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Kupferberg Holocaust Center Exhibition: Conspiracy of Goodness: About the Exhibit

Curator's Statement

Conspiracy of Goodness: How French Protestants Rescued Thousands of Jews During WWII

The little-known rescue in Le Chambon and its surrounding villages is one of the most awe-inspiring of World War II, not just for the courage these devout Christians displayed while protecting thousands of Jews, but for the humility with which it took place. Together, in the face of Nazi oppression, these brave townspeople of south-central France provided refuge in their homes and on their farms to those who fled there―regardless of religious or ethnic background.

Despite the extreme danger of this effort, the resolute people of Le Chambon and the Plateau Vivrais-Lignon felt that it was the right thing to do, did it without hesitation, and said they would do it again. Following their own long history of persecution, the faithful Protestants of this mountainous region chose to protect the Jews, their fellow “people of God,” with inspiration and leadership from Pastors André Trocmé and Édouard Theis, who preached tolerance, pacifism, and spiritual resistance.

The empathy, morality, and selflessness of this story is epitomized by the Bible verse that is permanently engraved above the doorway of the 400 year-old Protestant church in Le Chambon: “Aimez-Vous Les Uns Les Autres”–“Love One Another.”

―Dr. Cary Lane, KHC Curator-in-Residence and QCC Associate Professor of English

We would like to acknowledge the following people and benefactors who contributed to this exhibit:

Dr. Dan Leshem, Director of the KHC (2016-2018), Marisa Hollywood, Associate Director, Allison Belfer, Paul Kutner, Robyn Schwartz, Soham Chakraborty, Kaitlyn Cicciariello, Chotan Sen, Alison Avery, Sean Simpson, Nicholas Caccese, Consolidated Edison, Inc., Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Yad Vashem, Archives Zurich, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon Memorial Museum, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Exhibition Video: Hiding and Rescue in Le Chambon

Related Programming

The 2017-18 KHC-NEH colloquium, Collaboration and Complicity, and accompanying library guide used a social psychological lens to evaluate the way that dominant institutions and situational factors impacted the behaviors (or passivity) of individual bystanders and larger communities. Click here to watch the videos.

List of Programs

Some Were Neighbors: Complicity & Collaboration, a Workshop with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Held on September 13, 2017

Dr. Susan Bachrach, Longtime Curator of Special Exhibitions in the Levine Institute for Holocaust Education at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), offers a rich and informative perspective for participants that outlines the main themes of the exhibit and sets the foundation for the theme of “Complicity & Collaboration” in relationship to the KHC’s original exhibition, Conspiracy of Goodness

Exploring Yad Vashem’s “Righteous Among the Nations”
Held on 
September 28, 2017

Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, lecturer at Yeshiva University and Queens College and former Director of the Department for the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, discusses the efforts by the state of Israel and Yad Vashem to commemorate and recognize those heroes of the Holocaust. He focuses on key questions, including what are the circumstances for rescue, and what differentiates these active bystanders from the majority of passive bystanders who remain complicit with their silence and inaction? 

Remembering the Good: Holocaust Rescue and Resistance in a French Village
Held on 
November 15, 2017

From 1939 to 1945, the villagers of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon, France, hid, protected, and ultimately rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazis at great peril to their own lives. Their nearly unparalleled actions during the Holocaust are part of this community's long history of taking in persecuted outsiders of diverse backgrounds. Anthropologist Dr. Margaret Paxson discusses her book on how this community handled the shelter of outsiders. Dr. Paxson, whose first book, Solvyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village, was named a 2006 “Book of the Year” by, is a Research Fellow at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Using the archive collection of the USHMM oral histories and other official records, this scholar offers a comprehensive and fascinating narrative of an entire community effort towards resistance and rescue, the effects of which both resonate and remain celebrated today.

KHC Cinema Series: Incident at Vichy
Held on November 29, 2017

Adapted from Arthur Miller's play, this film focuses on a group of men detained in Vichy France; and held to wait unknowingly, for what turns out to be their "racial" inspection by German military officers and Vichy French police during World War II. It focuses on the subjects of human nature, guilt, fear, and complicity and examines how the Nazis were able to perpetrate the Holocaust with so little resistance. The play first premiered on Broadway in December of 1964. 

Released in 2016, 94 minutes

Incident at Vichy: A Discussion with the Actors
Held on December 6, 2017

An intimate portrait of life under Nazi occupation in Vichy France is dramatized by the Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy. Oftentimes overlooked when assessing Miller’s overall oeuvre, this specific play was performed at the Signature Theater in New York City in 2015 and explored the resonant themes of living life under an occupying force where the line between friends and foes is blurred and evil presents itself in many forms, oftentimes disguised and hard to penetrate on the surface. A discussion of the impetus for revitalizing this Miller work by including a panel of some of the actors and other production members from the Signature Theatre will take place. 

The Experience of Polish Jews under Nazi Occupation
Held on February 28, 2018

Part of the Drs. Bebe and Owen Bernstein Lecture Series

Dr. David Engel, Greenberg Professor of Holocaust Studies, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, and Professor of History at New York University, discusses the treatment of Jews specifically in Poland during the Holocaust. This presentation chronicles his research of the Holocaust in Poland, the Polish government-in-exile, and the role of complicity versus collaboration versus rescue that occurred in Nazi-occupied territories in Eastern Europe.

Becoming an Engaged & Active Bystander: How to Navigate a Complex & Diverse World 
Held on
 March 9

Led by Dr. Azadeh Aalai, Associate Professor of Psychology at QCC, in partnership with the Center for Ethnic, Racial, & Religious Understanding (CERRU) at Queens College, this workshop will facilitate skill-building for students and other participants by asking them to reflect on difficult questions, such as: what does it take to become an engaged and civic-minded citizen, and how can we develop skills to be more likely to be active (rather than passive) bystanders? The workshop explores the theme of complicity and collaboration in a modern context, by reflecting on how we feel pressure today to remain passive in the face of injustice, and through exploration of ways we can feel comfortable taking action when others need help. 

Wartime Defection: Resistance and Rescue During Genocide 
Held on April 12, 2018

Part of the Drs. Bebe and Owen Bernstein Lecture Series

Prominent scholar and UCLA faculty member Dr. Aliza Luft discusses her research on rescue behavior during mass atrocities and genocide. Her presentation focuses on decision-making in violent contexts and how people shift stances from support for state violence to resistance over time. Luft draws on case studies from her research in France, where people were both complicit in genocide and resistant to it at alternate moments in time. She will discuss the role of Catholic bishops – a highly visible, majority population in France, and their activism which took place in large cities where they were under heavy watch by Vichy and the Nazis. Reflecting on the KHC exhibit, Conspiracy of Goodness, she will show the distinctions from that of Le Chambon, where a minority group of protestants engaged in rescue behaviors far from the center of the regime’s activities.