Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
In the previous post I talked about how cigarettes were used to buy things on the black market and bribes during the war. Although it looks like some Dutch-Paris couriers may have used cigarettes for petty bribery, for the most part Dutch-Paris relied on cash for both the black market and bribes.
Dutch-Paris, of course, could not remain aloof from the black market in food because they had to feed fugitives who did not legitimately figure in the rationing scheme. In Paris they had connections to certain Dutch farmers who had moved to France before the war. These men sold them food, either to feed people hiding in Paris or to make up food bundles to take on clandestine trips over the Pyrenees to neutral Spain. Being patriotic, the Dutch farmers did not charge the full black market prices for this food. For the most part, however, Dutch-Paris paid huge sums to restaurants selling black market meals.
Similarly with bribes, Dutch-Paris tended to use cash whenever possible. For instance, in April 1944 a new courier crawled under the barbed wire from Switzerland to France with Jean Weidner. The new guy forgot to look both ways before stepping onto the road and walked right into a French gendarme. Then he babbled nervously. He had high quality false documents, but the babbling made the gendarme suspicious. When he realized they weren’t going to be able to talk their way out of it, Weidner shouted out to his companion to save himself and jumped back over the barbed wire. The new guy stayed rooted to the spot. He was, perhaps, not an ideal candidate for the job.
When he got to Geneva, Weidner set various wheels in motion to get his companion back, but they had run into a gendarme who suffered from an excess of zeal. The gendarme booked the new courier into the closest jail on the border before anything could be done. The next day Weidner returned to France, alone, and paid a visit to a friend who worked at the court there.
It cost 2,000 French francs to get the courier out of the jail, an expense marked in the accounts as “H out of jail.” Other bribes figure in the books as “gifts” (cadeaux) or “tips.” However, given how extensive Dutch-Paris operations were, there are remarkably few such notations. Almost everyone who helped Dutch-Paris rescue Jews and ferry Engelandvaarders and Allied aviators to safety, did so without the encouragement of bribery.