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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


clearly, however, the mountainous areas or their winding roads.  Thus, the small convoy had attempted to cut straight through the Cévennes in order to reach the Rhone valley near Valence, and had ended up in a mountain cul de sac, trapped.

Deeply discouraged, and separated from their commanding officers, these air force "crawlers" - as we called them in French - were ready to give up.  They had picked up some of the leaflets dropped by the RAF, which guaranteed the bearer safety if he surrendered to the Maquis.

When I arrived at the scene, civilians were already swarming around, as were a few armed Maquisards who, though the Germans had no intention of resisting, kept them under close surveillance.  The German sergeant, in charge of the group, was eager to relay his men's request to surrender and to find out whether the leaflets had told the truth.  I assured him they had, and that he and his men would be treated properly as prisoners of war.  Upon learning about the American silk map, which had brought them to their mountain impasse, I confiscated it immediately.  It has remained one of my prized possessions ever since.  It was only then that I was told about two wounded men who were on the truck, one with a flesh wound in his arm, the other with a bullet in his thigh, which had broken the bone.  As the leaders of the Maquis arrived, I introduced the German sergeant to them and placed the German contingent into their hands as prisoners of war.

Since the lowlands were still crawling with fleeing Germans, and skirmishes were a daily occurrence beyond our mountains, we could not evacuate our prisoners toward Nîmes.  So, we marched everybody down to Lasalle's elementary school, which was transformed into a prisoner-of-war camp.  I made sure that the wounded received treatment, though we were unable to take the man with the broken leg to a hospital, and had to put the leg in a cast ourselves and hope for the best.  I saw this man more than the other prisoners.  He was a painter from Bad Gastein, in Austria, and a devout Catholic.  Trying to keep up his morale, I spent hours at his bedside.

Another prisoner had a Leica camera, which I took into temporary custody, though everybody advocated that I keep it.  I returned it to the owner when he was transferred to a more permanent prisoner-of-war camp.  No doubt somebody there would confiscate the Leica for good, but I refused to take another person's property, even if he was a German prisoner of war.  I did keep the American map, though, since it was U.S. government issue and had never really belonged to the Germans.

A number of years after the war I received a touching letter from Mr.  Petutschnigg, the painter from Bad Gastein, who thanked me for what I had done for him during his illness in Lasalle.  He told me that in spite of his shorter leg he was working at his trade and invited me to come and see him in his home, but Bad Gastein was not on the routes of my travels in Europe, and I lost track of him some years later.


My second contact with German prisoners was more purposeful and in line