Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
By the end of 1943 there was no doubt in John Weidner’s mind or that of any of his colleagues in the leadership of Dutch-Paris that the German authorities were on their trail. And they had every reason to think that those same German police would be particularly persistent in hunting down resisters who helped Allied airmen. After all, there were plenty of public announcement posters to that effect plastered around trains stations and the like. Why then, did they put the escape line for civilians and their aid to Jews in hiding at risk by helping airmen?
There were many reasons. For one, Dutch-Paris helped the persecuted. These men were being hunted down, so Dutch-Paris helped them. For another, a number of men and women in the line wanted to help the Allied war effort. Like others, they felt that getting trained aircrew back to their bases in England would mean more bombers flying over Germany, which would mean that the Allies would win the war sooner. Others felt that it was the least they could do to show their gratitude to these young men from other continents who had left their homes to risk their lives to liberate them.
And then there was politics. Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government-in-exile did not have as much to contribute to the Allied war effort as they would have liked. But the Dutch military attache in Bern could (and did) assist the British and American military attaches in Bern by spiriting their airmen out of occupied territory via Dutch-Paris. The British and Americans even paid for their men’s passage.
More importantly, Dutch-Paris had a remarkable number of connections to other French, Belgian and Dutch resistance groups. Some of them found themselves with Allied airmen on their hands but no way to get these dangerous guests away to England. Dutch-Paris had a route to Spain. Taking aviators for its resistance allies provided a valuable service.
From a security standpoint, agreeing to take aviators in January 1944 was a foolhardy decision they lived to regret. But being safe was never the first consideration for resisters.