Around the same time that the French started to open up their WWII archives (the 1990’s), they also started to collect the testimonies of Resistants. As part of this effort, the Center for the History and Documentation of the Resistance in Lyon videotaped a woman who had been an important courier for Dutch-Paris. We’ll call her Raymonde.

In the 100 minute interview, Raymonde reads from a sheaf of papers in front of her, answering the interviewer’s occasional questions with anecdotes. She is dressed conservatively and remains composed throughout. This is the story she tells.

Born in 1923, she had three older brothers who were killed in the First World War. Her mother died in October 1940. When she tried to tell the news to her fourth brother, she discovered that he had been killed in the Second World War. Soon after that, she met Jean Henri Weidner at church. He asked her to work as his secretary in his newly opened textile business in Lyon.

In December 1940 Weidner asked the young Raymonde if she would type some small Resistance tracts. She typed them and others distributed them. Then in September 1941, Weidner asked her if she would work for what latter came to be known as Dutch-Paris. She replied yes, she says, with joy. With joy that she could finally do something more than type.

She now worked for Weidner full-time as a clandestine courier rather than as a secretary. Most importantly, she traveled to Paris or the French countryside to bring Dutch Jews to the Swiss border. Because they usually did not speak French, they simply followed her on the train or the bus. Shortly after the liberation, she and Weidner calculated that they must have taken 200 to 220 refugees along her route. She also escorted Dutch resistants and Allied airmen as far as Toulouse. The Americans, she says, were the worst. Their chewing gum and cigarettes were far more dangerous than people who didn’t speak the language. At that time no European chewed gum or threw away even a shred of tobacco as the Americans did.

Raymonde also took large amounts of cash from the Dutch legation in Bern to Dutch refugees in France and carried secret messages, sometimes in microfilm, sometimes not. In one especially frightening trip she had “the largest envelope you ever saw” hidden under her blouse when her train was thoroughly searched. On the envelope was written “To General de Gaulle, Committee of Algiers, Algiers.” But she made a great display of emptying out her case and the police moved on.

She explains that she did such dangerous and frightening work because it was a small revenge for her and a way to help those in need. That and her mother would not have stood for German tanks in the streets of Lyon.

The Butcher of Lyon, Klaus Barbie, himself and his henchmen were waiting for her when she opened her door one Monday morning in March 1944. In the 1992 interview she describes the interrogation as “dure” [hard] and “pénible” [terrible]. In a statement she gave in November 1945, she describes being whipped with leather thongs and almost drowned in the bathtub torture. Barbie wanted to know where Weidner was.

Raymonde was deported to a concentration camp, where she was liberated by the American Ninth Army. She married a man who had also been deported and lived the rest of her life in Lyon.

After the interview ends, she comes back on camera to say that it was her faith, her faith that allowed her to survive the concentration camp.

She was not known as a hero although she certainly deserves the title.