|would be carried in his
wallet, but the other information would be contained on an apparently blank
piece of paper hidden in the shaft of a fountain pen. Heated carefully
over the flame of a candle, this would reveal the name, birth date, and
other information necessary to produce a French identity card, as well
as the date, the train compartment, and the hour of the rendezvous.
Once the card was produced,
a member of our group, usually Jacques Soulier, a first year student at
the seminary, would take the train to Annemasse on the Swiss frontier.
He would there board the train for Toulouse, where he would find, in the
designated compartment, a man, sleeping in a corner, with his Fedora pulled
over his eyes. The mystery man would often wear a bandage around
his neck, clearly indicating that he had recently been operated on for
some ailment near the vocal cords, and might thus be "unable" to speak.
Our courier would slide, as unobtrusively as possible, the identity card
into the man's coat pocket, and retreat discreetly into the neighboring
compartment, keeping an occasional eye on the sleeping man next door by
passing in the corridor, especially after identity checks, which occurred
at least twice on the day-long trip. In Toulouse we were to make
sure that the traveler was met by another agent. Only once did I
undertake the courier service from Annemasse to Toulouse, in the totally
uneventful escort of a young, Anglo-Saxon-looking man, who I believed was
an American Air Force officer. Our forgeries had improved to such
an extent that they could pass any inspection on the spot. They could
not have passed a more thorough check at the supposed authority of origin,
but we hoped that this would never happen. That could have led the
Gestapo, through torture and other means, to our forger's lair. Living
dangerously was part of our daily routine.
Not all our missions went
so smoothly as mine. Once one of our men and his charge were trapped
by a German razzia in the Lyons railroad station, where the train had been
diverted because of a bombing on the tracks between Grenoble and Valence.
Everybody was herded into an underground passage and let out only after
a search for weapons. Our agent counted three abandoned guns on the
floor on his way out. But since the search was for weapons, identities
were checked only in a perfunctory manner. Our Allied charge passed
the control with flying colors.
AN ACID TEST
As our work expanded, other
students became aware of the effort and were interested in helping in one
way or another. Their help was not needed, but it was always good
to be able to count on reserves. We could indeed take someone on
board, we agreed. But it had to be somebody who would react responsibly,
especially when the chips were down, as our instructions were explicit:
If arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo, we were to kill ourselves
by any available means rather than reveal names and activities under torture.
We were looking for the cool