Although, as an historian, I remain astounded by the vast amount of documentation about Dutch-Paris now available in various archives, a lay person could be forgiven for thinking that rather a lot of the details have been lost. For example, the details of how, exactly, the pastor recruited a café owner to act as a “post box” for the line, or even when, are missing from the existing documents. There are a number of reasons for such lapses.

1. The information was forgotten at the time because it was considered either too insignificant or too dangerous to remember, especially in written form. The pastor, for instance, never wrote down the café owner’s name for fear it would lead to an arrest. Then, under the weight of years of clandestine activity, he simply forgot how it happened in the first place.

2. The information was written down during the war, but the papers were either destroyed or captured. This happened with most lists of people helped by Dutch-Paris. For instance, when Klaus Barbie arrested the Dutch consul in Lyon, the consul’s secretary very understandably burned any compromising papers she could find. In Brussels, the German security services captured not only 10 aviators and 6 Dutch resisters but also all those resisters’ forgery supplies and what they always called their “archives.”

3. Immediately after the war, the people who knew the information didn’t write it down. For instance, in the mid-1940’s, the Americans and British did quite a bit of investigating in order to reward people who helped aviators during the war. Such people submitted reports to the British and Americans that described how they helped airmen. But no one asked them for reports about how they helped Jews, so they never wrote that down. Or if they did, the reports didn’t end up in an archive.

4. Some of the documents that were written during the war have been lost. The Gestapo, for instance, deliberately burned their own files. The personal papers of a Dutch-Paris leader in Brussels appear to have been misfiled by the archive to which they were confided and are effectively lost. Obviously, it’s impossible to say how much detail is in such “lost” archives, but there is undoubtedly some.

5. The people who knew the information did not survive the war in order to record it. Every member of Dutch-Paris who perished in the concentration camps took his or her resistance secrets to the grave. No one knew everything about the line, not even John Weidner. No one wanted to know more than necessary for fear of betraying others under torture.

There’s nothing surprising in the fact that many of the details of a complicated Resistance line such as Dutch-Paris have been lost. What is amazing is that so many can be reconstructed out of the archives. Perhaps we will never know how the pastor recruited the café owner, but we don’t really need to know that. It’s enough, and impressive enough, to know that that particular café owner did that particular job until she was arrested on such and such a date at such and such a place under such and such charges but that another café owner replaced her as the Dutch-Paris “post box” until the liberation.