Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
One day in December 1943 a 21 year-old woman whom we’ll call Marie-France received a visit from her downstairs neighbor who worked at the nearby train station – the gare du nord – and whom we’ll call Dodo. He introduced her to another middle-aged man he called Felix, who was the Paris chief for Dutch-Paris.
Dodo told Marie-France that he had found a very good job for her, if she wanted it. She told him that she liked her job and had no intention of leaving it. But he persisted, saying that she would make a lot of money because it was a question of working for the Germans at the gare du nord. Marie-France shot back: “I’d rather hang myself than work for those people.” Felix laughed and said “violà, that’s what we need.” Then he told her about Dutch-Paris.
Because her fondest dream was to help the Allies, she quit her job and started working full time for Dutch-Paris. She ran a lot of errands, such as picking up shoes which a cobbler in Versailles made for aviators or others who needed them to walk over the Pyrenees. She also found clothing and food for the fugitives. And she acted as guide, taking aviators and others coming from Brussels to hiding places in Paris, or, if necessary, to the home of a Dutch farming family living a few miles outside of Paris. She also shepherded aviators on the journey from Paris to Toulouse.
Maybe she and Felix didn’t say exactly those words to each other that day in December 1943. But that’s the way Marie-France remembered them in the summer of 1945 after she’d returned from nine months of slave labor in different concentration camps and a ten day death march. The Gestapo had been very clear about why they arrested her in June 1944. They showed her photographs of other Dutch-Paris agents and kept asking where the big chief Jean [Weidner] was. So maybe the words aren’t exactly correct, but the meaning is true. She would rather have hung herself than work for the Germans and she didn’t regret the months of torture, deprivation and misery if that was the price she had to pay to work against them.