Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
The situation in Occupied Europe was so fluid and communications so tenuous, that sometimes even the professional spooks didn’t believe what was going on.
Take the story of a young Dutchman we’ll call Kees. He was the son of a law professor at the University of Leiden, a member of the Leiden hockey team and an economics student in Rotterdam, all of which means that he was well-educated and well-connected. He left the Netherlands without the help of any organized group on 1 December 1943 and arrived in England on 16 March 1944, which was about as quick as you could get to Spain and then back out of the hands of the Spanish, who preferred to stash men of military age in a truly miserable internment camp.
Once he got to England, the British put Kees and all other Allied nationals in the Royal Patriotic School, where they were interrogated before being allowed the freedom of the country. The British were looking for German spies. They were particularly interested in Kees because he’d been telling a cockamamie story since arriving in Spain about having microfilms hidden in a flashlight that were meant for the head of the new Dutch secret service (Bureau Inlichtingen). The Brits determined that Kees was who he said he was, but remained skeptical about the flashlight. It’s not clear whether they doubted that an untrained civilian could manage such an errand or that the Dutch Resistance had the technological capability to make microfilms. Nonetheless, they passed him along to their Dutch colleague, who also had his doubts.
But our man was quite sincere. He did have microfilms for the Dutch government-in-exile secreted in a flashlight.
This is what happened. Kees made it to Toulouse in a speedy month and then came up against the Pyrenees. But he soon found his way to a member of Dutch-Paris, who introduced him to John Weidner on 8 January 1944. Weidner verified his bona fides and agreed to send him to Spain with a convoy of Allied aviators who were expected to arrive from Paris.
Weidner was on one of his regular two-week clandestine tours of France and Belgium during which he took care of Dutch people in various levels of distress: buying them train tickets, getting them out of prison, smuggling their children into Switzerland. He also checked on all the main points of the Dutch-Paris escape line and carried microfilms between Switzerland and Belgium on behalf of the Dutch government-in-exile. (Someone else carried the films over the Dutch border for the Dutch Resistance.)
It just so happens that on 11 January 1944, Weidner needed to leave Toulouse because he had people to see in Paris and a rendezvous scheduled in Brussels on the 15th. He also had some microfilms with secret information for the Dutch government-in-exile. He didn’t have any official Dutch-Paris agents to spare for the long and arduous trip over the Pyrenees and back in the middle of winter, so he gave them to the well-educated young patriot he was about to send over the mountains.
And Kees did not disappoint him. He made it through the snow over the mountains and then out of the hands of the Spanish in admirable time to deliver the flashlight to the people it was meant for.