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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


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.


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