Albert Camus, The Plague
NARRATION (PIERRE SAUVAGE):
I am a Jew born in Nazi-occupied France. (Fade up and zoom in on a photograph of a baby being hugged by his father.) At that time, a spiritual plague was still sweeping throughout the western world. It produced the Holocaust, the Holocaust that mutilated my family, burned my roots, wiped out one third of my people. (Dissolve to a pre-war photograph of a Jewish family in Poland.) This was my mother's family in Poland before the war. She lost her mother, her younger brother, her sister, her brother-in-law, her little niece. (Dissolve to a photograph of a baby in the arms of his mother.)
And yet, my parents and I, and many others, were sheltered in a village in the mountains of France. (Fade-up on the sounds of a train.) I returned there, in 1982, to find out why. (A tiny steam-engine train puffs its way through a meadow. A man (the filmmaker), viewed from the back, is sitting alone in an otherwise empty compartment. Music: slow, persistent mandolin concerto by Antonio Vivaldi, the "red priest.")
In the beginning, a few Jews made their way to this tiny corner of the world. And the peasants and villagers of the area took in the Jews who came. And the Jews kept coming. And the people of Le Chambon kept taking them in.
Individuals, couples, families. The children, the elderly, people of all ages. Those who could pay and those who couldn't. Doctors and merchants and intellectuals and homemakers.
PIERRE SAUVAGE, on train, talking to camera:
It's on a train very much like this one that my parents arrived in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in the fall of 1943. A friend had steered them here. And they rented a room in a farmhouse with some peasants named Roche. Not much is left of the farm.
My mother was pregnant, and on March 25, 1944, a Jewish baby had the good fortune to see the light of day in a place on earth uniquely committed to his survival.
(The train approaches a village, blows its (shofar-like) whistle. We hear a montage of voices, as the train enters a tiny railroad station. The Vivaldi concerto heard earlier resumes.)
The Nazis had proclaimed a Thousand-Year Reich and appeared triumphant. But for the people of the area of Le Chambon, that was beside the point. Here, in the course of four long years, 5,000 Jews were sheltered-by 5,000 Christians. Jews who were there, remember:
I would say they were the most solid people on earth (ÉMILE SÈCHES).
I have a very good impression of the Chambonnais people (JOSEPH GODEFRYD).
An outburst of solidarity that simply couldn't be imagined (ANDRÉ WEIL).
We might not be here were it not for this land (HENRIETTE BLOCH ).
Not only were we accepted despite our differences, which is just about all a Jew asks for and can ask for from the community in which he lives, but here, there was a feeling of affection (OSKAR ROSOWSKY).
I will always be moved when I think of these people (GINETTE WEIL).
A wonderful memory (ANDRÉ WEIL).
An atmosphere of peace (ROBERT BLOCH)
The train stops at the station. The sign says: Le Chambon-sur-Lignon-Le Mazet. The music fades out. Cut to an elderly couple, standing near a stone farmhouse.
We never asked for explanations. When people came, if we could be of help...
But you knew you were taking risks in sheltering Jews?
In the beginning, it wasn't all that risky. But then towards the end, of course, it did grow dangerous.
But you kept them anyway.
I don't know. We were used to it.
She looks at Pierre Sauvage, then looks down at the ground. Dissolve to old black-and-white photograph of the same couple, much younger, smiling at the camera. The Vivaldi concerto resumes, swells and ends (this time in an orchestral version), as the title sequence unfolds. The story begins.
Transcript Letter to the Reader
Weapons of the Spirit Witnesses
Transcript of Bill Moyers Interviews Pierre Sauvage
Transcript of Bill Moyers introduction on PBS
Back to Weapons of the Spirit
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