During World War II Andre Trocme and the Fellowship of Reconciliation saved thousands of lives from Nazi annihilation. Let me share a true story of their struggle.
The young Jewish widow and her two small children had been living in Paris. But when France fell, the arm of the German Gestapo reached out to seize the Jews in that country. So they had come to this little town near the Swiss border. She was told that here she would find help.
All day she wandered through the streets futilely looking for some sign of assistance. She returned to their little room exhausted and hope gone. The children had been put to sleep when there was a knock at the door. A young man said, “If you are interested in a hike in the mountains, be at the city cemetery at 10 o’clock tomorrow night.”
All day they waited in the tiny room. At dusk they left and as darkness fell made their way to the cemetery. At 10 o’clock the “hiking party” started out. She carried the baby in her arms and held the other child by the hand. The moon had risen. She counted 21 in the party—mostly women— two children beside her own and four elderly men.
The path was rising steeply now. The guide stopped for a brief rest, then they pressed on. Ahead, an elderly man sank to his knees. “I am too old to make it,” he said, “You go on. Just leave me here to die.”
“I understand,” the guide said to him, “The way is hard. But could you help one of the children? Could you carry one of the little ones until your strength is gone?” The old man agreed. With effort he put the smallest child on his shoulders and again they began to climb.
It happened again and again. An old person, feeling too tired to go on, would ask to be left to die. Each time the guide persuaded them to give their last remaining strength to one of the children.
As the dawn broke they reached the summit and started down the other side. Before noon, tired and weary, the joyous party of 21 refugees and their happy guide entered the Swiss village. That’s right—21 refugees. Not a single one had been left behind.
It is always true. When we live for others we find life for ourselves. It was the Man from Galilee who said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will save it.” Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.