Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
The second reason that Dutch-Paris hesitated to take Allied aviators until January 1944 was that the German authorities considered helping aviators to be a much more serious offense than helping civilians. Helping an Allied service man was, after all, aiding and abetting an enemy soldier, at least from their perspective.
In addition, everyone in the Third Reich, including the families of German servicemen stationed in western Europe, suffered greatly under the Allies’ almost constant bombardment of Germany. The Germans considered Allied aircrews to be “Luftterroristen” or “air terrorists” who killed women and children.
German military intelligence, the Abwehr, had counter-espionage units dedicated to tracking down evading airmen and their helpers. These men were highly trained, professional and very successful. The penalties for captured helpers ranged from imprisonment to deportation to the concentration camps to death and often including torture along the way. These penalties could and sometimes did fall upon the helpers’ entire families including uncles and cousins.
It is not surprising, then, that the German officers who interrogated Dutch-Paris members after their arrests in February and March 1944 questioned them about Allied airmen. The round-ups caught only those men and women who worked on the aviator escape line, without spilling into the sections of the line that helped and hid civilians. The containment of the catastrophe to the aviator line happened because of the heroic fortitude of Dutch-Paris members under torture, and the line’s security protocols, but also because the interrogating officers didn’t care much about the rest of the line’s activities.
It is difficult to tell from the available documents if the German police would have caught Dutch-Paris if they had not started helping Allied airmen. But it is clear that the aviator escape line made the group more vulnerable by attracting the attention of the Abwehr.