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  • Archives Category

    3rd Nov

    I am happy to report that the Dutch translation of my book on Dutch-Paris has arrived from the printers. Many thanks to Maarten Eliasar, Hélène Lesger and the rest of the production team for the terrific job they did with the translation, the copy editing, the illustrations and all the details that have made it […]

    29th Sep

    Rescuing the Documents

    A curious thing happened during the liberation of European cities 71 years ago. Among the massacres, the vengeance and the rejoicing, citizens rushed to save documents from burning buildings. There’s footage of it in the British newsreel of the liberation of Belgium posted on the website of the city of Brussels [http://www.brussels.be/artdet.cfm/5562]. Whenever the German […]

    18th Aug

    In the last post I mentioned the escape and evasion reports of Allied aviators who crashed in occupied territory, evaded arrest and made their way back to England. Such men did not just hitch a ride back to their base and report for duty. First they answered a whole lot of questions about what happened […]

    6th Dec

    If your father or grandfather crossed the Pyrenees illegally during the war, could you recreate his route? You could probably figure out the general path from the documents, but unless he himself made the effort to figure out where he’d been in the dark and wrote it down, you are unlikely to be able to […]

    14th Oct

    No matter how obsessive an historian is about her research, no matter how many archives she visits or how many thousands of documents she reads, some details will be lost or confused. That’s an obvious thing to say about something that happened in, say, the 1700’s, but it is also true for events that happened […]

    30th Sep

    An historian can find unexpected treasures in an archive. Usually that means a paper trail leading to an unknown event or unsuspected person. But sometimes the unexpected thing involves the actual physical document. For example, when I was looking for German reports on the arrests of Dutch-Paris agents in the French Archives nationales in Paris, […]

    29th Apr

    A word of caution to family historians and student researchers who are looking for resisters in the archives (see my posts of 23 December 2013, 18 February 2014 and 4 March 2014). Not all the documents in the archives are the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In the first place, very few individuals […]

    18th Mar

    Sierk Plantinga, a retired archivist from the Dutch Nationaal Archief, has sent me a welcome correction to my last two posts (18 February and 4 March, 2014) about finding refugees in the archives. No one knows more about the archives about Dutch people in France during WWII than he does. Sierk tells me, and I […]

    4th Mar

    In the last post we talked about the probability of finding documents about a family’s legal journey out of Occupied Europe in government archives. The chances are slim to none. But in the other and far more likely scenario that the family in question travelled from The Netherlands to Portugal illegally, the chances of finding […]

    18th Feb

    A reader wrote to me about his attempts to reconstruct his family’s flight from Occupied Europe. As I’ve mentioned before, that’s somewhat like looking for a needle that may or may not be in a haystack. Something the reader said made me think that it might be useful to return to the subject of archives, […]