Just because dossiers on resisters are now available, doesn’t mean that the dossiers have more information than a name and date of birth (sometimes not even that). But sometimes you can piece together a portrait out of bits from different archives.

Take the example of Dr. Dreyfus. I first came across the name in the Dutch Nationaal Archief on a list written by John Weidner. That’s all it said: Dr Dreyfus, a known colleague of Dutch-Paris.

Now that’s really not enough information. For one thing, was this Dreyfus French, Belgian or Dutch? Dreyfus is a fairly common name. To figure out which Dreyfus you need at least a first initial and preferably the full name and birth date. And then, of course, you’d like to know what it was that he did for Dutch-Paris.

I found him again in the files of the Dutch Embassy in Paris. I now knew that the doctor had received a posthumous medal from the Queen in 1950. Interesting. Did he die in a concentration camp like so many other members of Dutch-Paris? No, it turns out that he died in the Pyrenees sometime in the winter of 1942. A further document said that he was looking for a route over the Pyrenees for Dutch-Paris.

Then I found him at the Bureau Resistance at the French defense archives in Vincennes. Now I know his first name and birth date (1901). From the general dossier on Dutch-Paris that holds the official membership lists, I know that he officially began working for Dutch-Paris in June 1942 and the Spanish authorities issued a death certificate for him on 23 May 1943. So maybe he didn’t die in the mountains, but after he made it over them.

There was more than simply an information card in the doctor’s personal file because his widow needed to correspond with the Bureau Resistance regarding a pension for herself and her two young daughters. Here I discovered that he was carrying a large sum of money at his death that was never recovered and that he was crossing the Pyrenees to either find a route for Dutch-Paris or join de Gaulle.

So now we know that Dr Dreyfus was in his early 40’s; that he was married with young children; that he escorted refugees across France and that he died in Spain. There’s still no indication of how he got involved with Dutch-Paris, but the picture is beginning to fill out.

Back at the Dutch Nationaal Archief, I was looking through the dossiers on Dutch citizens who died in France during the war. There was a letter to the Dutch embassy from a Parisian surgeon regarding the effects of a young Dutchman who died in the Pyrenees around Christmas 1942 in the company of the surgeon’s friend Dr. Dreyfus. The embassy retrieved the effects from the Spanish consulate and initiated an investigation into the death of the Dutchman, which includes a police interview with another young Dutchman living in Amsterdam after the war.

From that police interview I know that four young Dutchmen had met through the Dutch consul in Perpignan. They left for the Pyrenees in the week before Christmas 1942 in the company of 4 Frenchmen and a guide. The guide left them at the Spanish border, where they parted company in a heavy snowstorm. Three of the Dutchmen later met up in Madrid. I don’t know about the Frenchmen, but one of them froze to death in that snowstorm with a young Dutchman. Their bodies and their identification cards were found in the spring and buried on 23 May 1943, the date on the death certificate.

But why was a 41 year old physician escorting refugees across France instead of seeing patients at his office?  Given his parents’ names, he was most probably Jewish, at least according to the Nazi racial laws.  The French were rounding up the Jews of Paris and deporting them to Germany in 1942.  So we can speculate that the Doctor, his wife and young children met up with John Weidner either in an internment camp or while trying to avoid one.   Weidner probably found a safe haven for the family.  And then, rather than stay in hiding, the doctor joined Dutch-Paris.  His wife and daughters survived the war.

And that is how, piece by piece, you reconstruct the story of the Resistance.