Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
How did the German police capture so many members of Dutch-Paris? The short answer is that they, especially the Abwehr (military intelligence), were very good at their jobs. And they had help from the Nazi policy of terror.
Despite the round-up, Dutch-Paris counts as a great success story in the world of the resistance. But even so, Abwehr officers knew about the line, if rather hazily. They had a lucky break in early February 1944 when a collaborationist French police unit arrested a Dutch-Paris courier. After a few days, the French police turned her over to their German colleagues.
According to the postwar testimony of the French commissioner, he turned her over because he was afraid that she was an agent provocateur sent to test his loyalty and that he would end up in the concentration camps if he did not. Obviously, the man’s testimony is not entirely reliable because he gave it at his own purge trial for crimes that carried the death penalty. Nonetheless, the courier’s postwar testimony does corroborate that he said he was afraid he would be punished if he did not turn her over. That hardly excuses the man, and certainly not for other crimes he committed, but it does show the pervasive effects of the Nazi policy of terror.
Once they had the courier, the German police tortured her. She broke down and gave them some names. But they wanted more than just the people she knew. So they waited patiently for two weeks.
During that time one of their agents went to the apartment of another woman in Dutch-Paris pretending to be a messenger from the group, but she refused to speak to him. Police agents interviewed several concierges. Another agent shadowed a Dutch-Paris helper who had successfully lived underground for years without the resister knowing anything about it until the German introduced himself at Gestapo HQ after his arrest.
They laid their trap well and sprang it on 28 February 1944. Then they gathered more names by torturing more men and women. Having put the terror policy to bloody use, they arrested more people.
But they never managed to capture the leaders of Dutch-Paris even though they arrested Weidner’s sister and used her as a hostage (a tenant of the terror policy).
Was terror alone enough to destroy resistance? No. Could the German police, as skilled as they were, have captured as many resisters as they did without terror? Not likely, although impossible to say. The combination of the German police’s expertise and the Nazi terror policy, however, made the life expectancy of resistance groups, especially the escape lines that interested the Abwehr, very short.