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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


real gains.  The inhabitants of Lasalle spoke openly of the uncanny resemblance of the Maquisards, the freedom fighters of 1944, to the Camisards, the freedom fighters of 1708.

The Maquis had its headquarters somewhere up in the mountains.  All we saw of it were the large black limousines (Citroën 11s, Front Wheel Drive) onto which the Maquisards would hang for dear life as they raced through Lasalle, their Bren guns at the ready.

There had been an incursion by a German column only once, a few weeks before my arrival.  The Gestapo, aided by a lightly armed column, had taken Lasalle by surprise, intending to arrest half a dozen Résistants, most of them members of the church, along with their Pastor, Georges Crespy.  Georges and Aline, living far down the street, had been warned in time to escape.  But most of the others were arrested in their houses and taken away.  Every one of them was killed in the German concentration camps, as we found out after the war.  When the Maquisards had arrived to defend their comrades, the Germans had already disappeared, but everybody believed that this was better for Lasalle and the Maquis, whose men had no training in street combat.  Had they arrived in time they would have been cut to pieces, and civilian casualties would have been high.  Their rickety Bren guns, which had the habit of jamming at the worst moments, were no match for the precision-made machine pistols of the Wehrmacht. 

There were to be three more German incursions into the small town of Lasalle during my tenure as pastor.  At each one of them I was to be, by a quirk of fate, in the front lines of the encounter.


A special friendship linked me to the family of Aimé Soulier, whose hospitality for the pastors of Lasalle was proverbial.  His generosity knew no bounds.  When the church or the mission budget could not be met, he simply sold one of his houses in the nearby city of St. Hippolyte and balanced the budget with the proceeds.  I found out about this only many years later.  Aimé was unassuming, always ready to be of service, and it was at his house and through his experience that I learned a number of the necessary details about the parish and how to tackle some of its problems.

The Souliers lived at the very entrance of Lasalle, in a large square farm house, where the roads to St. Hippolyte and Alès met the road leading into the town, just below Cornelly, whose four massive towers dominated the crossroads.  Their only son, Jean, had just passed the university entrance exam in a school where Greek and Latin were the required languages.  We had agreed that the best way to keep these dead languages alive was to read some texts, such as Plutarch and the Greek New Testament, and to enjoy translating and commenting on the texts.  We indulged often in this kind of exercise and I spent many a morning or afternoon with Jean and our texts.  Madame Soulier would often pretend that the food at the hotel