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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


individual who would not break under pressure.

We devised a test for possible new members:  We would send the prospect on a "dangerous mission" and observe his reactions carefully.

One time, we tested a university student who was not a member of the seminary proper, but who boarded there.  We told him that we had to undertake a dangerous transport from Montpellier to a small town twenty miles to the west.  A suitcase filled with dynamite was to be carried from the seminary by train to the first stop in the direction of Toulouse, and there, left outside the station in a pre-arranged spot.  We sent one of our group ahead by bicycle, to recover the piece of luggage.  René packed the suitcase, in which he placed a few books and lots of newspapers.  We then asked our applicant to take the suitcase to the appointed place.

He started on foot from the seminary, with two of us in pursuit.  Everything went well until the railroad station, which was well lit and full of people.  Looking in through the doors we saw him become more and more pale; a lonely German soldier, paying attention to nothing, seemed to scare our candidate out of his wits, and he moved to the other side of the hall to avoid him.  Then, suddenly, he panicked.  Abandoning the suitcase in a corner, he bolted for the door, which he threw open almost in the faces of his clandestine observers.  He ran back to the seminary at a pace which would have made him the envy of any long distance runner.  All we had to do was recover the suitcase and walk home.  We never mentioned the event to any one, least of all to our applicant, who never renewed his request to be part of our operation.


Soon enough another organization, which was, most probably, the British Intelligence Service, asked for our cooperation.  They wanted to know everything we could possibly find out about the German units stationed in Montpellier.  I have no idea how this information was transmitted or who centralized it.  All I know is that we gathered the information and that it was sent on.  At that time discretion was a cardinal virtue; we never asked questions.  When people ask me, "I know somebody who was in the Resistance in France, have you met him [or her]?" I invariably answer:  "I certainly did not know anyone in the Résistance outside of our limited nucleus."

It was not healthy, at that time, to know or to be known by too many people engaged in underground activities.

In order to gather the needed intelligence we were given a crash course in the insignia of the Wehrmacht and in the regimental markings of both the uniforms and the vehicles.  Our superiors even encouraged us to fraternize with the German contingent in Montpellier, in order to obtain information about the regional origin of the unit (Wehrkreis) and about the morale of the troops.  Some of us therefore frequented, but not too often, in order not to rouse any suspicion, some of the bars where German soldiers were hanging out.  One of my contacts one evening, a wine-