Many resisters started out small. They did what they could to harass the enemy with the opportunities available to them. As the war went on, their opportunities may have increased and they may have came into contact with like-minded people. Perhaps they even crossed paths with a Resistance group.

Take the story of a young Dutchman (b. 1918) who had been living with his family in France since 1935. When the war started he was working for his father’s linen manufacturing business. He soon figured out that one of his father’s business associates, a Belgian with whom he had been friends since the First World War, was an economic collaborator. The man was helping the German war effort for profit rather than politics. So our Dutchman, whom we’ll call Ad, started sabotaging the shipments of linen to the his father’s friend’s factory.

He didn’t cover the wagons so the linen was destroyed en route to Belgium. He wrote the manifests incorrectly and weighed the linen incorrectly. And he let the wagons sit empty at the train stations, saying that there was no gas for tractors to bring linen to station. All that gave the Germans some minor aggravations in their uniform supply. It wasn’t enough to win the war, of course, but it was something. Some people would have stopped with that and spent the rest of the war indulging in strategic incompetence.

But not Ad. He had a chat with the town grocer, who also happened to be the local Resistance leader. The grocer encouraged him to continue his sabotage and to gather military intelligence. Over time, Ad found opportunities to harass actual Germans, not just their suppliers. By the Liberation he had recruited a unit of other young men who refused the call-up to work in Germany. They spent their time cutting German phone lines, disrupting German traffic and gathering up Allied airmen who had bailed out of their bombers before the Germans could find them. They even blew up a coal train and rescued other partisans from jail.

Ad did not belong to Dutch-Paris. But some of those aviators he helped made it back to their bases because Dutch-Paris took them from Paris to Spain. He ended up an active participant in the military war. Most civilians did not, of course. But you have to wonder what would have happened if everyone engaged in the same sort of sabotage by incompetence that Ad started out with.