Circumstances often played a capricious role in how an individual came to join the Resistance and where in the Resistance he or she ended up. Take, for example, the story of a young Dutchman (born 1918) whom we’ll call Bob.

Bob began the war as a student at the engineering school in Delft until the Germans closed it down in response to student protests. Bob spent that summer working in a mine then resumed his studies at the University of Amsterdam. In November 1942 he decided to leave for Spain because one of the Jewish friends he’d been helping was arrested. Unfortunately, the Feldgendarmerie (German military police) caught him at Turnhout (Belgium) and sent him to the prison in Haren (The Netherlands). After a month or so he avoided being sent to Germany as a laborer because of “outside interference.” That might mean that his father bribed someone, but the documents don’t say.

Bob returned to his studies in time for a razzia in Amsterdam during which the Grüne Polizei and NSB (German police and Dutch collaborators) arrested all the men between 18 and 30 that they could find. They found Bob on his roof on the night of 9 February 1943. He and 200 other men who’d been caught in the razzia spent the next two months at the transit camp in Vught until being loaded onto trains on 21 April 1943 as forced laborers. Bob worked in a stone quarry in Strassburg and a leather factory in Weinheim.

In the meantime, the occupation authorities kindly sent him a copy of the loyaliteitsverklaring to sign with a note explaining that if he did so, he would be free to return to the Netherlands. This was an oath of loyalty to the Third Reich that most Dutch students did not sign. And neither did Bob, despite the obvious advantages of doing so.

In December 1943, Bob got 10 days leave to visit his parents in Belgium. Because he hadn’t given any sort of guarantee that he would return to his post in the German factory, he didn’t. Instead, his father introduced him to another Dutch student who was running the Dutch-Paris escape line out of Brussels. Bob joined Dutch-Paris as a courier, guiding aviators from their hiding places in the Ardennes or the area around Namur to Brussels and then on to Paris.

That lasted only until the Germans raided the Dutch-Paris HQ in Brussels on 28 February 1944. Bob and his colleagues spent the next few months in the military section of the prison of St Gilles in Brussels before being moved to the prison at Beverloo in August. The Canadians liberated them there in early September 1944, which put an end to Bob’s careers as a resister and as a prisoner.