My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Love in a Time of Hate is the fascinating story of Andre and Magda Trocme. It is divided into six chronological parts, starting with the childhood of Magda (Part I), the childhood of Andre (Part II), young adulthood/marriage/early ministry of the Trocmes (Part III), the early days of the Trocme’s ministry in Le Chambon before the Nazi invasion (Part IV), their ministry, pacifism, and involvement with the underground resistance during the Vichy government (Part V), and their final days as France was liberated and their ministry spread across the globe (Part VI).
Although I was eager to get to the meat of the Trocme’s work during World War II, I was pleasantly surprised by Parts I-III. As is true for most of us, the individual upbringing of Magda and Andre was crucial to shaping their personal beliefs later in life. Magda’s childhood was strict, motherless, and fraught with inner spiritual turmoil all played out in northern Italy. In contrast, Andre’s childhood was one of privilege and strict Protestantism in northern France, although his mother also died when he was ten. By the time they met in the U.S., Andre had been called into ministry as a Reformed Pastor, and Magda dreamed of becoming a social worker.
These roles complimented each other later as they ministered to the farming communities and desperate refugees in Southern France. Their ministry began in northern France, but family health issues took them to southern France, despite the distrust of the French Reformed church. Andre frequently butted heads with the church leadership due to his pacifist beliefs, which he had developed while serving in the military. He was passionate about pacifism and tried to influence his congregations, to the annoyance of the underground resistance movement during the War. Even after the war, both Magda and Andre traveled the world spreading the message of peace and pacifism. Andre died after complications from a surgery, but Magda continued his work until her death a decade later.
The most fascinating parts of the book detail the Trocme’s courageous work hiding and moving Jewish refugees during World War II. Jewish children in particular found refuge on the high plateau of Le Chambon. Thousands of children and sometimes entire families filtered through, receiving care and education at the school founded by the Trocmes – Ecole Nouvelle Cevenole – which was the only school of its kind in the entire region. Andre and his ministerial staff were imprisoned for their work, but were released mere days before the prison at which they were interred was closed and the prisoners sent to their deaths in Poland. Andre eventually had to go into hiding as the Germans had put a bounty on his head. He narrowly escaped being caught at one point, and credited his escape to an incident with his son and God’s timing. Le Chambon was ultimately liberated and Andre was able to return to his family, but not before they suffered several tragic losses.
This book was well written and thoroughly researched. I did find numerous grammatical and typographical errors that may have been due to its translation (the author is German). I believe, however, that these would be easily corrected with one more quick editorial review. In no way did any of the errors detract from the story.
The language is concise but engaging. I was just as interested reading the early biographical information as I was engrossed by the details of their work during World War II. I felt that the tempo of the book was just right, easily following the chronology of their lives and not drawing out any particular period for longer than the reader could endure.
The only criticisms I have are that I would love to see photos (which, to be fair, may be included in the print copies; I only had a Kindle copy), and I wish that specific data was available as to the extent of the Trocme’s impact during World War II. How many children did they help? How many families? How many lives were saved, families reunited? How many children attended the Ecole Nouvelle Cevenole by the time it closed in 2014? Perhaps specific data is not available, or the author determined it would not add value to the story itself. Still, it would be interesting to know the full extent of the global impact of these two extraordinary people.
I had never heard of the Trocme family before requesting this book through Netgalley. Now I will share their story as often as possible! I love reading the courageous stories that come out of times of extreme oppression. This is one such story, and it is amazing. I would definitely recommend this book!