|real gains. The
inhabitants of Lasalle spoke openly of the uncanny resemblance of the Maquisards,
the freedom fighters of 1944, to the Camisards, the freedom fighters of
The Maquis had its headquarters
somewhere up in the mountains. All we saw of it were the large black
limousines (Citroën 11s, Front Wheel Drive) onto which the Maquisards
would hang for dear life as they raced through Lasalle, their Bren guns
at the ready.
There had been an incursion
by a German column only once, a few weeks before my arrival. The
Gestapo, aided by a lightly armed column, had taken Lasalle by surprise,
intending to arrest half a dozen Résistants, most of them members
of the church, along with their Pastor, Georges Crespy. Georges and
Aline, living far down the street, had been warned in time to escape.
But most of the others were arrested in their houses and taken away.
Every one of them was killed in the German concentration camps, as we found
out after the war. When the Maquisards had arrived to defend their
comrades, the Germans had already disappeared, but everybody believed that
this was better for Lasalle and the Maquis, whose men had no training in
street combat. Had they arrived in time they would have been cut
to pieces, and civilian casualties would have been high. Their rickety
Bren guns, which had the habit of jamming at the worst moments, were no
match for the precision-made machine pistols of the Wehrmacht.
There were to be three
more German incursions into the small town of Lasalle during my tenure
as pastor. At each one of them I was to be, by a quirk of fate, in
the front lines of the encounter.
A RIDE WITH THE GESTAPO
A special friendship linked
me to the family of Aimé Soulier, whose hospitality for the pastors
of Lasalle was proverbial. His generosity knew no bounds. When
the church or the mission budget could not be met, he simply sold one of
his houses in the nearby city of St. Hippolyte and balanced the budget
with the proceeds. I found out about this only many years later.
Aimé was unassuming, always ready to be of service, and it was at
his house and through his experience that I learned a number of the necessary
details about the parish and how to tackle some of its problems.
The Souliers lived at the
very entrance of Lasalle, in a large square farm house, where the roads
to St. Hippolyte and Alès met the road leading into the town, just
below Cornelly, whose four massive towers dominated the crossroads.
Their only son, Jean, had just passed the university entrance exam in a
school where Greek and Latin were the required languages. We had
agreed that the best way to keep these dead languages alive was to read
some texts, such as Plutarch and the Greek New Testament, and to enjoy
translating and commenting on the texts. We indulged often in this
kind of exercise and I spent many a morning or afternoon with Jean and
our texts. Madame Soulier would often pretend that the food at the