Book Review: Love in a Time of Hate

Hanna Schott, Love in a Time of Hate: The Story of Magda and Andre Trocme and the Village That Said No to the Nazis (Herald Press, 2017). ISBN 9781513801254 (paperback). $22.95. Reviewed by Myra Kroeker (EFC Steinbach), BA, wife and mother.

This book challenged and inspired in various ways, mainly from Matthew 25 where Jesus says, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was in prison, and you came to me.”

This was the life exemplified by Andre and Magda Trocme as they worked as a pastor couple in a small town of Le Chambon, France. The book begins with short biographies. Magda, a motherless child, grows up with little. Andre grows up with opulence. Both attend college in New York and here their lives intersect.

They try various churches and yet none seems to be a perfect fit for them. Reluctantly, they go to Le Chambon, committing to a year of service. The year passes and they find themselves still in the community, having found their true calling. Many Jews make their way to the community to seek refuge from the Nazis and the on-going war.

As a Protestant pastor, Andre is faced with many ethical decisions. To what extent does one “lie” to save the lives of the Jews when Nazi soldiers visit the village? Also, is it wrong in the Lord’s eyes to give Jews new names and identity papers to protect the many refugees in their care? They found that one decision often had a ripple effect. One decision was bound to affect the next.

Much discipline and imagination were needed in communication. Many questions were not asked directly or one’s identification and whereabouts would be given away. Appearances needed to be preserved and Jewish holidays were still respected.

Andre found it wrong to take up arms, and he remained true to this belief. Because of this, he changed his name and went on the run with a fellow pastor to save the lives of his family and the congregation. This true story left me asking: “Would I be able to live out the war in the same manner as the Trocme family did—true to their God and to their beliefs?”

I end with words from the last pages of the book: “Long before her death, Magda had summarized in two sentences the values and beliefs she regarded as important—what she wanted to pass along to future generations . . . ’The ideals, the hopes, the yearning for justice, truth and love that we all sense, regardless of religion or culture, would not be rooted so deeply within us if there wasn’t somewhere a source of this hope, of justice, of truth, and of love. This source is what I call God.’”

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