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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


approached Denis, still bound to the tree, unconscious.  They untied him, shoved his heavy body into their car, and departed with a roar.  The funeral could proceed, as I had stipulated.  I required the hearse to take the long way around, in front of the church.  I even had the procession stop in front of the church, contrary to custom, for a minute of silent prayer, so as more emphatically to establish the legitimacy of my ultimatum.  By this time, the crowd had dispersed and nothing was left on the plaza to remind us of the ugly scene of barely ten minutes before.

The Maquis kept Monsieur Denis for two more days and had him executed by a firing squad on Wednesday.  There was no priest, there were no last rites, there was no visit from his wife.  Martial law was applied with the utmost rigor.

Several years later, on one of my return visits to Lasalle after the war, my friends the Souliers transmitted the message that Madame Denis wanted to see me.  The home was decorated with all sorts of Vietnamese vases and other artifacts which they had collected during Monsieur Denis' stay as a colonial administrator.  Madame Denis was deeply moved as she expressed her appreciation for what I had done for her husband during those difficult days.  At the end of our meeting, during which I protested that I certainly had not done much, she told me that she wanted to provide me with a tangible souvenir of my action.  Anything in her house that I would want to choose would be mine.  Any object, large or small that would please me would be her gift to me in remembrance of her husband.  Carpets, large vases, sculptures, and armoires, were among these objects.  None of them had any value for me, still a student and bound, by then, for America.  I thus chose from among the objects offered a small traveling secretary of drawers, made of tropical wood, which has never left me in the many years since.  It even sits today on top of the Empire bookcase in my office.  In a secret drawer is a photograph of Monsieur Denis, on which the dates of his arrest and of his death are inscribed.


With the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the attitude of the Lasalle Maquisards changed radically.  They no longer felt that their role should be confined to the distant mountains.  They decided that the time had come to assert themselves in Lasalle itself and to make clear that this territory, which they had controlled for so long, really belonged to the French resistance.  On June 8th the Maquis moved from their earlier location in the mountains to the castle of Cornelly, at the entrance to Lasalle.  Seen from the London perspective, they were courageously opening the second front behind the German lines.

The population of Lasalle welcomed the arrival of the Maquis at Cornelly.  The end of the occupation was in sight.  The Allies were advancing, and soon a breakthrough would occur that would force the Germans to abandon the South.  Hope was kindled anew.

What few of us realized, however, was the gravity of that move, seen from the German side.  The Maquis' arrival at Cornelly was for them tantamount to the