A small handful of the men and women who risked their lives in their early 20’s as part of Dutch-Paris returned to the crusade to preserve humanitarian values in their retirement. Fortunately, Europe was not once again under occupation. But they felt that young people did not understand what had happened in World War II and, more importantly, that it could happen again. So they gave interviews to oral historians about their roles in the Resistance or they gave lectures about it, mostly to student groups.

One of them, a Dutchman whom we’ll call Frits, acted as a passeur. He smuggled many people, including Jews and Engelandvaarders (young men wanting to join the Allied military) over the border from the Netherlands to Belgium and often all the way to Brussels. He also carried documents back into the Netherlands and sometimes brought the luggage of people who could not carry their own suitcases as they sprinted through the border zone.

Fritz stressed that he and his colleagues were rank amateurs. They were university students who didn’t like what was going on and were willing to do something about it. He and his friends thought about carrying guns but decided against it because, to begin with, they didn’t know how to shot them. More persuasively, if the Germans caught you with a gun they would execute you. There was always a chance that you could talk your way out of an awkward situation, unless you were caught in possession of a weapon.

In his opinion, what made a passeur successful was luck and attitude. It was important, Fritz believed, to always look as if nothing was going on. So when he crossed the border into Belgium, he smoked a cigarette as if he had no worries at all. One time when extra patrols blocked his clandestine route, Fritz sauntered up to the local police post and asked if he could sleep on the floor for the night. They said he could without asking him any questions. It probably didn’t occur to them that a “criminal” (as resisters were considered at the time) would put himself in their hands. And the Germans didn’t think to look for criminals in the lobby of the police station. It was a brilliant example of hiding in plain sight.

Obviously not everyone can achieve that level of sang-froid and sheer audacity. And Frits didn’t think everyone could. The advice he most stressed when talking to young people was that they need a social circle they can trust. It’s not important that the group live near each other, but it is important that they each be willing to stick their hand in the fire for the others.

Without small groups who could depend on each other in the most dangerous of situations like Frits and his university friends, Dutch-Paris could never have existed.