In March 1951 a man (b. 1890) who had sheltered fugitives for Dutch-Paris in Brussels wrote a letter to John Henry Weidner about the group’s recent commemoration of “onze gedenkdag” on 28 February. Literally that means “our anniversary” but in this case it would be better translated as “our remembrance day.”

On the 28th of February 1944 German security services raided the pension at rue Franklin, 19, Brussels. What they found was the headquarters of the Belgian section of the Dutch-Paris pilot escape line, complete with ten American airmen, a fully-equipped atelier dedicated to producing false documents, and Dutch-Paris’s records and account books. They confiscated all the papers, presumably sent the Americans to POW camps, and arrested everyone in the building, including:

Mademoiselle O., the Belgian owner of the pension who did not survive deportation to a concentration camp.

“Jo Staal” – A Jewish man born in Berlin in 1921 but rendered stateless by the Nazis. He had brought pilots from Maastricht (Netherlands) through Brussels to Paris. After the liberation of Brussels freed him from the prison of St. Gilles, he fought with the British until being captured as a POW. He survived the war.

“Chris” – a young Dutch man who escorted people over the Dutch-Belgian border. The Allies liberated him from the prison camp at Beverloo in September 1944.

“Monsieur Hans” – A Jewish man born in Amsterdam in 1923. He had distributed false documents to people in hiding and escorted pilots to Paris. He was tortured five times before being transferred to the camp at Beverloo, where the Allies liberated him.

“Rob” – Born in 1923 in Alblasserdam (Netherlands) and a geology student, he had made fifteen trips to Paris with airmen between being recruited into Dutch-Paris in January 1944 and his arrest at the end of February. He was imprisoned in St. Gilles until August 1944, then transferred to the camp at Beverloo. After being freed, he joined the Dutch military intelligence services as a 1st lieutenant.

“Jan” – A law student at the faculty of law at Utrecht (Netherlands), where he was born in 1917. He made the false documents for Dutch-Paris. The Germans tortured him before he was transferred to the camp at Beverloo, where he was liberated in September 1944.

“Vermaas” – The youngest Dutchman to receive a law degree, he had been involved in a student organization to rescue Jewish children in Utrecht. He had come to Belgium to study economy and been in charge of daily operations for Dutch-Paris since November 1943. He threw himself over the staircase at the prison of St. Gilles on 10 March 1944 in order to take all the blame onto himself and so spare his colleagues. He died shortly thereafter at a military hospital. Monsieur Hans was not tortured again after Vermaas’s suicide.

This raid was only one incident in the “roll-up” of the line that is thought to have begun with the arrest of a courier in Paris on 11 February 1944. According to one list found among John Henry Weidner’s papers, Dutch-Paris suffered 33 arrests between 18 February and 18 March 1944 and a further 12 between 20 March and 7 April 1944. There were certainly more arrests, more deportations, more deaths.

But Dutch-Paris kept going. Others stepped up to deliver money and false documents to people in hiding, others escorted fugitives and gave them shelter. It was harder with all those losses, but the “goede zaak” (the good job) got done.

The 28th of February seems like a good day for all of us to remember those who fought the Nazi evil by showing mercy to its victims rather than by wielding weapons.