In the last post I said that two categories of government agencies started collecting the history of the Resistance immediately after the war. The first were those bureaucracies charged with distributing pensions, medical benefits and the like to resisters. Before disbursing any money, however, they first established each resister’s bona fides. Those files are a treasure trove of information about how the Resistance functioned, but the bureaucracies kept them to themselves until very recently.

The second category of government agency that was gathering information about the Resistance was officially sponsored historical institutes dedicated to the war. Of course, they were interested in many aspects of the war in their own country, but the Resistance loomed large in their investigations, especially in the early years. In France the Comité d’Histoire du deuxième Guerre mondiale (CH2GM, Committee for the History of the Second World War) had correspondents in every department. These correspondents had privileged access to archives to answer questions posed in Paris and many of their reports remained inaccessible until recently.
In the Netherlands the Rijks Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie (Royal Institute for War Documentation) now the NIOD instituut voor oorlogs-, holocaust- en genocidestudies (NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies), sent investigators to carry out interviews and gather documents to figure out what had happened during the war. Its director, Lou de Jong, wrote a multi-volume history of the war in the Netherlands based on those investigations. It has become a national depository for non-governmental documents about the war such as diaries and family photographs.

If you add these two war-specific sources of documentation – the pension paying bureaucracies and the historical institutes – to the garden variety government archives that house the papers of police, prefects and other government agencies for the years 1939-1945, you can piece together a fairly good idea of what happened during the war. For some topics, indeed, you end up with far too much information.

But, as with all topics, the archives have holes. Such is the case with passeurs in the Pyrenees. The CH2GM correspondent for the Ariège complained that he could not get any information from the passeurs about what they had done during the war. After the war they all went back to smuggling contraband, he said, and refused to reveal anything about their routes or their methods. The passeurs do not always show up in the army’s files either. Weidner, who had to vouch for each member of Dutch-Paris, showed no interest at all in recording the names or stories of the passeurs used by the line because they had paid them (rather well, in fact). In his view, that payment disqualified them from the title of resister. He would have had a hard time if he had wanted to know. Three of the passeurs Dutch-Paris used most often died in a German ambush in 1944 and one died in mysterious circumstances at the liberation. What we do know about them comes from the reports of the people who worked with them.  Such reports can be found in both the army’s archives and in the CH2GM’s archives (now in the Archives nationales and now easily accessible).