Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
I had the great honor of visiting with Joke Folmer a few weeks ago in Amsterdam. She is well known for having escorted hundreds of downed Allied aviators out of the Netherlands, some of whom she passed to Dutch-Paris.
Among other things, I was interested to ask how she knew where to go when she went to a new contact in a new town because I myself had missed a turn on my rented bicycle that very morning and ended up taking the longest possible route to our meeting place. Apparently getting lost was not a problem in occupied Holland because she passed aviators over at train stations or on bridges. I think Mevrouw Folmer must also have a much better sense of direction than I do.
But of all the things that we talked about, what has stayed with me is this. Joke Folmer was a very young woman during the war. As a policeman, her father got the news of downed airplanes and missing crew. He would tell her when and where airmen were missing, and she’d go find them and arrange for their safety. Now, she told me, and I’ve read elsewhere, that the Germans did not suspect girls of wrongdoing. But I also know, and she must have as well, that the concentration camp at Ravensbrück was full of girls who resisted the Germans.
What’s more, her father must have known it. What tremendous courage he must have had to stay out of the way of his daughter’s bravery and to bear up under the anxiety of knowing that she was away on a dangerous mission. I have always hoped that if I had lived during the war, I would have joined the resistance. But I really don’t know if I would have had the strength to be the mother of resisters, staying at home acting as if nothing was amiss so as not to cause any suspicion, but inwardly tied up in worry for my children.