How businessmen, ministers, secretaries, and others carried on unarmed resistance during World War II.
Koreman (The Expectation of Justice: France, 1944-1946, 2000), a former history professor, is the daughter of Dutch parents who took part in the resistance. Given exclusive access to archives of the era, she presents the history of Dutch-Paris, a group that aided more than 3,000 Jews, political refugees, freedom fighters, and downed Allied airmen to escape the German occupiers in three countries. The book’s central figure is Jean Weidner (1912-1994), a Dutch businessman who lived in France, near the Swiss border. Weidner’s business took him frequently across the border, where his wife worked. When he was contacted by a Dutch Jew seeking a way to escape with his family to neutral territory, Weidner decided to help even though there were already laws against helping Jews escape. That began Weidner’s resistance career, and his network stretched from the Netherlands and Belgium to neutral Spain and Switzerland. Koreman thoroughly documents the process by which refugees were smuggled to safety, with stories of hairbreadth escapes, betrayals, and the human drama of dozens of ordinary people doing what they could to help others escape the Nazi horror. Unfortunately, not all were lucky enough to avoid the Germans’ efforts to clamp down on the escape routes. The author is a deft narrator, drawing on original documents and survivors’ accounts, and despite the grim realities of living in Nazi-occupied territory, there are enough lighter moments to give readers a well-rounded perspective. There is an enormous amount of detail about the various participants, with maps of the different cities that figure in the narrative and appendices listing members of Dutch-Paris and those they helped to escape, plus a glossary, a timeline, and a list of archives consulted.
An invaluable account of genuine heroism in the midst of one of the most terrifying episodes of human history.