Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
The next major city on the Dutch-Paris line to be liberated after Brussels was Maastricht. Dutch-Paris did not actually have a station in Maastricht, but they had working associations with Dutch resisters there, and a couple of Dutch-Paris guides went back and forth over the Dutch border there to escort aviators into Belgium or bring news and documents across.
Allied Bombers targeted the strategically situated bridges in the city in late August 1944, and German troops destroyed those bridges over the Maas when they retreated. But otherwise the city escaped ruinous battle.
My father was there as a boy of six. He remembers the long funeral cortege for the victims of the bombing, which his family maintained was a navigational mistake on the part of the Allies. He also remembers the first American GIs to appear in his neighborhood. One of them gave him chewing gum, which he had never seen before and didn’t know what to do with. After the GIs arrived, he was allowed to talk about his older brother, who was in the resistance. His brother started visiting home openly, in daylight hours, although his mother maintained her rule that guns had to be left by the back door and could not be brought any further into the house.
Maastricht was liberated on 14 September 1944, but not released from war. Most of the Netherlands, and my father’s extended family, remained under increasingly brutal and deadly occupation until the following spring. Maastricht was full of soldiers and their equipment, although the Americans were far more welcome than the Germans had been. My uncle worked for them as an interpreter and brought some of his colleagues home for meals (their guns stayed at the back door too). One of them, an older officer who was a professor in civilian life, often came to read the newspaper with my grandfather in order to learn Dutch.
You can see an old newsreel with footage of the liberation of Maastricht at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cena0gBNMJk. It’s in Dutch, but it shows the damage of the bombing in August 1944, the funeral cortege of the victims, the round up of collaborators, the bridge over the Maas after the Germans destroyed it, the Americans crossing on the temporary bridge they built, and American soldiers coming into Maastricht. That was a happy day.