Bien fait

There’s this village in France that has a history of taking in people who are fleeing persecution or genocide.

An Austrian man who fled the Nazis with his family during the second world war has bequeathed a large part of his fortune to the French village whose residents hid them from persecution for years.

Eric Schwam, who died aged 90 on 25 December, wrote the surprise gift into his will for Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, located on a remote mountain plateau in south-east France that historically has a large Protestant community known for offering shelter to those in need.

Schwam and his family arrived in 1943 and were hidden in a school for the duration of the war, and remained until 1950.

They weren’t the only ones.

About 2,500 Jews were taken in and protected during the war by Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose residents were honoured as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre.

Over the centuries the village has taken in a wide range of people fleeing religious or political persecution, from priests driven into hiding during the French Revolution to Spanish republicans during the civil war of the 1930s, and more recently migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Righteous among the nations indeed.

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