Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
Here’s a reason to stay in school, even pursue a graduate degree, that you may not have thought about before.
One of the links in the Dutch-Paris chain over the Franco-Swiss border was a group of resisters at the Seventh-day Adventist seminary above the village of Collonges-sous-Salève. Collonges sits right on the French side of the border. The seminary sits above it on the mountainside. I’m told you can see Geneva from the seminary on a clear day, but I was there on a foggy day so I can’t vouch for that. Geographically speaking, Collonges and the other villages on the French side of the border belong with Geneva in Switzerland rather than the nearest French city. Geneva is much closer than Annecy or Lyon. Besides there aren’t any mountains between the border and the Geneva although there are plenty between the border and the rest of France.
So when the teachers at the seminary wanted to get their graduate degree, or the children needed a serious high school, it made sense for them to go to Geneva. In fact, they could ride their bicycles, although the ascent up the mountain to the seminary at the end of the return trip would not be for the weak or unfit. It was also possible to take a tram into Geneva, if you had the money and the time.
During the early years of the war, French students who were studying in Geneva received a special pass that allowed them to cross the border freely. They did it often enough that the customs agents and guards on both sides of the border got so used to seeing them that they paid very little attention to them.
That was a perfect situation for a resister. A graduate student who rode his bicycle back and forth over the border could easily put a few illegal documents in among his notebooks that no one ever went through and zip them right over the border. He might carry false identification cards for fugitives waiting to sneak across the border, cash or letters from someone who didn’t want the censors to see what she had written. The student could also carry messages between the Dutch-Paris person in Switzerland and the Dutch-Paris person in France who were arranging for Jews or other fugitives to cross the border illegally.
The Germans put an end to this loophole after they took over the French side of the border in September 1943, but until then, Dutch-Paris had a convenient courier service over the Franco-Swiss border.