Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
There’s no denying that the war was a hard time to be a mother. My father’s memories of his mother during the war are of her crying in their kitchen in Maastricht because there was no food for the baby (him) and of telling his much older brother to keep his (illegal) rifle by the door. Dutch-Paris took the children of at least three families into Switzerland so that their parents, who were in the resistance, would not have to worry about the children being taken as hostages. And a Dutch-Paris couple in Brussels found a foster family for their infant so they could devote themselves to helping others in hiding.
There were also some extraordinarily courageous parents who joined the resistance even though they had children and kept the family together. Most survived, but not all. There are three Dutch-Paris families in which the children were orphaned for the final months of the war.
In one family on the Franco-Swiss border the father was shot in his garden and then hauled off by a still unidentified police unit. The mother was arrested a couple of weeks later. Neighbors took in the two school age daughters until the mother returned from prison at the liberation.
In another family both parents were arrested at the end of February 1944 and deported. The mother returned in 1945 but the father died in the concentration camps, although his grandchildren grew up thinking he had been gunned down in his neighborhood in Paris. Their parents’ employer helped the teenage daughter care for her brothers.
In another family in Paris all three children and both parents spent a couple of nights in a French prison. Only the father was deported, but the mother died during a bombing raid, leaving the teenage boys to take care of their younger sister and themselves. Their father did not return from the concentration camps.
As the war went on Dutch-Paris, like other resistance networks, found itself with a new category of social work, that of the families of resisters who had been arrested. These included the orphaned children, of course, but also women with young children whose husbands had been arrested. The line did what they could during the war by giving the families money, offering to take them to Switzerland and such. And Weidner persevered with years of paperwork to get the survivors all the benefits to which they were entitled.
It was a hard time to be a mother, but it was also a hard time to be a child.