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Herbert Steinschneider


Phil Steinschneider


Council had wanted investigated.  Listening to the officers, I learned that the ranking chaplain was a Colonel in the Chaplain Corps, an unrepentant Nazi, who preached sermons on blood and race, and envisioned the resurgence of the defeated regime in the near future.  He himself had not yet seen the wreckage in Germany or the ravages visited down to the last German soldier.  He would understand later.

I arranged with the Camp Commander to have this chaplain relieved of his functions and to have a Lieutenant, who had been active in the Confessing Church, replace him.

The supplies in the officers' camp, I found, were meager but adequate.  It was in the enlisted men's camp that corruption had brought malnutrition and death.  As soon as I had gathered those responsible for the church activities, which were also directed by the officers of the neighboring camp, I heard reports of a catastrophic supply situation.  In the infirmary I found half-a-dozen soldiers in the last stages of malnutrition.  The doctor confirmed to me that there was a death almost every other day.  This was equal to five percent of the camp population in a year - a lower death rate than in the German concentration camps, but intolerable in a civilized country.

Back in Millau there was no time to be lost.  Early the next morning I stormed into the office of the Préfet, whom I knew to be a man of the Résistance placed there by de Gaulle.  I told him of the scandalous conditions I had found at the Larzac camp, and asked him if he thought France could afford to have these men on its conscience, as we condemned so forcefully the Nazi inhumanity.  The Préfet, just as shocked as I was by the news, invited me to come with him to the Larzac camps the next day on a surprise visit.  The trip was faster in a limousine of the Préfecture, and my role was simply to trail the official party.  After a visit to the infirmary the Préfet dressed down the camp's commandant in a private session, while the rest of the party waited near the cars.  He promised to come back soon and to check again for improvements.

The commandant placed the blame on the supply sergeants.  The Préfet ordered him to fire them and to get new ones, or to face a court martial, which he would be able to initiate through his contacts in Paris.  On the way back to Millau, he charged his Chef de Cabinet to follow up on the affair and to report to him on his progress.

As I left Millau only days later, I was not able to remain involved in the reform of the camp.  Yet I believe that my intervention must have saved a number of lives, the lives of German soldiers no longer condemned to starvation thanks to the personal intervention of the Préfet.


In 1947 the French authorities established a special prison camp in Montpellier.  It was to house the students of a German Protestant theological seminary, whose diplomas would be recognized by the German universities.  This