Dutch-Paris defies easy categorization even within the extraordinary ranks of Resistance organizations. It was not a group of patriots intent on freeing their home, nor was it a group dedicated to helping their own co-religionists. It was not even a purely Dutch network despite the missions it accepted from the Dutch government-in-exile.

True, most of the people who worked on the line or came through it as fugitives were Dutch. But given the pre-war social pillarization of the Netherlands in which Catholics associated with Catholics and Calvinists with Calvinists, Dutch-Paris represented a striking range of Dutch society. There was a Dutch Catholic priest serving in Toulouse and a Dutch Reformed pastor in Brussels. John Henry Weidner himself was the devout son of a Dutch Seventh Day Adventist preacher. There was a Dutch engineer running a shipyard in Belgium and several Dutch farmers with land in France. There were Dutch nurses, university students, soldiers, widows rich and poor, secretaries, butchers, diplomats and aristocrats.

The fugitives whom Dutch-Paris helped escape from the Nazis were equally mixed. There were singers, writers, students, politicians and housewives. Many were Jewish but certainly not all. A minister and his wife who had run afoul of the Gestapo fled to Switzerland via Dutch-Paris as did a number of Christian young men who had neglected to show up for compulsory labor service. In fact, you didn’t even have to be Dutch to be taken up by Dutch-Paris. As long as you were coming through the Netherlands, you counted as Dutch. That was good news for many Jewish refugees who had started their journeys from eastern Europe in the 1930s as well as a hundred or so downed Allied aviators from Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In some cases, Dutch-Paris even rescued Belgian or French people, such as the children of French resisters who Weidner took to Switzerland so they couldn’t be used as hostages.

Nor did you need to be Dutch to be a member of Dutch-Paris. Obviously the line needed the collusion of local police, civil servants and shopkeepers. So there were French cobblers and Belgian clerks in Dutch-Paris. And many Belgian and French people opened their homes to dangerous fugitives with whom they didn’t necessarily share a common language. Less expectedly, a young man who was born in Berlin in 1921 but lost his citizenship due to being Jewish (although he identified himself as atheist), escorted dozens of people from the Dutch border to Brussels as part of the line. His sister helped care for the hundreds of Dutch Jews hiding in and around Brussels. An officer of the Spanish Republican Army, himself a refugee, did good work organizing escapes over the Pyrenees. A Romanian man in Paris linked the German embassy there with his Dutch friends in the line. He paid for it with his life.

So we have Catholics, Dutch Reformed, Jews, atheists, and Seventh Day Adventists from all social strata and regions of the Netherlands. We have Dutch, Belgian and French men and women of every age from high school students to pensioners working together with Spaniards, Poles, Romanians and Germans. We even have people who officially counted as “stateless”.

No one was excluded from helping or being helped on the grounds of religion, nationality, social class or language. What mattered in Dutch-Paris was need or good will: the need to escape or the good will to help a stranger because that stranger was a human being. It was, in the fullest sense of the word, a humanitarian organization.