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"The Innocents Within"
by Robert Daley

Reviews posted on Amazon.com

Customer comments posted on Amazon.com

Excerpt posted on Amazon.com

Nelly Trocmé Hewett's Letter to the New York Times (unpublished)

Oct. 30, 1999

The photograph of author Robert Daley meditating in front of the graves of the Trocmé family dismayed me, as did Alan Riding’s article* (Arts pages, Oct. 27) on Daley’s book-promoting pseudo-pilgrimage to the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, the village where I grew up while it was serving as a haven of refuge during World War II.

Daley’s novel, “The Innocents Within,” shamelessly exploits this true story of idealism and action that took place in central France, a story that has come to symbolize many other acts of courage that did indeed take place in France in 1940-44, despite France’s otherwise sorry record during those times.  In my view, the novel also desecrates the memory of the residents of the Vivarais-Lignon plateau, as well as the memory of my parents, pastor André Trocmé and Magda Trocmé.

In an author’s note at the end of the book, the novelist states that the book “is a work of fiction”—which indeed it is.  But unfortunately, he goes on to assert that his story is based in reality, even identifying the village and people by name, and lingering on the medals received from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Daley wants it both ways: the unrestricted freedom to throw together all the entirely fictionalized ingredients of a mass-market best-seller—and the reflected limelight of history.  What reality there is in his book consists mostly of anecdotes taken from Philip Hallie’s 1979 study “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed,” a source he acknowledges, though Daley does not acknowledge what he borrows from Pierre Sauvage’s excellent 1989 documentary, “Weapons of the Spirit,” hosted on P.B.S. by Bill Moyers.  Instead, Daley boasts that “there may be more truth” in his novel than in “the one or two ‘nonfiction’ accounts so far written.”

If Mr. Daley must write such novels as this, peopled with brutal or self-centered fanatics, with air force aces and dreary non-entities, he might at least have the decency not to sully the memory of real people, places, and events.  He leaves the reader with a sorry impression of his disregard for the courage of many and the suffering of countless others.

Nelly Trocmé Hewett 

*Such a photograph accompanied the article as printed, but was not used on the New York Times' online version of the article, to which there is a link above.

Rudy Appel's post on Amazon.com:

N.B.  Rudy Appel was himself a young Jewish refugee in Le Chambon during the war.

In the author's notes, at the end of this book, the author states clearly that this is a work of fiction but based on events that happened at "that time and in that place."  However, if it's based on events why was it necessary to distort those events, to distort the characters of the main players, Pastor Andre and Magda Trocmé, and to invent situations that absolutely did not take place?

Borrowing from the book written by Professor Hallie in 1979, "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed" and from Pierre Sauvage's excellent documentary film of 1989, "Weapons Of The Spirit", the author takes his story from these two important sources without the elementary courtesy of giving credit to them. Could he have not done more of his "homework" by speaking to the many witnesses still alive in France, U.S. and Israel, the documents available in Le Chambon itself, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, at Swarthmore University and most prominently at the Chambon Foundation in Los Angeles? He apparently thought that he knew better.

Adding sex and violence to the place "where 5000 Christians saved 5000 Jews", does not add anything positive to the true events. If the author tried to make the book "as accurate as I could make it," he has a strange notion of what accuracy is. Completely baffling is his remark that this book "may have more truth in it than the non-fiction accounts so far written," almost an Orwellian concept. The way the book ends is absolutely ridiculous and desecrates the memory of Pastor Trocmé.

The events that took place in Le Chambon during World War II, are one of the moral mysteries of that time and a profound lesson to all of us about what can happen, when Christians apply Christian doctrines to their everyday lives. This story did not need rescuing from oblivion by Robert Daley

Alice M. Hoffman's post on Amazon.com:

"The Innocents Within" exploits a true story of idealistic pacifism that took place in central France during the Nazi occupation.  The true story is one of dedication and heroism on the part of the Protestant pastors and their congregations in rescuing thousands of refugees.

The author describes the book as a novel, but then in the Author's Note at the conclusion of the book he states that the novel is based on historical fact and he names André Trocmé and his wife Magda as the models for the characters he calls Andre Favert and his wife Norma. He also cites the name of the village: Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.  I knew the Trocmés and some of the individuals described who while not named can nonetheless be easily identified.  The portrayal of the assistant pastor as a mere follower of the pastor is an example.  The assistant pastor in reality was a man of profound religious and social conviction as well as a gifted educator.

In my view, the most troubling aspect of the novel is the portrayal of the pastor as a man who lost his faith due to the Nazi terror and was never able wholly to believe in anything again (p. 339 and 352).  In fact, André Trocmé spent his life working for pacifism.  In the post war period, he served as the head of the European section of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a pacifist organization.  Both he and the congregation he served in Le Chambon had an abiding belief in their obligation to try to do good in this world and in the midst of terrible evil they held goodness aloft like a torch which remains a beacon to this day.  That is the fundamental reason to preserve the story as it happened and not as a flawed fiction.

Daley asserts in the Author's Note that "there may be more truth in it [his novel] than in the nonfiction accounts so far written"  The mixture of stock fictionalized characters such as the downed American pilot and the ensuing romance with a beautiful Jewish refugee with the real people and events is a hazardous business indeed.

It is possible to gain a true insight into the nature of the religious faith of André Trocmé by reading a little book of Christmas fables and allegories which he told to the children in his parish during the war.  These stories have been translated by his daughter, Nelly Trocmé Hewett under the title "Angels and Donkeys" published by the Good Books Press in 1998.

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