Here’s an interesting story from a German reader who is related by marriage to the chief of the Parisian section of Dutch-Paris. We’ll call him Felix.

Felix worked in the Dutch consulate in Paris. His wife, who was also Dutch, had German relatives, one of whom tried to visit them at their home in Paris. This was the uncle of our reader. He spoke French and Dutch and had the family’s address but never managed to visit them because, as the family story goes, someone obstructed his way by sending him off in the wrong direction. It’s not that surprising in hindsight; he was wearing his German uniform.

This must have happened sometime between June 1940 and November 1942 because the German uncle was sent to the Russian Front in 1942, and the German authorities closed the Dutch embassy in Paris in November 1942 and ordered all the diplomats back to the Netherlands. Felix, his wife and three children removed themselves to a hiding place outside of Paris rather than to The Hague. It’s unbelievably unlikely that the relative in the German army would have the address of the hiding place of a family neck deep in the Resistance.

But why, if he had the address, couldn’t this multilingual German soldier find it? Apparently, he didn’t have a map. Of course, the unknown person who misdirected him might have been Felix’s concierge, who had her suspicions about his activities and would have lied to anyone in uniform who came looking for him. Or it could even have been Felix himself, who didn’t know his wife’s German relative but kept his composure when an enemy soldier asked for him in a chance encounter in the street.

But most probably, it was a random passerby who didn’t have any connection whatsoever to Felix but simply gave a German the wrong directions without knowing anything about the German or his destination. Maybe that person made it a policy to send Germans in the wrong direction as a personal act of resistance without ever being part of The Resistance. If so, it was the kind of attitude that made it possible for Resisters to disappear like fish in the ocean of the Parisian population.

Of course, he could equally as well have asked a sympathizer eager to ingratiate himself with the occupying army, or a woman looking for a German boyfriend to help fill the larder. Then that person might have taken him right to Felix’s door, where he may have seen something leading to Felix’s arrest, thus depriving Dutch-Paris of an important leader and compromising the escape and survival of hundreds of people.

History is full of such chances, good and bad, but we don’t usually hear about them. It’s really only chance that we know about this one.