At the risk of sounding prematurely crotchety I have to wonder if this isn’t too much to ask of a 24 year-old (my apologies to all recent college grads currently improving the world). I’ll tell you as much of the story as is in the file, which is regrettably sparse on background information.

A certain Yves v.d.M,. born in ‘s-Gravenhage, the Netherlands, in January 1920, came into contact with the Dutch-Paris organization in Brussels in January 1944, right around his 24th birthday. He did some errands for the leaders of the organization. That probably means he distributed false documents, money, ration coupons etc; although the French says fait des courses, which literally means that he did some shopping. Maybe he did. Shopping was an arduous chore in 1944 and making a man stand in endless lines or find another way to procure necessities may well have been a good way to test a new recruit and break him in. On the other hand, a man standing in those lines would have been conspicuous.

His errand-running days were limited, however, because on 28 February, the Gestapo “rolled up” the Brussels leadership by raiding their HQ at 19 rue de Franklin. Yves suddenly became responsible for the day-to-day welfare, indeed the very lives, of hundreds of people who were subsisting underground in Brussels and environs. His new co-leader, Paul S. also came from The Hague, but he was such a junior member of the organization that his file doesn’t even have his birthday. To make matters worse, the Gestapo had also captured whatever records the group had and all of its false document-making paraphernalia such as “official” forms and stamps.

Fortunately for everyone, most especially those in hiding, the arrested leaders had finally been persuaded to take measures to separate the books of the “social work” and the escape line a handful of days before the Gestapo raid.  The supervisory committee of Dutch-Paris had engaged an experienced manager to reorganize their procedures on a more secure footing, but Yves and Paul did not see him on a daily basis.

So at least Yves and Paul could find the people they were supposed to be feeding and protecting. But they would have to figure out another way to provide those people with false documents. And they would have to be very, very careful. There was no way to tell what information the Gestapo would be able to torture out of their colleagues.

To their honor, no one in St Gilles prison betrayed others in the Line. But at the end of March someone else, who was arrested in a random round-up, gave the Gestapo Yves’ address. Yves’ wasn’t home when they paid a visit but he was, as they say, brulé (burned) in Brussels.

He left for Spain on 7 June 1944. The commotion over by the Normandy beaches diverted him into the Jura Mountains in eastern France. He joined the maquis there, and, then, after the liberation, joined the Dutch “Princess Irene Brigade”.

Of course, being part of a liberating army would have been exciting, but I think we’d have to forgive Yves if he secretly also found it a bit of a relief. Given the sudden nerve-wracking responsibilities he’d been handed in Brussels without sufficient experience in either his career or Resistance work, it may well have seemed downright restful to be taking orders from someone else.