On 29 July 1944 the Germans executed a Frenchman we’ll call Albert for what they called terrorism and aiding and abetting the enemy.

He was certainly guilty: he’d been in charge of organizing passages to Spain for Allied airmen and resistants from November 1942 until his arrest and subsequent torture in Toulouse on 15 May 1944. He appears to have been one of Dutch-Paris’s contacts in the French Resistance for getting people over the Pyrenees.

He was not, however, a local. He’d come to the Pyrenees after escaping from a POW camp in Germany in October 1941. He and 27 other officers dug an 80 m tunnel out of Oflag IVD in Silesia and made their ways back to France from Poland. He may well have traveled along the same route as the Allied airmen he put over the mountains did. Many people who helped Allied airmen in the Netherlands and Belgium started out by helping French POWs to escape.

After all, there were millions of French POWs. Albert himself was one, an artillery officer captured at the end of May 1940.

And what was he before heading the 3eme Bureau [operations] of the French Forces of the Interior [FFI] on the frontier in the Haute-Garonne? Before being a POW? Before his second child was born less than a month before the German invasion sent him to battle?

He was a philosophy professor at a lycee [college preparatory high school] in Paris. And his superior officer in the regional FFI was a philosophy prof at the lycee in Toulouse. You never know what war will bring out of people.