It didn’t take long for the businessmen in Dutch-Paris to figure out that all their careful vigilance in getting the best possible exchange rates and diligence in raising donations from themselves and others could not pay for hiding people indefinitely or escorting other fugitives out of occupied territory. The black market food, rents, clandestine health care, clothing and train tickets for hundreds of people simply cost too much.

They needed the kind of money that only a government could provide. The problem was not so much in convincing the Dutch government-in-exile and Queen Wilhelmina in London to support Dutch fugitives in France and Belgium as it was in getting the money to the resisters who were helping those in need in occupied territory. It had to be in cash in the local currency to be of any practical use, but the German occupation authorities had disrupted the usual banking system. You could not wire large amounts of money from London to Paris during the war.

Various members of the line came up with various schemes to circumvent the legally authorized exchange system, all of which boiled down to one idea. The resisters in France and Belgium would get a loan in local currency from some local individual in town. The government would pay the loan back after the Allies won the war. Obviously, they came up with this idea after the German army lost at Stalingrad and it began to look like the Allies might actually win the war. The more certain that became, the easier it was to raise the loans.

A few members of Dutch-Paris did indeed “loan” the line significant sums without much more than a hope that the Allies would win and the Dutch government would pay the loan back. Those really count as donations. But by 1944 the members of the line didn’t have enough money left to keep it going. They needed new and very rich sources. For that, they needed a government guarantee of the loan.

A government guaranteed loan had a number of attractive features. To begin with, a government guarantee did exactly that, guarantee repayment of the loan.

Furthermore, anyone with any financial savvy could anticipate that there would be a currency reform at the end of the war that would be run in such a way as to undermine the profits of black marketeers and other war profiteers. The government might, for example, issue a new currency but put a limit on the amount of money any one person could exchange into the new currency. But any money loaned to the government during the war and paid back after the war would not be subject to such limitations. The money would be loaned in wartime currency but paid back in the much more valuable postwar currency.

In addition, in some of the schemes the individual would loan the money in French francs but be paid back in Swiss francs in a Swiss bank account. Everyone knows that Swiss bank accounts are safer than French ones. If the wealthy individual had any thoughts of escaping to Switzerland him or herself, this kind of loan would have solved the problem of how to take his or her money out of the country without any fees or questions.

By 1944 Dutch-Paris had no trouble finding people who were willing to participate in a government guaranteed loan. They did not even have a problem delivering written proof of the government guarantee. The Dutch ambassador in Switzerland wrote and signed it. Certain Dutchmen with a whole lot of experience in making microfilms made a microfilm of it and hid it in something innocuous such as a hairbrush. And one of Dutch-Paris’s leaders, who had his own pathways through western Europe, carried it to Brussels. The Dutch government paid the loan back within months of the liberation.