As if having the Gestapo on your trail weren’t enough, the men and women of the Resistance also had to worry that the Germans had little scruple about using their families against them.

Resisters took what precautions they could, of course. Perhaps the most important reason to use an alias was not to hide yourself, but to hide your family. Some people went further and actually hid their families.

John Henry Weidner smuggled the children of at least three resisters into Switzerland so they couldn’t be used as hostages by the Germans. He himself carried the small son of a prominent French resister through the snow into Switzerland around the same time that he also escorted the children of one of the few women to lead a French Resistance network out of occupied territory. He also took the daughters of a high-ranking Dutch diplomat who was in a Vichy prison into Switzerland when it became too dangerous for them to stay in France. Because their mother did remain in order to help their father, the Dutch ambassador to Switzerland made arrangements for their well-being there.

Of course Switzerland wasn’t an option for everybody. There was a young Jewish couple from Amsterdam who put their infant in a baby buggy one Sunday in 1942 and casually walked over the Belgian border. Once in Brussels they joined Dutch-Paris. After a while they found a safe foster home for their toddler and took on the responsibilities of supporting about 400 people in hiding. Technically the father was in charge of the social work effort, but it was so dangerous for young men on the streets of Brussels in the summer of 1944 that the mother did all the running around.

Those were the lucky children. When the French police arrested Dutch-Paris’s man on the train between Brussels and Paris, they also arrested his wife, teenage sons and young daughter. They let the family go after 24 hours, but they turned the father over to the Germans, who deported him. He died in Natzweiler. The mother died of a heart attack during a bombardment in April 1944, leaving the children orphaned in Paris.

Even worse, in February 1944 the Germans arrested a Dutch diplomat and his 15-year-old son in their hiding place outside Paris. They mistreated the boy in front of the father. Friends negotiated the boy’s release and sent him to relatives in Amsterdam. But when his father returned from the concentration camps, the boy had disappeared. His parents kept looking for him into the 1960s, but they never found him.

It would have been little consolation to his parents that he was far from the only child lost in the upheaval and confusion of the second world war.