In 1967 a Dutch journalist named Dick Verkijk made a documentary about Dutch-Paris called Weg naar de Vrijheid [Way to Freedom]. Fortunately for all of us, it’s now available on YouTube, subtitled in English by Maarten Eliasar. I highly recommend it.

For one thing, you can see John Weidner and some of his resistance colleagues speaking about the war. My personal favorite is watching Edmond Chait demonstrate how he used to cross from Belgium into France via the outside of a bridge. The black and white documentary also evokes the atmosphere of the war more strongly than standing in the very same places would today. For instance, you’ll see French policemen lurking in the background wearing kepis and capes, which they did during the war but certainly don’t do today.

More interesting to me, as an historian, is the fact that this documentary was surely the best history of Dutch-Paris that could have been written in 1967. Verkijk talks to people all along the route and takes you from the River Maas on the Dutch-Belgian border to the Milice prison in Toulouse and the slopes of the Pyrenees. But it’s not an accurate history of Dutch-Paris.

For one thing, the route in the documentary that goes through Foix and Andorra to get from France to Spain was only used quite late in the war, April-May 1944, and only for very important personages such as G. van Heuven Goedhardt, who became the first United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1951 and was already in his 40’s in 1944.

Furthermore, some of the people interviewed are misremembering the facts. For instance, the widow of the Dutch consul in Toulouse, whose husband died young from the year he spent in German concentration camps because of his work with Dutch-Paris, says that her husband helped 20,000 refugees. I can’t tell you the exact number of people her husband risked his life to help because the papers were burned after his arrest, but it could not possibly have been 20,000. Was the widow deliberately lying about the number? Of course not. Does it make her husband any less of a heroic rescuer if he helped 2,000 refugees rather than 20,000? Of course not.

My point is only that the facts in the documentary are not entirely reliable. And I can only say that because I’ve been able to read documents in 2010, 2011 and 2012 that were not available to any researcher in 1967. Some of them weren’t even available in 2007. In fact, in 1987 a number of respected historians told me that such documents did not even exist. So this documentary is not just about Dutch-Paris. It is an early stage in the history of writing the history of the war. This is what you could do in 1967 with oral testimonies.

Enjoy the documentary (but remember it’s not 100% accurate).  Click here to view the documentary.