Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
Dutch-Paris is known as an escape line, but as a matter of fact they helped many more people to hide from the Nazis than to escape from Nazi held territory. Neither task was easy, but you could make a good argument that hiding someone indefinitely was more difficult than smuggling that same person into Switzerland or Spain.
Hiding people Anne Frank style in a confined space for an indefinite period was certainly possible, but it was dangerous for everyone. And it was also almost unbearable for the people trapped in the attic or basement or false room. It was better to find a place where a fugitive could blend in and live a somewhat normal life. In the case of children, that meant hiding in a boarding school among other children. In the case of young women, Dutch-Paris resisters in Brussels tried to find jobs as domestic servants. Such a job would give the woman room and board, gainful employment and the possibility of moving about the neighborhood without attracting undue notice. Young men were harder to hide because as far as the authorities were concerned young men should either be in the military or in a war job. All sorts of police agents had the power to stop young men at any time and in any place to demand to know why they were not in military uniform or at a war job. So it was best to keep them off the streets, but it was especially hard on them to be cooped up inside.
For some months in 1943 the resisters in Brussels solved the problem of hiding young men by sending them to a Belgian maquis (partisan) camp in the Ardennes. This wasn’t an easy life given that they were roughing it in the forested mountains, but at least they were outdoors and could get some exercise. They could also potentially learn some useful sabotage or fighting skills. Dutch-Paris was making arrangements to set up a purely Dutch camp run by Dutch army officers in the Ardennes when they came up with a better solution for these young men. They found a way to take them all to Spain. From Spain they could go to England to volunteer with the Allied armed forces.
A Belgian Resistance group supported the maquis camp that they did use in 1943. Their contact, whom we’ll call Emile, was a Belgian, Catholic locomotive driver from Profondeville, in the western foothills of the Ardennes. He had four-year-old twins and an infant son when the Germans captured him and seven other resisters in August 1943. Emile escaped and spent two months near his family before the Germans hunted him down again. They executed him in March 1944. It’s doubtful that the Germans knew anything about the Dutchmen whom Emile helped hide or that Emile himself thought much about it. But his help may well have made the difference between life and death for those young Dutchmen.