A German reader, a relative of one of the Dutch-Paris station chiefs, asked me an interesting question about the last post. You may remember the story of a young Dutchman we’ll call Ad who lived in France. He started out by allowing the rain to ruin shipments of linen destined for a factory that worked for the Germans. By the end of the war he was leading a sabotage squad for the local Resistance network.

The reader asked what happened to Ad’s father while he was running about blowing up coal trains and if Ad’s family was in danger because of his activities. The answer is yes: a resister did put his or her family in danger. The Nazis practiced a policy of family responsibility and did punish fathers, mothers and siblings if they could not catch the individual they wanted. They enforced that policy much more often and more extensively in eastern Europe than in western Europe, but they did enforce it.

For example, when a Dutch-Paris man escaped arrest in the Pyrenees, German troops went to his house to arrest his family. Fortunately the wife and children received a phone call in time, but they spent a miserable winter hiding in the mountains. As another example, before the deportations began many young Jewish men in the Netherlands reported for work camps for fear that if they did not, their fathers would have to. Furthermore, Dutch-Paris smuggled the children of two well-known French resisters and a Dutch prisoner into Switzerland so they could not be used as hostages.

Nothing so dramatic happened in the case of Ad and his family though. Ad’s father supported his resistance work and gave him a disguise as an employee of the family firm when he was really working for the Resistance full time. In fact, his father joined the local Resistance network as well. He didn’t engage in derring-do like his son, but he provided the essential background for such feats of heroics. Like many fathers, he provided money, hiding places, food and, one suspects, the benefit of a cooler head when it came to negotiations and plans.

In fact, many fathers of young men found themselves in the Resistance because they wanted to protect their sons from being drafted into the military or forced labor and/or from the consequences of being in the Resistance. It did not always turn out happily, but in the case of Ad and his family, it did.