As I’m writing the snow is falling down faster than we can keep the walkways shoveled, and the schools have been closed for the next three days due to dangerously cold temperatures. The last winters of the war and the first winters of the peace were also remarkably cold. But unless you stick to straightforward facts like the temperature, our cold now is nothing like the wartime cold.

My neighbors have snug houses with central heating and electric lighting. Our closets are full of parkas, boots, hats and mittens. Our cupboards are full of food. Few people in western Europe could have said the same in the mid-1940’s.

Most houses were heated with coal, which was rationed. Firewood, and even trees, were scarce in cities. Many people had to shut off whole rooms of their homes and huddle together in the one room that they had a hope of heating. In many places electricity was also rationed. It came on and off, sometimes on a rotating schedule of one or two hours per day and sometime randomly. Clothing and footwear had been rationed from the beginning of the war, meaning that most clothing was worn out by the end of it.

The food shortages that plagued Europe both during and after the war did not help anyone to stay warm. Rationing meant that someone had to spend hours in the cold and wet standing in line to do the shopping. Whatever they brought home was not likely to be adequate, especially in cold weather when people need more fats and protein than usual to stay warm. Fats and protein were particularly hard to come by, even on the black market.

You might think that resisters would have taken a break during the winter, especially when snow made their tracks so visible to the enemy. Maybe some of them did, but those in the humanitarian resistance could not stay home by the fire to conserve their energy. Hundreds of people in hiding relied on Dutch-Paris, for example, to bring them money and ration tickets. If the Dutch-Paris agents did not go out into the cold to deliver them, the people they were helping would not have had money or ration tickets to buy food and coal.

Remember that only the Germans occupation forces and certain professions such as physicians had cars so that resisters had to ride bicycles, walk or wait for the bus or tram in the bitter cold, and you will begin to appreciate the heroic dedication of the men and women of the humanitarian resistance.