Here’s the story of how a young man (b. 1916) became one of the most important members of Dutch-Paris.  Thierry, as we’ll call him, grew up in Antwerp speaking mainly French but also learning Dutch, as befitted a Dutch citizen.  He spent some time at an agricultural college, took a long sea voyage, was discouraged by his parents from entering the Belgian naval academy, disliked an apprenticeship at a diamond concern and finally ended up as a partner in a successful textile export firm in early 1940.  He tried in vain to join the Dutch army in April 1940 and ended up in the French Foreign Legion a few days after the German invasion of France.  After being honorably discharged in December 1940, he went back to Belgium to help his parents.

Thierry passed up a couple of opportunities to escape from Occupied Europe because his parents didn’t want to leave Belgium.  He and his partner printed illegal newspapers on the mimeograph machine in their office for a few months in 1941-42, and Thierry took a vacation along the Swiss border in anticipation of needing to make a quick escape over it.  The Germans arrested his father in October 1942 for racial reasons but Thierry managed to get him released.  His father changed his mind about leaving Belgium and the three of them left within the week.  They were in Switzerland four days later, thanks to Thierry’s preparations.   There Thierry, like all young Dutchmen, was interned in a work camp.

As soon as ill-health released him from the work camp in June 1943, Thierry tried every possible means to get to Spain in order to enlist with the Allies.  In October, another young Dutchman introduced Thierry to John Henry Weidner, who promised to help him get to Spain.  A week later, however, Weidner invited Thierry to join his organization in France, telling him all the dangers and giving him a few days to think about it.

Thierry considered the invitation a stroke of great good fortune.  It was what he had been searching for since 1940: a way to make himself useful to his country and the common cause.  He left Switzerland for the first time in early November 1943 with Weidner.  After that he made numerous escapes to and from Switzerland in order to lead people to Spain and to maintain contact with the Netherlands.  He was arrested at least twice.  Once he talked his way out; the other time he jumped out a second story window and ran for it, putting his training as a salesman and as a Legionnaire to work for the good fight.