Weapons of the Spirit: The Courage of Le Chambon


Therese Crout’s Night in Le Chambon (Moon Dance)

Not a single Jew who came [to the area of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon] was turned away, or turned in. But it was not until decades later that the villagers spoke of what they had done — and even then, only reluctantly.  “How could you call us ‘good’?” they said. “We were doing what had to be done.” President Barack Obama, Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day, United States Capitol, April 23, 2009.

1389.9 Holocaust C

Jewish children sheltered by the Protestant population of the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. France, between 1941 and 1944.

Nobody asked who was Jewish and who was not. Nobody asked where you were from. Nobody asked who your father was or if you could pay. They just accepted each of us, taking us in with warmth, sheltering children, often without their parents—children who cried in the night from nightmares.”

—Elizabeth Koenig-Kaufman, a former child refugee in Le Chambon

Go here to read more about this community USHM Le Chambon Sur Lignon

Listen to Peter Feigel who was helped and protected by the people of Le Chambon

Read more here on Reflections of Courage and here at Yad Vashem read about the Le Chambon Villagers and Dr. Feng Shan Ho, Katarzyna Kmita, and Francis Foley.

Upstanders: Portraits of Courage

Oskar Schindler240Why do you think that in times of crisis, some people stand by, or actively help the perpetrators, while others get involved and try to make a positive difference? (From Facing History, Facing Ourselves)

Hero status is often achieved by making personal sacrifices, showing extreme selflessness, and great courage. Allison and Goethals (2011, 49) state, ‘These individuals typically don’t set out with the intention of being heroes. In fact the situations they find themselves in are usually unpleasant, requiring a difficult choice that has painful consequences. The choice however, is the correct one from a moral perspective’. In a survey of 75 college students Allison and Goethals noted eight heroic traits,’The Great Eight’:

1.Smart: intelligent, smart, wise
2.Strong: strong, leader,dominating,courageous,gallant
4.Caring:compassionate,empathetic,caring, kind
5.Charismatic: eloquent,charismatic,dedicated,passionate
6.Resilient: determined,persevering, resilient,accomplished,
8.Inspiring: admirable,inspirational

“In those times there was darkness everywhere. In heaven and on earth, all the gates of compassion seemed to have been closed. The killer killed and the Jews died and the outside world adopted an attitude either of complicity or of indifference. Only a few had the courage to care. These few men and women were vulnerable, afraid, helpless – what made them different from their fellow citizens?… Why were there so few?… Let us remember: What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander…. Let us not forget, after all, there is always a moment when moral choice is made…. And so we must know these good people who helped Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in gratitude and hope, we must remember them.” Elie Wiesel

‘In 1963 Yad Vashem embarked upon a worldwide project to pay tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. This represents a unique and unprecedented attempt by the victims to honor individuals from within the nations of perpetrators, collaborators and bystanders, who stood by the victims’ side and acted in stark contrast to the mainstream of indifference and hostility that prevailed in the darkest time of history.’ (Yad Vashem)

Oskar Schindler:

Read about Oskar Schindler here:

Otto Dix: Exposing the horror of war


The brutality of World War 1, the mud, mutilations and futility, haunted Dix’s work. His art revealed the decadence and despair of the Weimar years. He was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazis and stripped of his position as a professor at the Dresden art school. He was even accused of plotting to kill Hitler in 1936 but later released (Duggan).

Click on this link here to find more about the art of Otto Dix:Pragger Strasse 1920

George Grosz: Commenting on suffering, corruption and vice




George Grosz, born in 1893, was not a politically motivated artist before WW1. However, his war experiences of death and destruction on the battlefield deeply effected him resulting in a psychological breakdown (Llosa). These war experiences dramatically changed his art. He hated war, German militarism and used the experiences of death and destruction to inspire his paintings. (MOMA) Grosz painted many characters as fat, ugly and immoral to reflect the contradictions seen in the Weimar society around him. MOMA suggests that the war had turned Grosz into a misanthropist yet at the same time an idealist. ‘I drew and painted from a spirit of contradiction, and attempted in my work to convince the world that this world is ugly, sick and mendacious (false/lying)’ (Kunstblatt, 1924).

His art revealed the sordidness of German city-life and the lost souls inhabiting it. His art exposed the corruption, the confusion and the different levels of society from prostitutes to vetrans of the war- crippled and maimed, to the grossly rich. He showed a ruined, corrupt world often through the images of a hell-like city.  His art was highly critical of those who became rich while others starved or were ignored. He criticized the politicians and industrialists and ridiculed those who he felt had dragged his country into a devastating war.

Grosz and Heartfield became friends and like Heartfield (see previous post), Grosz changed his first name into the English form as a protest against the right-wing nationalism he saw around him. In 1918, he joined the German Communist Party. He was prosecuted by the Nazis for insulting the army and blasphemy. His art, like that of Heartfield, Klee, Beckman and other artists,  touched a raw nerve with the Nazis who decalred him a ‘degenerate artist’ and therefore an enemy of the state. His work was confiscated from German museums and some destroyed. In 1933 he settled in the United States only returning to Germany in 1958, one year before his death.

Grosz- Metropolis, 1916-17

Grosz- Metropolis, 1916-17, from Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid

Go to Mueso Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid to view , read and listen to a commentary on Grosz’s Metropolis

Click here to zoom in on the image and explore it in depth: zoom image of Metropolis

Read: Facing History George Grosz


Tate Modern: Llosa You Nourish Yourself with Everything You Hate

MOMA Collection

ABC Gallery

John Heartfield : Using art to protest



Helmut Harzfeld born in 1891, changed his name in 1917 to John Heartfield . This proved to be a brave, defiant action for the German born artist. His name change occurred in period of fervent nationalism and anti British feeling as WW 1 raged and was a response to what he felt to be an anti- foreigner attitude throughout Germany. This was seen as a particularly unpatriotic thing to do (Vallen). This outspokenness and defiant attitude characterized his art. Heartfield was both a pacifist and Marxist. He joined the Communist Party in 1920 and was an ‘early and ferocious enemy of Hitler and the Nazi movement’ (Facing History) Heartfield’s work continuously satirized the ‘madman who seized control of his country’(Vallen). This outspokenness and prolific outpouring of his photomantges for the AIZ( workers’ magazine) ultimately made him a target of the Nazi Party who sought to silence him.


Adolf the Superman swallows money and spouts junk.

Heartfield used photomontage, a process where he used existing images, rearranged them, juxtaposing images and symbols to create  powerful statements that warned about the rise of Hitler and showed the effects of the Nazi social policies on the ordinary citizen . Heartfield’s biting satirical images used ‘laughter as a devastating weapon’ to expose the violence of Hitler and his Nazi regime’. Heartfield satirized the ‘cult of the leader’ sending up his posture ,gestures and symbols’ to expose the absurdity of the Hitler’s regime.

Hitler attempted to silence Heartfield and his criticisms with an issue for his arrest in 1933. Heartfield escaped to Prague and settled there until Germany invaded Czechoslavakia in 1938. He then fled to Britain. Even the British were uncertain about supporting his art and for a while he was placed in an interment camp for “enemy aliens” (Paul Getty Museum)

His technique of photomontage was new and an effective way to respond to the political tension of the of Weimar republic. He said:

There are a lot of things that got me into working with photos. The main thing is that I saw both what was being said and not being said with photos in the newspapers… I found out how you can fool people with photos, really fool them… You can lie and tell the truth by putting the wrong title or wrong captions under them, and that’s roughly what was being done…”

Heartfield money

The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little Man Asks for Big Gifts, 1932
These montages parody Hitler’s most iconic poses, gestures, and symbols to create the impression that one need only to scratch the thin surface of Fascist propaganda to uncover its absurd reality.

Bertolt Brecht, a famous German playwright said of Heartfield:

‘John Heartfield is one of the most important European artists. He works in a field that he created himself, the field of photomontage. Through this new form of art he exercises social criticism. Steadfastly on the side of the working class, the unmasked the forces of the Weimar Republic driving toward war; driven into exile he fought against Hitler. The works of this great artist, which mainly appeared in the workers’ press , are regarded as classics by many, including the author.

View more of Heartfield’s images below:

Part 1-3 of a documentary Zygosis about John Heartfield

Choose an image that you find arresting and analyze this. Share your thoughts and reactions on your blog.

Read more about Heartfield here:


Agitated Images from J.Paul Getty Museum

Wikipedia article: John Heartfield

No Man is an Island

Questioning Children 1949 by Karel Appel 1921-2006Reflect on these words by John Donne from the 1624 Meditation 17.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Watch Jason Von Gederen’s short film :Mankind is no Island, winner of the 2008 Tropfest short film festival. This was shot entirely on cell phones.

How do these two texts, Donne’s Mediation and Von Gederen’s film, connect to the The Island by Armin Greder and The Blokes by Alan Gibbons? Reflect on the idea of ‘the stranger’, identity and difference in your blog. How do we look at difference?

How do we treat those with different customs?

How as a community ( at school) do we value originality and individuality? Or…  Do we seek to eliminate this?

Do we punish those who are different? How?

In exploring this read the poem by James Berry below:

What do we do with a Variation?

What do we do with a difference?
Do we stand and discuss its oddity or do we ignore it?
Do we shut our eyes to it or poke it with a stick?
Do we clobber it to death?
Do we move around it in rage
and enlist the rage of others?
Do we will it to go away?
Do we look at it in awe
or purely in wonderment?
Do we work for it to disappear?
Do we pass it stealthily
Or change route away from it?
Do we will it to become like ourselves?
What do we do with a difference?
Do we communicate to it,
let application acknowledge it
for barriers to fall down?

Image: The image above is entitled:Questioning Children by the Dutch artist Karel Appel. Click here for more information and other painters associated with Appel and the COBRA group. These painters attempted to create a liberating, childlike effect and feeling with their paintings as they threw off the restrictions of other art movements after the World War 2. I chose this image as the painting is in a new style- itself a difference, yet looking within, you see the individual differences of each questioning child. To me this painting is a celebration of difference.

Who are We?

Roy Plomley

Roy Plomley the creator of Desert Island Discs. Photo by John Downing from The GuardianSept13,2012

 Who am I? What shapes my   identity?

 Who are we as a classroom community?

 Desert Island Discs is a radio programme that has been running in the UK since 1942. Guests called “castaways” are invited to select the eight pieces of music they would take with them if cast away to a desert island and explain their musical choices. Listen to the some of the people interviewed and their musical selections. At the end of each interview we feel as if we know the “castaway”.

In order to understand one another in our humanities class, we will adapt the Desert Island Disc format. Each of you should select three pieces of music that are of significance to you. Perhaps the music/song reminds you of a moment in your life, or a place or a person. Make a list of music, that you would want to hear on your desert island, then narrow this down to three. Remember you may be on this island for a long time! What songs/ music will you take? What music inspires you? What music reminds you of family or places important to you? You must introduce each piece of music and explain its significance in your life.

Next try to think about what book (apart from Shakespeare and the bible/religious text) that you would want to take. What one luxury would you want to take and why? When we listen to each other’s choices we will be revealing a little more of our identity to one another in our classroom community. When we know one another, learn new things about each other, we realize that our identities are complex. We see that we are more than one aspect – such as nationality, gender, religion or race. We are more than a single aspect we have written on our identity charts. Each new discovery about each other is another potential point for establishing deeper connections with others in our class and for building trust and respect among one another as a community of learners.

Listen to Anthony Horrowitz, author of the Alex Rider series, and David Tennant, the Scottish actor who played the time lord Doctor Who brilliantly, discussing their musical choices and what shaped their identities.

Below are my selections if cast away. This was not easy narrowing down a lifetime of music to just three! Listen to my choices and the back stories as to why each piece:

Hold Fast to Dreams

 I love Langston Hughes’ poem Hold Fast to Dreams -hence the title for this blog. This poem suggests striving for an ideal, going beyond the ordinary to aspire for something greater than self. The truths in this poem ring true for so many of those upstanders who have found the moral courage and integrity ‘to hold fast to dreams’ of justice, fairness , equality and peace.This can be seen in the lines:

‘for if  dreams die

Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly …’ and

‘for when dreams go,

life is a barren field frozen with snow’

Upstanders are the people who go beyond their own needs and see the ‘humanness’ in others. This blog will shine a light on those upstanders whose values, choices and actions inspire us. You will be expected, as Facing History, Facing Ourselves suggests, to use ‘ your head and your heart’ to understand and reflect on the dilemmas and choices people both in the past and present have made and continue make to consider our year long questions : What do we value? How do we choose? When should difference matter?

Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967, was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance is the name given to the place and time when the arts- literature poetry and the music of jazz- flourished as African Americans flocked to New York. Through this creative explosion and political debate, a new proud identity as African Americans was being created. This pride became part of the momentum towards civil rights.

‘Through his (Hughes) poetry, novels, plays, essays, and children’s books, he promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice, and celebrated African American culture, humor, and spirituality.” (Library of Congress)

The image is from an Amnesty International poster They Cannot Muzzle the Light, 1980 (France) by the French artist Alain Carrier based on a quote by Victor Hugo: “You cannot muzzle the light” which has played into the sub-title of this blog.


“Langston Hughes – America’s Library.” 2009. 21 Nov. 2012 <http://www.americaslibrary.gov/aa/hughes/aa_hughes_subj.html>