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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


heavy South German, from Baden-Württemberg, showed me with melancholy the photographs of his wife and children.  He dreaded being sent to the Russian Front and told me that he would certainly love to remain in France.  I ignored the hint, as I did not know any unit which could have handled a German deserter.  We parted amicably after a last glass of wine.

In November 1943, in the last days of Stalingrad, we noted a large troop movement at the railroad yard.  White-painted tanks were being loaded on flatcars in broad daylight.  Trucks and artillery followed.  It was a magnificent show of departure for the Russian front - so magnificent that it did not seem real.  By nightfall all the material had departed, ostensibly to the North.  Yet, two days later, we found trucks with the same regimental markings as before in the streets of Montpellier.  They also showed, in some of the cracks of the wood, remnants of whitewash, recently removed.  The Germans had put on a beautiful show for our benefit, hoping that we would signal the reinforcements sent from the South of France.  We were honored by this attention from the German Kommandantur, but we also canceled the report we had made about the departure of the tanks, trucks, and howitzers, and sent notice that the Baden-Württemberg regiment had returned to the barracks.


Only once during the year and a half of our underground activity did we ever get a red alert.

We employed several young students to distribute our cards and anti-Pétain tracts.  These boys did not arouse suspicion, being only about fifteen years of age.  One of them was Jean, from a small town to the north of Montpellier and a pensioner at the Lycée.  We employed him on weekends, when he could get away from the school.  Though Jean had absolutely no need for a false identity card, he had persuaded René to give him one.  We had asked Jean not to use it, and he had agreed.  But he carried this forged document around in his wallet!

One Saturday afternoon, Jean left the seminary through the main entrance and walked down the narrow alley to the Boulevard Renouvier below.  He had with him some tracts, but fortunately, nothing else.  For right below the seminary, on the Boulevard, stood a policeman who had apparently no duties other than checking identities.  He asked Jean for his card.  Jean showed him his authentic one.  Looking into Jean's wallet, however, the cop found the other card.  Jean had to admit it was a fake, and was dragged off to the precinct, where they discovered the tracts in his briefcase.  Then Jean panicked:  The cop had seen him coming down through the alley from the seminary!  Wouldn't it be logical for the police to organize a search of the seminary?  Were the policemen already on the way?  How could he advise us of the imminent danger?

Thus Jean sat in his cell, with his head in his hands, crying softly.  An older policeman, strolling by, inquired about his troubles.  This was the opportunity Jean