MY GERMAN PRISONERS
As the Allies progressed on their march to Paris and beyond, the relative
power of the Maquis and the Germans changed rapidly. In mid-August,
after the allied landing in St. Tropez, the Wehrmacht was trying to evacuate
the Southern Zone and became the hunted this time around. Some of
its soldiers ended up in our net and became our prisoners of war.
At this point, however, my task was not to take revenge. I felt
obliged to protect those men who had placed their lives into our hands,
and to preserve, if possible, their dignity as human beings.
For years, my purpose had been to fight Adolf Hitler and his hordes.
The time had come to establish the difference between the Nazis and the
Germans. The days of the Hitler clique, I knew, were numbered.
A new Germany had to emerge from the ruins of the Third Reich. We
had to help bring the Germans back into the community of nations, to prepare
for a day of reconciliation, to lay the foundation of a United Europe,
of a peace not based upon the humiliation of the vanquished, as at Versailles.
This new Europe, in which Germany, together with France, would play an
important part, had been our dream as young students in Grenoble.
The German prisoners of war would therefore be my first concrete test
of the Europe of tomorrow. I would try to convey the fact that Germany,
delivered from the Hitlerian nightmare, had a place in the future of Europe,
beginning even then, in the waning months of 1944.
THE PRISONERS OF WAR IN LASALLE
This initial experience of the Europe of tomorrow and my first German
prisoners came in the late days of August, in a mountain meadow not far
from Lasalle. Into our hands fell a group of thirty soldiers, their
Command Car, an anti-aircraft gun, and a large truck loaded with supplies.
They had left the Toulouse air base only two days after the Allied landing
in St. Tropez, but had become separated from the main convoy during an
attack by the Maquis. A silk scarf was their only map.
It had been taken, apparently, from an American airman. It showed
all of France, with portions of the Swiss and Spanish frontiers enlarged.
It did not indicate