In August 1942, the corporal in charge of the Swiss border post of Biaufond sent his superior a report that was so interesting it made its way to Bern within days.

It’s important to know that the border crossing of Biaufond/La Rasse lies on the Franco-Swiss border east and slightly south of Besançon. Because that region of France fell into the “reserved zone,” the Germans controlled the French side of the border there.

Apparently the Swiss and German border guards there were on friendly terms because the German customs agent in La Rasse told our Swiss corporal across the barrier that the Gestapo had arrested a French couple who ran a hotel in Maîche, 19 km north of the border in France, and a third, unnamed person in connection with an organization that smuggled fugitives from France into Switzerland.
The Gestapo simply disguised themselves as fugitives from Belgium and Holland complete with false Belgian and Dutch papers and presented themselves to the hotel keeper’s wife. For a fee of 2,000 French francs each, she told them how to contact a passeur who would get them into Switzerland. The Gestapo followed her directions and paid the 5,000 French francs per person demanded by the smuggler. But once en route, the Gestapo arrested the passeur and then went back and arrested the hotel keeper and his wife.

Later in the day our Swiss corporal had a little chat with a French garage owner who acted as the mail carrier between Biaufond and Maîche and who was running an errand for “the Germans.” The Frenchman confirmed the arrest of the hotel keepers by the Gestapo.

This story doesn’t have anything to do with Dutch-Paris, but it does offer some interesting insights into the times. It demonstrates the very real threat to rescuers of Gestapo agents provocateurs masquerading as fugitives.  And it illustrates the fact that if there were groups like Dutch-Paris who were willing to take the risks of helping people flee persecution without any thought of compensation, there were others who were willing to exploit the desperation of those same desperate people.  Not all passeurs were benevolent.  Some were in it for the money.

The story also demonstrates how quickly news traveled without a free press or reliable and reliably private telephone and postal connections. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that the gossip was doing the international rounds without much regard for the reinforced borders of Occupied Europe.

The local people usually knew what was going on. Whether they chose to share it with outsiders or pass it up to their superiors was another question entirely.