Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
Dutch-Paris had an elaborate system for smuggling Jews, resisters and other people who needed to get out of the Nazis’ grasp from France to Switzerland. They had a chain of safe houses, many sources of false documents, donors willing to fund the effort and helpers willing to put themselves at risk to escort the fugitives. The sticking point in the escape line was always the Swiss authorities. The men and women of Dutch-Paris broke many laws in occupied France, Belgium and the Netherlands, but in Switzerland they obeyed the law. Their protégés had to have official permission to stay in Switzerland from the Swiss authorities, or they had to return to France.
As a rule, Dutch-Paris did not take anyone over the Swiss border unless they had made arrangements for that person to stay there. This was neither easy nor obvious, but they found ways. On a few occasions, however, the Swiss refused to accept Dutch-Paris fugitives. In June 1943, for example, the courier Moen brought a young Jewish girl, a refugee from eastern Europe whose parents had been deported, from Brussels to Switzerland. The Swiss refused to grant her asylum. Instead, Weidner found her a foster family in Annecy, where she spent the rest of the war.
A little over a year later, Moen brought a pregnant Belgian nurse and her partner who had been condemned to death for helping Allied aviators to Switzerland. He did this as a favor to the Belgian resistance group who helped him cross the Franco-Belgian border on a regular basis. Again, the Swiss refused to accept the pair as refugees. Moen took them back home, where they went underground for the rest of the war.
No matter how well resisters planned or how many times they had done something before, there was always something that could go wrong. It could be as predictable as a refusal by the Swiss authorities or as unexpected as an Allied bombing raid hitting the train that a courier was on. Resisters had to live in the circumstances as they unfolded on any particular day.