Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
As an escape line and rescue organization, Dutch-Paris ended at the Spanish frontier. The passeurs stopped at the border, handed out some pesetas that Dutch-Paris paid for, pointed the aviators and Engelandvaarders down the mountain towards the closest Spanish village and then turned around and headed back home. The resisters in Dutch-Paris did not know what happened in Spain because none of their fugitives came back. If they did, they certainly wouldn’t have given the men pesetas because the Guardia Civil just confiscated all their money.
Generally speaking, the first day or two after crossing the border went like this. Frenchmen tried to get as far into Spain as possible without being noticed because everyone knew that Franco’s Guardia Civil would turn them back over the border into the hands of the Germans. But Allied aviators and Dutchmen could rely on some diplomatic protection. They went into the nearest village or town and turned themselves into the Guardia Civil. Or sometimes the Guardia Civil saved them the trouble by waiting behind a boulder at the entrance to the village to arrest them.
The Guardia took the men’s particulars and their money and then sent them to an inn or café to eat and to clean up. Eventually the men moved south to the town of Viella courtesy of the Guardia Civil. There they contacted their embassies and waited for their diplomatic representatives to do whatever they were going to do. At times there were quite a few aviators hanging about Viella waiting. The Spanish authorities questioned them and, after visits from German “advisors”, questioned them again with more pointed questions.
An Australian who traveled with Dutch-Paris described his interrogations like this. He said that the frontier police at Bosost (the first Spanish village you come to after crossing the border where he did) asked him about his route to Spain and seemed particularly keen to know how he knew he had crossed the border. The Australian said he didn’t know but had asked a local man they came across at random. The Spaniards also asked some political questions along the lines of “who started the war” and “what are you fighting for.” The Australian said he was in the war for adventure, which satisfied the Spaniards.
The Australian, who spoke some French, acted as an interpreter for a couple of Americans in Viella. According to him, the Spanish police had a big wall map with push pins that were pretty close to the route that they had taken, but neither he nor the Americans gave them any definite information.
All the Dutch-Paris aviators and Engelandvaarders who reported on their experiences in Spain were treated decently bordering on hospitably there when they were close to the border. Some of them were then taken to internment camps where they were treated abominably, but others were taken to Madrid and treated quite well. So journeys in Spain varied as much as journeys through occupied territory depending on a range of factors and circumstances.