Rumors play a vital part in the life of any trapped community whether they are in the trenches of World War I or the resistance of World War II. My last post gave examples of rumors that explained the sweeping arrests in Dutch-Paris in the late winter of 1944. Rumors, however, played a role in the line throughout its existence.

Here’s another example. In October 1943 John Henry Weidner traveled to Paris to create an escape line between the Netherlands and Switzerland. He intended to link up with other Dutch expatriate resisters in Paris. But when he met with a couple of Dutchmen who had been recommended to him as likely colleagues for the illegal undertaking, he found them to be timid and unwilling.

He found out a few days later that the men thought he was a German agent provocateur. They were as nervous as he thought, but for a different reason. They thought he was a traitor because a third Dutchman had told them that Weidner had caused someone’s arrest in Lyon. That was patently untrue, but in the absence of reliable information or communications the first rumor carried the most weight. Weidner sorted the problem out by asking the Dutch Red Cross representative to vouch for him.

The expatriates who had been so nervous about Weidner then completely threw caution to the wind. They invited just about everyone they could think of in the Dutch colony to a meeting to create a new Dutch resistance line. Talk about starting rumors. Disgusted, Weidner decided that he could not work with people who had no understanding of elementary safety precautions.