Finding food posed a constant problem for just about everyone in Europe during the Second World War, even more so for resisters who helped fugitives. Even if the fugitive had forged or stolen ration cards, the helper could not simply stand in line at the usual store and hand over more than the usual ration cards. People would notice. Unwelcome questions would be asked. No, the helper would have to stand in the usual line for the family’s usual rations and then go to another neighborhood to stand in another line for the “guest’s” rations.

Few people, however, found the official rations to be sufficient or even reliable. Most people had to resort to one form or another of the grey market that ranged from the wholly mercenary and very expensive black market of trade between strangers to the lightest of grey markets in which friends sold food to friends for below cost. Obviously, personal connections made all the difference in the world to what appeared on the dinner table.

Dutch-Paris constantly faced this problem as they funneled hundreds of people, some of whom were young men in a hungry stage of life, through the occupied territories. In many places they had to resort to paying for black market meals at restaurants. But one member of the network in Paris had a different solution.

This was a Catholic brother who had the responsibility of feeding his monastery in Paris. We’ll call him Brother T. The brothers of this monastery, who came from different nations in Europe including Germany, often had visitors, some of whom did not arrive with legal documents or ration tickets. Before he ever got involved with Dutch-Paris, any number of Dutch men knocked on the door because they had run away from labor assignments in France or were trying to get to Spain. Brother T managed to feed them all because of the friendships he made with some Dutch families who farmed 30 km or so south of Paris.

Early in the war, Brother T. attended a monthly Dutch get together in Paris that included a Mass in Dutch followed by coffee. At the coffee he met a couple who had 16 children and a farm south of Paris with pigs, chickens, rabbits and two cows. The farmer invited the brother to visit the farm to buy food at cost. Brother T did just that, taking the freshly slaughtered meat wrapped up in tea towels under his habit on the light rail system back to Paris. He took the bloody tea towels back to the family to be washed, which could not have been easy when soap was so scarce. The children of the family loved to escort him to and from the station because he had so many jokes. Occasionally, he brought clothes for them.

The clothes caught the attention of a neighboring farmer for whom some of the K children worked. This Farmer J had been too afraid to make any illegal sales of food to Brother T before, but now began to do so. Farmer J was the brother-in-law of the son of another Dutch farmer who lived about 15km away. Brother T made friends with this Farmer B as well. Farmer B not only picked Brother T up at the station in his cart and sold him food, he agreed to hide 17 young Dutch fugitives on his farm (not all at the same time) when Brother T needed to get the young men out of Paris before sending them south to Spain.
When a horse had to be slaughtered because of an accident, Farmer B gave it to Brother T. The brother carried 350 kg of fresh and salted horsemeat back to Paris on the train 40 kg at a time in suitcases without ever being caught by the food inspectors who haunted the entrances to Paris looking for people doing exactly what he was doing. But a laborer on the farm denounced the illegal slaughter of meat to the authorities. Farmer B chose to pay 43,000 francs in fines rather than tell the inspectors that the meat had gone to feed the RAF. He knew that by this time Brother T and Dutch-Paris were feeding not just Dutchmen on the run from the labor draft but Allied aviators trying to get back to their airbases in England after crashing during bombing runs.

Brother T had two things in his favor when searching for food. First, his status as a religious inclined devout people to help him. It was extremely difficult for Dutch men and women raised in the Catholic milieu of the time to say no to a nun, a priest or a brother. Second, Brother T had a charming personality that repaid the farmers in other ways. He arranged a marriage with a Dutch nurse for Farmer B’s son. He told and brought warm sweaters for the children (probably second hand, but everyone wore second hand at the time). And he brought joy to them with his jokes, so much so that some of them remained devoted to him for decades. Both these characteristics allowed Brother T to establish the sort of relationships he needed to feed fugitives during the war.