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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


Marcelin, five kilometers away in the Isère valley.  They were the real thing, made exclusively of goat's milk, and not, as too often now, with a mixture of goat's and cow's milk.  Her cheeses, which began as large heaps of white curd, were left to dry for a long time in an open frame with fly screens on all sides.  After three or four weeks these globs turned into extremely pungent cheeses, hard as rocks, a quarter of an inch high, and not bigger than a silver dollar.  Only rarely is one able to procure such delights now, for a debased public taste demands pasteurized and processed goat products which look and taste much like cream cheese.


Our idyllic life on the farm came abruptly to an end on May 10, 1940.  The Germans had attacked Belgium, going around the Maginot Line.  The war was now on in earnest.  We were shipped north toward the front.  From Chambaran, where we had been hastily assembled, we were loaded into requisitioned passenger railroad cars and told to stop the German advance with our World-War-I guns.  Leaving the Isère region on the 17th, we did not get far.  A few miles north of Angers, on the Loire, at a military camp near Meslay, we heard that there was no need to go any farther, since the Germans were coming toward us.  There was no longer a line of defense, though some were speaking about resisting on the Loire.  We were told to retreat as best we could, toward Angers, about forty kilometers to the south.  No trucks were available.  We would have to go on foot.

After marching a whole day in the searing heat and most of the night as well, we disobeyed our Captain, who wanted us to reach Angers before daybreak.  Throwing ourselves to the ground in a field next to the road hidden by a large hedge, we slept until dawn.  During the night, two German motorcycle scouts with machine guns on their sidecars passed on the road only a few feet away from us.  We did not see them, nor did they see us.  The usual spearheading tanks did not materialize.  They were probably diverted to Les Ponts-de-Cé on the Loire, where a battle was in progress.

Soon after daybreak we arrived at the outskirts of Angers, which was defended by two farm carts drawn across the road, with a rusted pistol lying on one of them.  The people, who had seen the German sidecars drive into town, told us that the Germans would most likely secure the railroad station, as they had inquired about this objective in particular.  Since the scouts had not been followed by any stronger detachment, our Captain decided to make a run for the station to see if we could escape by train.  Leading us to the railroad yard, he commandeered ten cattle cars and a yard engine.  While loading our equipment into the cars, some of us noticed that the freight train on the next track was loaded with wheels of Roquefort and, a little farther down, two cisterns of red wine.  We took our fill of both, leaving some of our men behind, drunk under the opened spigots.

Pulling out of the station, we could hear bombs and artillery fire to our left, from the Bridges of Cé, where the Cadets of Saint Cyr took a stand with a few rifles