Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
Every arrest of a Dutch-Paris resister or a person whom they helped posed a threat to the entire line. Everyone knew that the Gestapo and their colleagues tortured arrested resisters. No one expected anyone to hold out forever. So it was vitally important for Dutch-Paris to know exactly why someone had been arrested. If the German police suspected someone of being a resister, the situation was bad. Everyone else needed to take precautions. But if the local police suspected someone of being a black market smuggler, for example, things were not nearly as dire. Arrested black marketeers were treated differently than resisters and could even sometimes be bought out of jail.
The arrest of Pierre from the previous post caused his colleagues in Dutch-Paris some anxiety. Plain clothes German policemen arrested him because the numbers on his false ID were wrong, but let his companion, another Dutch-Paris courier, go free. Pierre’s companion could not identify what unit the policemen belonged to. If they were Gestapo looking for resisters, there could be serious trouble. But the policemen could have belonged to several German units including the military police and the customs office, not all of whom were looking for resisters. Given the number of prisons, makeshift prisons and secret basement cells and torture chambers in Brussels in the summer of 1944, finding someone who had been arrested posed a challenge.
Fortunately, Pierre was able to send a postcard from where he was being held in Belgium. He sent it to friends in Switzerland because he knew that the Germans could not retaliate against people in Switzerland or use them to uncover his true identity. He also knew that the friends would tell his colleagues in Dutch-Paris.
Pierre wrote on the standard issue blank postcard allowed to some categories of prisoner and he wrote in German, as required by the censor. He wrote that he had been arrested because of an irregularity in his documents and that he “and other Belgians” were being sent to Germany as laborers. Although no one wanted a friend to be shipped into the Third Reich as slave labor, this news reassured Pierre’s friends. It meant that the Germans had no idea who he really was, ie a Dutch resister, and would not torture him or send him to a concentration camp. If they didn’t torture him, his resistance secrets were safe. That meant that the many addresses and people he knew as a courier who traveled the full extent of Dutch-Paris’s route were safe. It also alerted his friends that there was a problem with the false documents that were being prepared for them by Dutchmen in Switzerland.
After that, however, they lost track of Pierre. He had been deported as slave labor and lost his right to correspondence by trying to escape. Fortunately he survived the bombings, cold and hunger of the last winter of the war to be liberated by the Allies in April 1945.