I had the great honor and privilege to meet a woman who sheltered refugees in her attic on the French side of the Swiss border. Her husband, we’ll call him Jean, smuggled papers over the border for Dutch-Paris on his daily bicycle rides to the university in Geneva. He also guided fugitives over that same border, although by a different path.

Jean’s wife and children very graciously drove me around the border to show me where he crossed the border both openly and covertly. There were two official border crossings that he used regularly until the Italians took away his pass. The photo below shows the border between Croix-de-Rozon, Switzerland, and Collonges-sous-Saleve, France.   Jean used to take the line’s mail across there to the post office in  Croix-de-Rozon.  A French customs official once saved him there by warning him that the Germans were strip-searching everyone in that cream building to the left.

Franco-Swiss border today

There was also an unofficial crossing point. Jean and his guests of the day would stand under a bridge near the train station in Archamps, France, waiting for the border patrol to pass over them on the road above. The refugees would then run across the field. The trees line the small river that is the Franco-Swiss border. The fugitives would cross the river and make their way up the hill, through a double row of barbed wire put there by the Swiss. Once they had made it past the water tower, they were presumed safe. They certainly weren’t safe just because they’d crossed the river. Jean himself once watched in horror as a German patrol shot one of the men he’d been helping after the man had crossed into Switzerland and was climbing up the hill.

border at Archamps