‘The Autumn Throne’ by Elizabeth Chadwick 


Subtitled ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine, History’s Most Powerful Woman,’ this is the second in a trilogy about mediaeval Europe. Eleanor of Aquitaine was indeed powerful, though it is arguable whether she was more powerful than, for example, Queen Elizabeth the First, who ruled England several centuries later. However, Eleanor of Aquitaine certainly lived a long and eventful life, often courting danger, yet fulfilling the role of wife to two kings and ensuring the continuation of the royal line.

In mediaeval Europe the role of women born into the nobility or royalty was to serve as pawns in the power-games played by kings and powerful nobles, being married often at a very early age in order to to cement alliances, gain property or land and obtain access to a throne. The desired consequence of such a marriage was to provide a male heir, thereby ensuring the succession to the throne, property, or title in question.

That is what happened to Eleanor of Aquitaine, a region of France, which was ruled by her father. When the latter died in 1137 Eleanor, his only child was just thirteen and inherited a large part of France. She was duly married to King Louis of France, many years her senior, and bore him two daughters. Although she accompanied him on his crusade to Jerusalem and had been a loyal wife to him, he divorced her for failing to provide him with a son. Not long afterwards she married King Henry II of England, and proceeded to bear him five sons and three daughters. Two of those sons who survived their father eventually became kings of England (Richard I, ‘Lionheart,’ and John), as did her grandson, Henry III. Several of her daughters married the rulers of European countries, thereby cementing alliances and enriching both sides.

Fortunately, the book contains a family tree showing the Norman and Angevin kings of England, starting with William the Conqueror in 1066, and continuing several generations after Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, as well as maps showing the relevant parts of England and France, helping the reader to track the various royal lines of succession and journeys made by the principal characters. In mediaeval times England and France were inextricably connected, with regions of France passing to and from England;s control and back to France, whether through alliance or conquest.

As for Eleanor herself, she was evidently both beautiful, clever and strong-willed. She always remained loyal to her birthplace, Aquitaine, even while reigning as queen of England. For several years Henry II imprisoned her in an attempt to break her spirit and persuade her to cede Aquitaine to him, but she resisted him to the end, eventually outliving him and becoming dowager queen of England. When her favourite son, Richard the Lionheart, was captured and imprisoned by Heinrich of Prussia when returning from a crusade, Eleanor worked tirelessly to raise the vast sums demanded for his ransom, and then, although over seventy years old by then, travelled through Europe to deliver it to his captor and bring her son home.

The Aquitaine region of France is vast, beautiful and rich, and it is hardly surprising that it was the object of so much avarice and disputes. The fortunes of the royal houses of mediaeval Europe ebbed and flowed with the battles, births, deaths, machinations and plots of kings and nobles, and it is interesting to note that in many instances women were the power behind the throne, playing an important role in managing the affairs of state and the state of their menfolk.

A fascinating, well-written and thoroughly researched book, and a very enjoyable and informative read.


So there it is. You look for a partner, and amazingly you find Mr. or Ms. Right, fall in love and get married. You think that your life is complete and all is well with the world. But you have not realised that marriage incorporates getting to know your partner’s parents and other family members, and this may fall far from your expectations. There inevitably are cultural and sociological differences, which are not always easily overcome.

I recently came across an appeal for help on a Facebook group devoted to women talking about anything that bothers them. The mother-in-law of this particular individual had a habit of descending on the young couple for a sojourn of several weeks on their living-room sofa, and this was (understandably) having an adverse effect on the marriage. Advice given ranged from getting husband to talk to his mother, accepting one’s fate gracefully, setting clear boundaries about when said m.i.l. could come to stay, or even renting a room for her in a nearby hotel. I hope something worked for her, as the poor soul sounded very distressed.

The current brouhaha over Meghan and Harry’s decision to back away from the Royal Family may be a case in point. No one knows exactly what goes on within the family concerned, but the gulf between someone who has grown up in the democratic environment of America, with its tradition of having rebelled against British rule, and anyone imbued with England’s tradition of loyalty and even love towards the Royal Family must undoubtedly have played a part.

When I first met my parents-in-law many years ago we could only smile and nod as my knowledge of Hebrew was limited and theirs of English was non-existent. As the years passed, however, I was able to understand more of what they were saying, and it was then that I realised that their way of thinking was quite unlike anything I had encountered till then. They were not unkind to me, but we simply came from very different cultures and had very different views on life. I more or less adopted their political views, but that was where the convergence ended. Once the language difficulties had been overcome, the fact that I had grown up in a different country and absorbed different values made communication difficult.

And now I myself am a mother-in-law, with all the complexity that that involves. I think I do my best to maintain good relations with my various current and former children-in-law, but I haven’t a clue as to what they think of me. I grew up in a family where good relations, polite behavior and correct table manners were important but there was little overt demonstration of affection. I think that some of my children in-law find this way of behaving strange, even alienating, but there is little I can do about it. Overt demonstrations of affection to other adults are just not part of my emotional repertoire, and any attempt to behave differently would simply be artificial and unconvincing.

So I will confine myself to trying to provide little treats and favourite foods for the in-law kids and their offspring, my beloved grandchildren, when I can, lending a helping hand whenever this is desired and refraining from interfering in their lives to the best of my ability.

I have doubts about my success as a mother, but I gather that the current mot de jour is ‘good enough.’ I may not have been a good enough mother, but at least I can try to be a good enough mother-in-law.

The Burning Bush


It seemed only natural, after hearing and reading about the terrible conflagration in Australia, to reach out to our friends and acquaintances there to ask how they were faring. Most sent back fairly optimistic replies, reassuring us that their lives and homes were not in danger, though the ever-present smoke made daily life less pleasant.

But one more politically aware friend sent a reply that made me realise that the situation is not quite what it seems. Yes, climate change has played a role, but it would seem that there is growing awareness that there has been negligence on the part of the leadership there.

After stating that she and her family were safe because they live in the inner cities, our friend wrote ‘Smoke is not our only problem. What is happening here is appalling but to those who listened, not unexpected.’

Thirty years ago, it transpires, there were warnings that the continued mining and use of coal constituted a danger to the country. But the profit to be gained from its export apparently outweighed all other considerations.

In addition, our friend noted, ‘we failed to have enough water bombers available and there is no central national disaster management. It’s appalling and shameful.’

She goes on to mention that in her State they have had good leadership, and that appropriate measures had been put in place in the wake of the lessons that were learnt in 2009 when, presumably, there were extensive bush fires.

From the news today I gather that Australians are organizing to demonstrate against the negligence displayed by the government. Obviously, the fact that the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was on holiday with his family in Hawaii while the fires were raging hasn’t helped matters or inspired confidence in his leadership, even though he did return to Australia earlier than planned.

The situation brings to mind the devastating fire that raged on Israel’s Mount Carmel region just a few years ago, causing considerable loss of life and extensive damage to the area’s natural beauty. As the years have passed Nature has taken its course and the natural vegetation has resurged. In the meantime, however, steps have hopefully been taken to ensure that fire will not be able to destroy large swathes of land unchecked in the future.

Bush and forest fires are a feature of nature in Australia and elsewhere in the world. I personally can still remember being shocked and terrified when I was taken to see the film Bambi as a child (Bambi’s mother is killed in a forest fire). In the last year there have been fires in many parts of the world, destroying huge tracts of forests in the USA, Spain and the Amazon, for example. Farmers in France were complaining about the drout there only last summer, whereas now they are struggling to cope with the incessant rain.

Natural disasters are only…natural. Climate change may be instrumental in exacerbating them, but it’s high time we humans set about finding ways of mitigating their effects.


‘We Were the Lucky Ones.’ by Georgia Hunter

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is a hearfelt attempt to reconstruct the experiences of various members of the author’s family (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins) during the Holocaust. On the other, however, the writing does not flow easily, and the fact that the narrative is mainly (though not solely) in the present tense jars on my sensibilities as a reader.

The book is divided up into chapters, each one recounting the vicissitudes of one of the characters/members of the Kurc family, first in Poland and then in the various parts of Europe and the Americas where fate finds them. Although the frontispiece of the book contains a diagram showing the relations between the members of the core family, I found it difficult to keep track of them all. Somehow, despite the author’s best efforts, they are not suffiently characterized or differentiated, which makes it difficult to keep track of who is who and where each one is at any given time. The insertion between chapters of brief factual accounts of the events of the period is helpful.

Of course, any Jew living in Europe during the Second World War was in danger, hunted down and at peril of being incarcerated in a ghetto, Nazi jail or, worst of all, a concentration camp. That sense of persecution pervades most of the book, and it is right and proper that it should do so. In addition, the different ways the various family members managed to evade capture are described in illuminating detail, giving the reader some insight into how some Jews managed to survive that terrible period.

But the quality of the writing is uneven, at best. Despite the author’s – and presumably also the editor’s – best efforts, there are far too many grammatical errors, malapropisms and unfortunate phrasings for my personal taste.  The book is touted as having been on the New York Times’ best-seller list. I find that very hard to believe, and all I can say is that if it’s true it doesn’t say much for the judgment of the American reading public.

Looking After Ourselves

“I can’t meet you for coffee this week,” my friend said. “I have an appointment with my nephrologist.”

“Nephrologist? What’s that?” It turns out my friend has a problem with her kidneys, and I didn’t have a clue about it. Cardiologist, neurologist, psychologist, whatever, they’re all part of our lives now.

Yes, we all go for regular medical check-ups. ‘We’ being women of my age, namely, seventy or older. We’re all getting on in years, doing our best to stay sane and functioning, and – most important of all – looking after our health.

So we have our annual mammography, a process involving a long session in the waiting room before we are called, then a painful few minutes as our breasts are squeezed between two glass plates to be X-rayed, followed by a consultation with the doctor who does the ultrasound. I challenge any man reading this to undergo a similar procedure on a regular basis.

But there’s more. Blood tests that often involve fasting. Tests of the various fluids and solids that emerge from our bodies. Visits to one’s GP, to discuss the results of the various tests. Trips to the pharmacy to collect the medicines that have been prescribed subsequently.

Looking after our health is taking on an increasingly important part of our lives. One’s daily routine starts with the pills that have to be taken on an empty stomach, continues with those that are consumed after breakfast, and ends with those (mainly Statins) that are best taken before going to sleep (provided one does manage to get to sleep. At least there are pills that can help with that, too).

Apart from the various medications and medical procedures, there are other aspects of life that call upon our limited reserves of energy. Exercising regularly, and preferably frequently, is just one of the things we are required to do in order to remain active and functioning. Mental agility is demanded of us too, and in order to achieve this we are advised to do crosswords or Soduko, learn languages, attend lectures, dance, sing or learn to play a musical instrument. In addition, we are told to conduct as active a social and cultural life as we possibly can, not to cut ourselves off from society, as some of us would prefer to do, and above all, to eat healthily. That last one is in itself almost a full-time occupation. We do our best, but I’m afraid I’m too weak-willed to eschew chocolate, cookies and cake completely.

So although all this is easier said than done, we’re doing our level best. When we meet for coffee we try not to discuss our aches and pains and medical conditions. We make sure to get vaccinated against flu, as the authorities keep exhorting us to do, and avoid going out when the air quality is poor. That is also something that we are advised to do by the powers-that-be.

There is some consolation in the thought that someone out there is concerned about us old folk, is looking out for us and trying to take care of our welfare. The lessons that were learned in France a few years ago, when thousands of elderly people died in a heat-wave because no one went to see how they were, seem to have been taken to heart by Israel’s health authorities and the medical profession in general.

The question that remains is, will the day ever come when we can be considered responsible adults and the masters, or mistresses, of our own fate?

Bought, Borrowed or Stolen? Art from the Gurlitt Trove

Otto Dix, self-portrait, smoking

At an exhibit entitled ’Fateful Choices: Art from the Gurlitt Trove,’ the Israel Museum’s Curator of European Art, Shlomit Steinberg, gave a fascinating talk about the history, geography, sociology and provenance of the huge collection of paintings, drawings, prints and lithographs found in 2012 in an apartment belonging to Cornelius Gurlitt, an elderly recluse living in Munich and virtually unknown to the German authorities.

By chance, the strange gentleman who occasionally travelled by train to Switzerland, where he would sell a painting, drawing or print to art dealers, was stopped for ticket inspection. He had not broken any law, he protested when asked to clarify why he was carrying a large sum of cash. Upon further investigation it transpired that he had never paid taxes, never worked, never registered at a university, never bought or sold an apartment, never married and never registered the birth of a child. Thus he had remained ‘under the radar’ of the authorities throughout his adult life.

When the tax inspectors looked further into the activities of the mysterious individual, it transpired that in addition to two apartments in Munich he owned another one in Salzburg, Austria. These were all subsequently found to be crammed full of art works of every conceivable kind and genre. Further investigation revealed that Cornelius’s father, Hildebrand, had been a gallery owner and art dealer, a known figure on the German art scene, from the 1920s until his death in 1956.

In the global media the collection was touted as ‘Nazi looted art,’ but that is not completely true. Some of the art works were paintings and drawings made by other members of the Gurlitt family, several of whom were artistically talented. As an art dealer, Hildebrand had accumulated a diverse collection of works from various periods, and some of these were presumed to have been sold legitimately to art collectors in the period of Weimar Germany. After the Nazis’ rise to power the opportunities for buying works defined by them as ‘degenerate’ multiplied, and Hildebrand was not slow to benefit from their availability and reduced price. In addition, in many cases persecuted artists or Jews felt the need to sell their art works in order to cover the heavy cost of leaving Germany. German Jews were required to submit a detailed list of all the furniture and objects in their possession, and in this way many works of art became property of the State.

Hildebrand Gurlitt was appointed an official art dealer on behalf of the Nazi regime and went to Paris to purchase or acquire works of art there. These were destined either for the museum Hitler intended to build in his home town on Linz, Austria, or to be sold to foreign buyers in order to gain much-needed foreign currency for the German war effort. After the war Hildebrand was investigated by the American authorities, and was eventually exonerated of having collaborated with the Nazis. The collection, which contained works by such artists as Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, Liebermann, Toulouse-Lautrec, Courbet, Cézanne, Munch and Manet, was restored to him. After his death in 1956 as the result of a car accident, the collection passed to his widow, Helene, and subsequently to their son, Cornelius.

Cornelius Gurlitt died in May 2014, bequeathing all his property to the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland. Since then the collection has been exhibited in several European cities and a few pictures have been identified as having belonged to Jewish families and returned to their heirs. The exhibition currently on show in the Israel Museum will be followed by others elsewhere in order to enable as many people as possible to view it and, if their claims are confirmed, to regain ownership of works that had once been theirs. The emphasis is now on using due diligence procedures to establish the provenance of the works of art in the collection.

A Trip to Remember

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A trip that would last just over three weeks, starting with a few days in Madrid, continuing with visits of several days each to cousins on the east coast of the USA. After that we were due to spend a few days with our son in Las Vegas, and conclude with a few more days in Rome. What a perfect combination of fun, family and art. Lots of art.

What I’d forgotten when I was presented with the itinerary was that it involved many airports, living out of a suitcase at various points, and getting on and off planes. A great many planes. I’d also forgotten that I’m not as young as I was, and that the rigours of intercontinental travel tend to take more of a toll on my ancient body than was the case in the past.

Nevertheless, a great deal — even most — of our trip was enjoyable. In Madrid the delights of the Prado, the Thyssen Museum, the Royal Palace and the Monastery of Descalzas Reales provided a sumptuous feast of paintings, sculptures, tapestries and architecture. A performance of Flamenco singing and dancing gave us another insight into the Spanish heart and mind.

Our trip to the USA gave us the opportunity to renew our ties with family members, who were invariably welcoming and hospitable. Our Baltimore cousins took us to the Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in Washington, where the latter was hosting a special exhibition of works by the Renaissance artist Verrochio. What a delight that was! It has been said that the handsome young Leonardo da Vinci, who was an apprentice in Verrocio’s studio, was the model for his statue of David. We were also taken to the fascinating National Cryptology Museum.

Our Virginia cousins took us to Monticello, the house that Jefferson built and furnished, all to his own special design. It was especially heartwarming to meet and be hosted by members of the younger generation, who all appear to be ‘happily situated’ (to use Jane Austen’s phrase) with beautiful children, successful careers, and spacious homes, surrounded by greenery, forests and all the comforts that semi-rural suburbia has to offer.

The contrast with our next stop, Las Vegas, couldn’t have been greater. Everything there was bigger, brighter, louder and brasher than anything that had gone before. The hotel room was more spacious (even if it meant forging a path through a casino to get there), the breakfast (a delicious toasted cheese sandwich available from the Starbuck’s downstairs) more satisfying, and the temptations of the Strip more appealing than ever. We ate lunch at one or another of the buffets that offer an enormous range of food of every kind, and wandered through the pseudo-Roman streets of Caesar’s Palace.

When we reached our final destination, Rome, we discovered that the Villa Borghese is merely a poor imitation of the Las Vegas version. No, not really. There are certain similarities, however. The ever-present atmosphere of conspicuous consumption comes to mind. But nothing anywhere can compete with the delicate statues of Bernini, who manages to make marble seem as malleable as flesh in his depiction of the moment when Apollo’s pursuit of Daphne is foiled as she is turned into a tree. Or when Proserpina is being abducted by a the god Pluto, whose fingers dig into her flesh with horrifying realism. Bernini has even managed to make the anguish on the lovely young woman’s face palpable.

Rome is indisputably the site of innumerable riches. It has everything – artistic treasures galore, architectural wonders, archaeological wealth – but getting to see it all is something of an ordeal. For some unknown reason, possibly economic, the streets of central Rome are paved with cobblestones that are rather hard on the feet, so that even with good walking shoes some pain cannot always be evoided. The shops display scrumptious foods and beautiful clothes, and even the museums display the high-heeled shoes that were fashionable in the seventeenth century (see photo below). Thank goodness I didn’t live there then.

In order to rest my feet I entered one of the many churches which abound on all sides. Some of them have piped music in the background, adding to the devout atmosphere. Imagine my surprise at hearing a familiar tune sung very softly in one of them. I recognised it after a momentary shock as the modern Hebrew song, ‘Ani ma’amin,’ sung in Hebrew by what sounded like a boy soprano. I assumed that whoever was responsible for choosing the tracks to be broadcast in the church had seen the Italian or Latin translation of the song, ‘Credo,’ and took it to be part of the church service, as tradition requires.

On finally reaching our home, at four in the morning, I vowed that this would be the last time we undertook such an intensive trip. But who knows? My memory isn’t what it was, and by the time I’m presented with the next itinerary I’ll probably have forgotten all about this one.

Edward Hopper and the American Hotel


While visiting relatives in Richmond, Virginia, we used the occasion to pay a return visit to the impressive VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts), and attempt to take in just a fraction of the many delights on offer there. The featured temporary exhibition currently on display there was  ‘Edward Hopper and the American Hotel; a travel guide.’ This was an opportunity not to be missed.

Hopper is renowned for his depictions of city rooms with one or two persons in them, looking either in or to the outside, reflecting a sense of alienation, of urban anomie (in the Durkheimian sense of the word), and of detachment from human contact. The pictures in the current exhibition, whether by Hopper himself or other artists, all pertain to the subject of ‘hotels, motels, and tourist homes.’ Hopper and his wife Jo travelled extensively through the USA in the 1940s and 1950s, at a time when America was changing as automobile ownership expanded, new and better roads and highways were constantly being built and improved, and travel became an easier and more convenient form of transportation.

The cousin with whom we were staying  said that it brought back memories of the six-week trip his family (father, mother, brother and self) made across America by car in the 1950s, visiting places and encountering people which till then had just been names on a map (no GPS or Waze then).  Knowing my late uncle (my mother’s older brother), I’m sure that the trip was carefully planned and mapped out, the hotels and motels booked in advance, and that nothing was left to chance. Im not so sure that that is the message conveyed by Hopper’s paintings, however.

The characters he depicts find themselves — whether by chance or by design — in anonymous hotel rooms, with their standard furnishings and soulless decor. Their individual stories are a mystery that it is for the viewers to decide for themselves. Is the young woman in a pink slip suffering the pangs of unrequited love or simply relaxing after having travelled for several hours? Is the man standing and looking out of the window simply admiring the view or is he angry with the unkempt woman sitting on the bed behind him? Each painting is an enigma which can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Hopper was commissioned to illustrate the covers of a trade publication for hotels in the 1920s, when the boom in travel and tourism was still in its infancy. This gave him the opportunity and the incentive to go and see for himself, always accompanied by his wife Jo, what hotel and motel rooms had to offer, and it is his interpretation of this that we find in his pictures. It is this combination of ambivalence, and his unique mystical aesthetic, together with consummate skill in depicting figures and interiors, that gives Edward Hopper’s paintings their enduring fascination.

Hitches, Glitches, Delays and Ultimate Success!

In a stunning display of arrogance and stupidity, I ventured out into the wild and woolly world of self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP platform. I’ve done it before, five times in fact, twice with the help of outside agencies, and three times by myself. It’s been a little more than a year since I published my last book, ‘All Quiet on the Midwestern Plains,’ and apart from help from my designer and computer-whizz son Eitan with the cover of the paperback version, I managed it pretty well by myself.

So I was taken aback when all did not go smoothly with my new book, ‘A Ruffled Calm, (affectionately known by my typo-riddled version, ‘A Ruggled Clam’). The first hitch was when I was unable to even access my KDP account, where my previous five books were published and are listed. I struggled and stumbled, appealed to KDP, and was delighted to receive a prompt reply. Yes, silly me (or is it senile me?) had forgotten that I have two email accounts and had been using the wrong address.

But that was not the end of my troubles. In my haste (and more stupidity?), I had somehow managed to delete my last novel while uploading the new one. Good golly, Miss Molly! How on earth did I manage that? The usual st-p-d-ty, I suppose. Another appeal gets sent to KDP, to which I receive two different replies (each from a different person, and each to a different address). One of them (a woman) kindly tells me that she will merge my two accounts and restore my deleted novel. The other (a male) tells me that I will have to go through the whole lengthy process of uploading the deleted book all over again.

I had to follow both courses of advice.

Having finally at last managed to get the text of my new book uploaded, the next hurdle was the cover. I am not the world’s best artist, but to date I have managed to use a painting of mine as the cover for each of my novels, so that I regard it as almost part of my signature as an author. For several weeks I have been trying to paint a picture of a woman sitting in an armchair, in keeping with the subject-matter of the book. It sounds a simple enough task, but my efforts were invariably unsatisfactory. Arms too long, legs too short, or vice versa. The colors weren’t right or the armchair was all crooked. I wanted the woman to be holding a cup, but it seems I’m unable to paint even that. An artist friend, with whom I am in correspondence, suggested that I use a smaller brush, and upon doing so I found that the result was much improved. Thanks, Michele.

Uploading the cover wasn’t all plain sailing either. At first I could get the image to appear as the cover, but without the title or my name. I tried a few times, but couldn’t get the desired result, so I stopped and waited for help from Eitan. Life intervened, however, and I was unable to get to my computer for a couple of days. When I returned to it, lo and behold, there was my cover, with the title and my name in place. I tried to rearrange the text and coloring to my satisfaction, and although it’s not perfect, it will do for the ebook.

So now I’ve completed the process, I think. The ebook is now up on Amazon, and can be purchased for just $2.99. However, from the 11th to the 13th of November it can be downloaded for free. So if anyone is interested in finding out how an eccentric visitor turns an ordinary family’s life upside-down, they’re invited to take a look at ‘A Ruffled Calm.’ It’s a relatively short book, and should make for easy reading. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for something to read during a flight.

Hopefully the paperback version will be available in the not-too-distant future. But that process inevitably takes a little longer to complete. The main thing as far as I’m concerned is that the ebook is up and running, and I’m looking forward to hearing from anyone who reads it what they think of it, or better still, to reading a kind review of it on Amazon.

‘Village of Secrets’ by Caroline Moorehead


Based on extensive historical research, personal interviews and visits to the places concerned, Caroline Moorehead has produced an astounding account of life on a remote, mountainous plateau perched on France’s Massif Central, where the residents of villages, hamlets and isolated farms worked together in Nazi-controlled France to rescue hundreds if not thousands of people, mainly Jewish children and members of the Resistance.

The largely rural Vivarais-Lignon plateau enjoys a climate considered to be healthy during the summer months, resulting in the existence there of several hotels, children’s homes and convalescent centres for visiting tourists. In the winter, however, it was more or less cut off from the rest of the country by deep, long-lasting snow and its mountainous terrain. These conditions enabled the villagers to provide sanctuary for people – and especially children – seeking to evade capture and deportation to concentration camps.

Most of the inhabitants of the region were devout Protestants, many of them descendants of the Huguenots who had themselves been persecuted in sixteenth-century France. Some of them belonged to obscure Christian sects, such as the Darbyists and the Ravenists, which were in various ways akin to the Quakers and Amish, with special clothing and an austere life style. Led by pacifist pastors, the inhabitants of the local villages, Chambon sur Lignon, Mazet sur Voy, Riou as well as hamlets and individual farms, took in and cared for dozens of Jewish children brought to the region, whether by individuals or by the Jewish and Christian organisations (OSE and Cimade) involved in their rescue.

The author describes in harrowing detail the conditions in the various detention camps in France, such as Gurs at the foot of the Pyrenees, Drancy near Paris and Venisseux near Lyons, from where trains full of Jews were sent to the concentration camps.. Despite assurances to the contrary, after 1942 Jews were hunted down with as much rigour in the part of France controlled by the Vichy collaborationist government, as in Nazi-controlled northern France.

The systematic deportation of France’s Jewish population, starting with the ‘foreign Jews,’ who had fled from other parts of Europe, and continuing with the ‘French Jews,’ persisted till the end of the war. Those individuals and groups who had managed to make their way to the plateau were taken in by institutions and families. In some cases their names and identities were changed while in others they were hidden in basements, barns and lofts, or enabled to find shelter in the nearby forests. Eventually many of them were helped to cross the border into Switzerland, a journey which involved considerable danger for the victims and their helpers. Moore describes one such escape in which a girl’s long hair was caught in the barbed-wire fence. The teenager who stayed behind to help disentangle her hair became her husband manyyears later.

When the Germans required able-bodied French men to enlist for work in Germany many of them fled to the plateau. Among the Jews in hiding were expert forgers who were able to produce false identity papers and medical certificates, enabling both Jews and non-Jews to evade capture. Members of the Maquis also found shelter there. The individuals who sheltered the Jews were inspired by the pacifist sermons preached by the local pastors, some of whom paid dearly for their refusal to cooperate with the occupying forces. At a time when food was scarce and rationing prevailed throughout France, the farmers of the region supplied extra food to the homes where Jewish children were being sheltered.

After liberation the work began of restoring the names and identities of theJewish children, many of whom had little or no recollection of their original families. A large number of them were now orphans, and the work of returning them to their surviving relatives was often problematic. Some of the older children preferred to join the Jews in what was then Palestine in order to help establish a Jewish state.

There is no doubt that France’s record during its occupation by the Germans is far from glorious, but here and there there were small rays of light, among them the people of the Vivarais-Lignon plateau. In fact, the village of Chambon-sur-Lignon is one of only two villages worldwide to be awarded the title of Righteous Among the Narions. by Yad Vashem.