In July 1941 a young man we’ll call Frits (born 1918) left for England with a friend we’ll call Henk. They ran out of money in Valenciennes, France, and turned back to the Netherlands.

In order to support himself and his widowed mother, Frits took a job with the CCD in The Hague as a contraband food inspector. He always tried to let the individuals who were smuggling food for their own use go but cracked down on the black marketeers.

Apparently he did more than just look the other way because in May 1943 his mother (born 1900) was arrested for providing a false ID to a Jew and ration cards to about 10 Jews. The cards had actually come from Frits, but his mother took the blame and served eight months in prison, two in the notorious German prison in Scheveningen and six in the internment camp at Vught.

After her release three days before Christmas in 1943, his mother told him that she had met a woman in the prison in Scheveningen who knew an organization that helped people get to England via Spain. Frits, his mother and his friend Henk all went to visit her former prison-mate at the Volks-Universiteit in Rotterdam. On 14 February 1944 Frits, Henk and another young man had an interview with a certain Piet who took them to Brussels the next day.

They were on their way to England via Dutch-Paris.

From Brussels they traveled with a Dutch Captain and a French POW to Paris. Unfortunately in Paris Henk, the Captain and Frits’ two Dutch-Paris contacts were arrested. Frits doesn’t say what happened to the third young man or how he managed to avoid arrest. In April he travelled to Toulouse on his own, but didn’t come back into contact with Dutch-Paris until May. His new contact put him in a convoy over the Pyrenees.

He arrived in Spain on 9 May 1944 and spent the next five months in various states of arrest in Spain, Oran and Algiers before arriving in England on 21 October 1944.

The most interesting aspect of this story has to be the role of Frits’ mother. It doesn’t sound like she needed his support as much as he thought she did. After all, she was breaking the law by helping Jews and she took the punishment for his part in it as well as hers. Then she made good use of her time in prison to arrange his escape to England and got him on the road within weeks of her release. It seems unlikely that she took up her knitting after he left and quietly waited for the war to end. But the file is about him as an Engelandvaarder, not her, so we may never know.