Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
As I mentioned in my last post, the German police, especially the counter-intelligence officers of the Abwehr, were very good at their jobs. One of the things that they were so good at was playing on the trusting natures of some resisters.
They did this by hiring local men and women as agents provocateurs. These agents, known as V-men, passed themselves off as resisters in order to entrap legitimate resisters. The legitimate resisters had no defenses against this other than their own prudence and suspiciousness. The resistance was, after all, a clandestine and volunteer society. Anyone could start a resistance organization, including, it turned out more than once, the Abwehr.
It didn’t help that some resisters were very young and many were not the naturally suspicious sort. So if a friend introduced you to someone as a resister and that person said all the right things, who were you to say he or she was not a resister?
Jean Weidner and other leaders in Dutch-Paris were all too well aware of the danger of informers and were constantly trying to impose safety protocols on the organization. More than once they verified some one’s bona fides with the authorities in London via the Dutch embassy in Switzerland. They were remarkably successful given how many people were in involved across three countries. But even so, they could not keep themselves a secret.
When British military intelligence arrested a Belgian V-mann in 1944, they found the calling card of Dutch-Paris’s top man in Paris among the traitor’s papers. A young Dutch resister had given him the card when he was in Paris claiming to be looking for places for Engelandvaarders to hide. By that time the young Dutch man and most of his colleagues had been arrested and deported to concentration camps.
Similarly, when a young Dutch-Paris courier went out to a café in Amsterdam, she ran into another young Dutchman whom she had met in Paris. Her acquaintance introduced her to his companions, a Dutch resister and his French colleague. Or so they said. They were really an Abwehr officer and his V-mann, a fact she did not discover until after she returned from Ravensbrück.
So the German police including the Abwehr knew that Dutch-Paris existed although they were confused about the details. The safety protocols that the organizations’ leaders had put into place, however, meant that the Germans could not capture the group for some time, and even then they never found the leaders.