Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
Another element that made every aviator’s evasion, and indeed every clandestine journey across occupied Europe, different was the fact that the enemy were not robots. Of course the German army and police were professional enough to be predictable, but even they had off days. And their orders changed in ways that resisters could not foresee. Besides, the Germans were not the only ones patrolling the trains and borders. A fugitive could encounter a wide array of local and foreign police and guards, some of whom were definitely more dedicated to their jobs than others.
Dutch-Paris did not send anyone into the streets much less on a train without a complete set of false documents. But the story of the British sergeant from the last post demonstrates that even something as obvious as having your documents checked did not always happen.
When our British sergeant, a handful of Americans and a couple of Dutch-Paris guides arrived at the train station in Brussels in January 1944, German officers searched their suitcases for weapons but did not look at their documents.
When they arrived at the Franco-Belgian border, Belgian police inspected their cases (probably for contraband) and German agents inspected their documents. The only document control they encountered in Paris was on the metro, where the French police let them go even though the sergeant was certain the police knew they were aviators.
There were no document inspections on the train to Toulouse, which was the reason Dutch-Paris helpers tried to travel on that day of the week. Unusually, however, there were no police looking at documents at the train station in Toulouse either. Both French and German agents were usually active at that station. Several Engelandvaarders remarked on the heavy police presence there and one of Dutch-Paris’s best local guides was arrested on a platform there. But it seems that at that time on that day, they had all been called away.
Helpers could plan, and they could anticipate, but they could never tell what would happen en route until they were actually on the move.