I was sitting in the Nationaal Archief in Den Haag reading through the telegrams exchanged between the Dutch Legation in Bern and the Dutch government-in-exile in London when the ever-helpful archivist sat down next to me.  He told me that a mutual acquaintance had called him to say that a certain LF had died.

“Oh?”  I said.  “Who’s that?”

Sierk looked surprised.  He repeated the name.  I still didn’t recognize it.

“He was the fiance of Weidner’s sister.”

It was my turn to look surprised.  “The fiance died at Arnhem,” I said because that’s what the lady in question told an interviewer in 1994.

“No, he died a few months ago in Canada.”

Sierk returned a few hours later with some information he’d gleaned from personnel records that ordinary mortals don’t have access to.   LF met AW in Amsterdam during the war.  They were both Seventh Day Adventists.  She introduced him to a well-known courier with Dutch-Paris who promised to take him to France.  She never returned so he made his own way to Paris where he went to the address of Weidner’s other sister (GW).  Then he went to Annecy where he stayed at Weidner’s shop for three months.  It’s fair to assume that he helped out with Dutch-Paris business in some way or another.  From there he went to London via Spain.  Once there he wrote in his personnel form that he was engaged to AW.  He parachuted into Eindhoven as part of Operation Market Garden (also known as “Arnhem”).  He was later parachuted into Friesland, in the north of the country so he obviously survived “Arnhem”.  In 1946 he married another woman.  In 2009 he died in British Columbia.

Meanwhile, in February 1944, one of Weidner’s sisters, GW, was arrested by the Germans in front of the  engaged AW.   AW fled to Switzerland through very deep snow in the Alps.  Once in safety, she collapsed and spent the next three years in sanatoria because she’d lost the use of her legs.  She recovered, married an Italian, and had two children. 

And here we run into one of the frustrating aspects of writing history.  If I were writing a novel, this would be a tremendous opportunity.   Because what happened?  Is this a case of tragic misinformation?  Was AW told her fiance died because he went missing?  And then when he finally got out of the occupied Netherlands was he told that “Weidner’s sister” had died in a concentration camp, which was true but it was GW not AW who died there?  Did AW pretend to be dead because she was effectively paralyzed in 1946?  Did they both realize that their wartime romance had no future and release each other?  Did AW just give the convenient explanation in 1994 or had she come to believe that rather than that she had been jilted?

But I’m writing a history not a novel, and historians have to stick to the facts as they can be documented.  I regret to say that the answer to this mystery will probably never appear in the documents.  It’s not the kind of thing that people wrote down on forms or on reports of their resistance activities.  Maybe they wrote it down in a diary or a letter, but probably not.  The only trace that the lady left of her engagement was that her fiance died at Arnhem. 

It’s one of those unresolved mysteries that historians just have to live with.