Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
As in Toulouse and Paris, Dutch-Paris used many hiding places in Brussels. These included the private homes of Dutch expatriates and a hotel not far from the main train station. The best remembered safe house, though, was a boarding house away from the city center on the rue Franklin.
In the fall of 1943 the resisters in Brussels decided to separate their “social work” from their “transport work.” Social work meant supporting fugitives in hiding, most of whom were Jews. Transport work meant passing Engelandvaarders and Allied airmen along the line.
Accordingly, the line rented the entire boarding house on the rue Franklin as a headquarters for the transport work. They set up an atelier there where one of the younger resisters forged the many documents that a young man of military age needed to travel in Occupied Europe. The resisters involved in the transport work, mostly university students, slept at the boarding house, as did some Engelandvaarders and most of the Allied airmen they helped. The Belgian landlady struck many of the Americans who stayed there as a complainer who only put up with the extra work they caused her because Dutch-Paris paid her well.
In February 1944 German police invaded the Brussels safe house as part of the same raid that swept through the hiding place in the basement of the ENS building in Paris (see previous post). Unfortunately, when the Germans descended on the rue Franklin before dawn, they caught eleven airmen, four or five resisters, an unknown number of other fugitives, the landlady and all the documents in the forgery atelier. They did not, however, discover anything that led them to the line’s “social work” or the hundreds of Jews they were hiding in the city. Nor did any of the resisters they captured and tortured give any information about the social work.
The Germans set up a sourciere (mousetrap) on the rue Franklin after they had hauled away their prisoners. For the next few days, a young woman answered the door there. She let couriers who had been out on missions into the boarding house, where they were promptly arrested. The Germans caught at least three more resisters that way. Needless to say, Dutch-Paris stopped using that safe house.
The Allied airmen who were captured there ended up in POW camps after some rough hospitality at the hands of the German military police. The resisters were tortured but not deported. The landlady perished in a concentration camp. No one knows about the non-military fugitives who might have been in the safe house that morning. All traces of them have been lost.