Sierk Plantinga, a retired archivist from the Dutch Nationaal Archief, has sent me a welcome correction to my last two posts (18 February and 4 March, 2014) about finding refugees in the archives. No one knows more about the archives about Dutch people in France during WWII than he does.

Sierk tells me, and I believe him, that as long as the family in question made contact with the Dutch authorities in southern France, Switzerland or Portugal or with the Swiss authorities, you have a good chance of finding them in the archives. There might not be much information, but the names should at least appear on a list with a relevant date.

To look for such Dutch refugees, start at the Nationaal Archief in The Hague ( Look in five places.

(1) The archives of the Dutch consulates (later called the Offices néerlandaises, later called the Bureau d’administration des Néerlandais) in Vichy France. The inventories are all on the website (Vichy inventory 2.05.101; Toulouse inventory 2.05.100; Montauban inventory 2.02.97 and Nice, for which most documents have been destroyed). You will find the correspondence between the consulates and the Dutch refugees in southern France who asked for help. For instance, there is a list of all Dutch citizens who applied for a new Dutch passport at the Office Neerlandais in Vichy in 1942, something they needed to apply for visas to get out of Europe.

(2) The files of the Dutch Office for Refugees in Lisbon run by Baron van Harinxma (inventory 2.05.161). This will include documents about Dutch refugees in Spain and Portugal.

(3) The postwar Bureau Invordering (inventory 2.04.77). This office administered the repayment of loans that made by the government-in-exile to Dutch refugees while they were in Switzerland. These files contain the records of the refugee administration of the Dutch Legation in Bern with such interesting items as lists of how much refugees spent on what: socks, raincoats, trips to the dentist etc etc.

(4) The files of the wartime Dutch military attaché in Bern, who was in charge of refugees in Switzerland. It has a list of all (officially known) Dutch refugees in Switzerland (inventory 2.13.71, nr 1294).

(5) The files of the Politie Buitendienst in London, which interviewed any Dutch nationals who reached the UK (inventory 2.09.06). Obviously only useful if your refugees made it to London.

If the people you are looking for made it to Switzerland, then you might find information about them in two places:

(1) the Swiss Federal Archives in Bern. My favorite among these are the correspondence with the Volksbank, where the Swiss authorities put refugees’ valuables for safekeeping when they arrived in the country, whether they liked it or not.

(2) If, like the refugees who arrived with the help of Dutch-Paris, the people you are researching arrived in Switzerland in the canton of Geneva, you will probably find information about them in the Archives cantonales of Geneva. These contain documents like the gendarmerie report of the initial arrest of a refugee, which cover information such as the time and place of entry into Switzerland and the reasons the refugee gave for entering the country illegally. Keep in mind that these people were running for their lives and may well have lied in order to make their case more appealing to the Swiss. Contact the cantonal archive before you arrive in Geneva because you need permission to see refugee files. Sierk tells me there is a list of the names of refugees about whom the Archives cantonales has a file on their website. (

There is also a possibility that you might find some trace of your refugees in the French departmental archives. Sierk has found lists of Dutch refugees in departments where he knew there were official Dutch “welcome centers” or Vichy internment camps that housed Dutch refugees. The French archives should be at the end of your itinerary, though, after you have established your refugee’s route and know for a fact that he or she spent time in a particular department.

Of course if your refugee slipped through Belgium and France using an assumed name and without once contacting any authorities, you will not find him or her in any of these archives. But the fact is that, at least before November 1942, most Dutch refugees did ask for help once they got to Vichy France or to Switzerland. If they did and you have a lot of patience, you can probably find out something about their flight.

Those of you looking for Engelandvaarders in the archives will find the following article by Sierk helpful:

Good Luck with your researches! And thank you to Sierk Plantinga for the information and for the inventory numbers and archive web addresses.