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  • Archives Category

    23rd Dec

    A number of readers have asked me about their relatives who were involved in Dutch escape lines during the war. So in this season when we think about our families, I offer to everyone the advice I’ve given to them. First, please remember that I do not use anyone’s true name in this blog except […]

    20th Aug

    In the last post I said that two categories of government agencies started collecting the history of the Resistance immediately after the war. The first were those bureaucracies charged with distributing pensions, medical benefits and the like to resisters. Before disbursing any money, however, they first established each resister’s bona fides. Those files are a […]

    6th Aug

    Although resisters did not, as a rule, keep records during the war, various government agencies rushed to create files on them immediately after the war. These agencies fell into two groups: those interested in organizing information for the sake of dispensing money and those interested in figuring out what went on during the war. The […]

    25th Jun

    The Couriers’ Expense Reports

    Money was as critical for Resistance as it is for almost everything else. But for the most part resisters did not keep careful accounts of it. Most resisters did not have the time or the means or a safe way to keep accounts. After all, receipts and expense sheets could be used as incriminating evidence […]

    11th Jun

    The Eleventh Man

    Like detectives, historians try never to rely on only one witness to an event. Everyone sees things from their own perspective, and very few people ever have all the information. So we look for as many documents as possible and piece together the story as best we can. In the case of Dutch-Paris, the documents […]

    7th Mar

    Although, as an historian, I remain astounded by the vast amount of documentation about Dutch-Paris now available in various archives, a lay person could be forgiven for thinking that rather a lot of the details have been lost. For example, the details of how, exactly, the pastor recruited a café owner to act as a […]

    7th Jul

    The Trail of Names

    Because there’s no written history of Dutch-Paris, or even a complete list of names of its members, I’ve been reconstructing the line following the trail of names in the archives. That trail was first laid in 1944-1945 when various authorities asked the survivors to give them the names of other people involved. The Dutch Red […]

    4th Jun

    I’ve had many occasions over the last two weeks to remember what my friend at the Dutch Red Cross Archives pointed out: an archive preserves the idiosyncratic organization created by the person or institution that wrote the documents in it.  An archive is not a library, where the books are arranged according to universally recognized […]

    15th Apr

    Three Ways to Find a Document

    It’s not enough just to find an archive with relevant documents; you also have to find those documents within the archive. Unfortunately, every archive is organized differently, and none of them are organized for the convenience of historians. They’re arranged according to the inner logic of the organization that created them, whether that be a […]

    28th Feb

    Historical Shivers

    There’s a lot of dull reading involved in historical research, and at the beginning of a project it’s difficult to tell if the letter of complaint about delayed trams is worth noting down or not. After all, it tells you how the trams were functioning, but is that going to be important? It will be […]