Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
The last post showed photos of some of the places that Dutch-Paris used in Lyon, France. Dutch-Paris was hardly the only Resistance group operating in Lyon; they weren’t even the only Dutch resisters in the city. But the circle of people willing to risk themselves in the humanitarian resistance was small enough that the Dutch engaged in rescuing Jews and other persecuted people in Lyon knew about each other and cooperated even if they did not all belong to the same group.
Humanitarian efforts among the Dutch in Lyon centered on the Dutch consulate there, which was a natural destination for fugitives who had made their own way into Vichy France. Weidner met many of the people whom Dutch-Paris escorted to Switzerland through the consulate. But Weidner was not the only Dutch expatriate living in the Lyonnais who helped his fugitive compatriots. A certain Heer M, for instance, opened his home and wallet to many Dutch on the run. He and Dutch-Paris often cooperated together to hide particular individuals.
This whole clandestine welfare organization took a serious blow in late February 1944 when the Germans arrested the Dutch consul and key members of Dutch-Paris. Then they laid a “mousetrap” at the consulate, which undoubtedly captured some people and scared even more away. Dutch-Paris continued to deliver money to their own “clients” until the liberation, but it is not at all clear what happened to the other Dutch men and women hiding around Lyon between those arrests and the city’s liberation in late August 1944.
Nor did the Liberation solve all the problems for the Dutch in Lyon because the continuing war kept them from returning home to the Netherlands or from receiving much aid or instruction from the Dutch government-in-exile in London. Heer M, however, took the initiative to set up a welcome center in Lyon to provide food and other assistance to Dutch nationals there. As part of this he found jobs and beds in a barracks for Dutchmen at an American supply depot in the city. The Americans replaced all Dutch and French workers at the depot with German POWs in July 1945.
Around this time the consul who had been arrested in February 1944 returned from the concentration camps to reclaim his job. But the man who had, for a while, shared the title with Heer M before pushing him out, refused to give up the job or – more to the point – its salary. Here the story gets completely entangled in accusations and counter-accusations of black marketeering and the like as men maneuvered for the position of consul. Only one thing remains clear: the Dutch expatriates who risked so much to help Dutch fugitives during the war did not stop simply because the Occupation ended and the immediate risk to life passed. The survivors remained destitute and at the mercy of a foreign government which, although a huge improvement over the Nazis and their collaborators, was still unstable. The expatriate resisters remained committed to helping the unfortunate until their help was no longer needed.