Part 9

The war lasted more than five years and the situation for the Germans became always more critical. The American army had landed in France; they drove the Germans back to their country and soon they were near to us. We were waiting eagerly their coming. One night they were fighting not far from us; the whole night the roaring of cannons held us awake. The following morning the Germans came, fleeing the American troops and they stopped in our parish. They would make from the hill on which the town was situated, a new battlefield and soon a row of cannons had been arranged to receive their enemies. They came also to my church to put telephone connections but I asked them to spare my church and to my surprise, they went away without saying my a word.

First two planes from the Americans came to bombard them. They threw some bombs but they were received with a hail of bullets and one of them was touched but it returned back safely, it seemed to me on the ground a truck with ammunitions exploded. There were wounded and perhaps also deads among the Germans. Now they packed hastily together and continued their flight back to their country. Amazingly no one house had been touched by the bombs of the planes.

 I thought that we were free and I took my bicycle to visit a farm that was far from the town to see if all was there all right. One of my parishioners warned me,"Take care, take care Father, there are always some Germans", but I did not so and arrived at the main street. There was a group of Germans who had not could take a seat in the trucks and were forced to remain abandoned. I was stopped by them and told them that I was going to see my parishioner, but they thought that it was the Americans to give report of what had happened. They put me against the wall of a house with a soldier before me threatening me with his rifle. There were two different officers of whom one was sympathetic against me and the other not at all. They talked between them and decided that one of them would take me and go in the direction of their troops. It was the sympathetic officer who took me with some six soldiers, probably to shot me after having left the town, but passing the street that led to my church I asked the officer, "What will you do with me?" He asked me, "From where are you?" "I am the pastor here and this is my church", was my answer. "Go away!"he said to me. I went with the thought to receive a bullet into my head, but nothing passed. I was again home and went not out until the following morning. Then the last Germans had disappeared and we were prepared to receive the Americans with jubilation.

Now that I was free I began to think of returning to my diocese of Arras. Soon a setter came from there claiming to come back to my diocese. I would go back on motorbicycle. I had bought an old one; it was not always working well, but there was in my parish a mechanic who did not know how to read or how to write, but a genius in repairing motors. He put it every time in order to go where I would go... Mons. Lefebvre was not more in the diocese; he had become a cardinal. This made it easier to leave the diocese of Troyes.

Thus back on motorbicycle. Now the police was seeking Germans who trued to escape in plain clothing. Inderway I was stopped by them to go on motorbicycle was not easy. Petrol was very scarce during the war, but with a certificate of the diocese I obtained what I needed. But I had always conserved my Dutch accent when talking French and this made me suspect. I passed in the eyes of the police for a hidden German. Happily I knew the phone number of the diocese of Troyes and this saved me knowing that I was a true priest the police excused themselves and let me free to return to Arras.

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