It’s hard to know what balance to strike between anecdotal history (as remembered by participants) and documented history (as written at the time) when writing about something as hidden as the Resistance. On the one hand, no one ever thought to write down certain details that can only be uncovered through talking to a participant. How else will you find out that one resister knew and trusted another because their mothers had gone to grammar school together? Or that the customs agents on the trams near the Belgian/Dutch border didn’t bother young men dressed like gentlemen because they were too busy inspecting the belongings of those who looked like farmers or workers?

On the other hand, the resisters themselves had a very limited knowledge of what was going on outside their own activities for the simple reason that it was safer for everyone if they didn’t know. Even the best informed had limited knowledge. Take John Weidner, who as the line’s leader knew more than anyone else during the war. Then after the war he was in charge of the Dutch Security Services in Paris, a position which he used to investigate the “roll-up” of Dutch-Paris in February and March 1944. But even he was left wondering about some things.

In 1976, Weidner wrote to a Dutch-Paris friend in Europe about Frank Visser’s new book about the Engelandvaarder’s, De Schakel. In particular, Visser wrote that the Germans protested to the Swiss about Dutch activities in Switzerland. That got Weidner to wondering about something that had been bothering him since 1944.

Weidner had been crossing back and forth over the Swiss border on a regular basis since 1942 with the full knowledge of the Swiss. But at a certain point in 1944, the Swiss security services suddenly forbade him to cross the border. Weidner had suspected that a political and resistance rival of his who was attached to the Dutch Legation in Bern had engineered that interdiction. But now, 32 years later, he wondered if maybe the Germans had done it. Because, after all, someone out of the more than 100 Dutch-Paris people arrested in February and March 1944 must have told them that their leader’s HQ was in Switzerland.

The historian Visser didn’t know about the incident of Weidner losing his Swiss authorization, but he did find the documents concerning the German protests to the Swiss, about which Weidner knew nothing. So if you add up both the anecdotal history of the participant and the paperwork history of the bureaucrats, you reach a fair approximation of what probably happened.

No one person, whether chef du réseau or chief of police, ever had the full story, and no one is immune to prejudices and memory lapses. It takes a lot of versions of the same events to piece together what actually happened.