Here’s one of the more dramatic stories of how an Engelandvaarder came into contact with Dutch-Paris. It concerns a Dutch man, whom we’ll call Bruno, who was already married with small children when the war started. Fairly early on, in 1941, he got a message that the Gestapo was on his trail for his Resistance activities.

Bruno decided to leave the Netherlands in order to join the Dutch army in England. But first he faked his own drowning so that the Germans wouldn’t harass his wife and so that she would receive a pension from the widows’ and orphans’ fund. He did this with the help of a fisherman and a few trustworthy bureaucrats.

Before he left he had heard that any Dutchman arrested in France would be treated as a spy on Radio Oranje (the Dutch service of the BBC, listening to which was harshly punished by the Germans). So when he was arrested in southern France, Bruno pretended to be playing without a full deck.

He did it to hide the fact that he intended to join the Allied armies, but it led him to 14 months imprisonment. All those long months he feared that he might really go insane. He must have been only adequately convincing as a madman, though, because the French kept him at the Fortress of Montluc in Lyon for three months under suspicion of being an English or German [!] spy. They finally put him in an internment camp for politically unreliable foreigners. The Dutch consul in Lyon found him there and put him in contact with John Weidner. Bruno kept up his crazy masquerade because he was afraid that if the Germans ever found out he wanted to join the Allied military they would take reprisals against his family.

Again, he wasn’t wholly convincing although he lied enough that he felt he owed Weidner an apology for it after the war was over. Weidner got him to Spain with the help of the Dutch consuls in Perpignan and Toulouse before that route closed at the end of 1942.

The Dutch government-in-exile, however, decided that Bruno was much more useful to the Allied war effort in Curacao, where he could organize shipping in the West Indies, than as a soldier. He didn’t see his wife and children again until late 1945 when he was finally able to arrange berths for them on a ship coming from the Netherlands to Curacao.