Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
The last post discussed why the vast majority of people who were “patriots in their hearts,” and so disposed towards the resistance, did not join it. Many surely feared the consequences if they were caught, which could reasonably be expected to include torture and deportation to the concentration camps. Others who may have been willing to risk the physical consequences nonetheless might never have had the opportunity or the skills to join.
It should be mentioned that women faced additional obstacles to joining the resistance. Many had family obligations that kept them homebound, of course. And just keeping a home going took much more time and effort during the war because of all the rationing and standing in line.
Some women also encountered straight forward chauvinism. There was one young Dutch-Paris leader in Brussels who refused to let women work in his part of the organization, which delivered money and documents to Jews hiding in and around Brussels. The leaders who took over for him after his arrest in November 1943 were happy to have women work in the organization, though, as were the leaders in other cities.
In fact, Dutch-Paris relied heavily on the contributions of women. Young women acted as couriers and guides. Women with civil service jobs provided access to false documents or, even better, legitimate documents that perhaps should not technically have been issued to that particular person. Older women who owned their own homes or shops opened them to shelter fugitives and resisters alike. When the streets of Brussels were too dangerous for men in the final weeks of the occupation, it was women who carried large packets of cash and false documents through random police controls to take them to Jews hiding in the city.
Women often served as couriers because German police were less likely to be suspicious of women than of men. But no one had any reason to think that the Germans would be any gentler to female resisters than to male resisters. Indeed, the Gestapo tortured and deported women as well as men. As Weidner remarked, it took courage to join the resistance.
The story of Dutch-Paris demonstrates that for women, as for men, it took a combination of both opportunity and courage to resist.