False papers used by the Dutch-French resistance in WWII
False papers used by the Dutch-French resistance in WWII

New book: the Dutch and French ‘underground railroad’ in WWII

Historian Megan Koreman’s book on the Dutch Resistance network that saved hundreds of lives during World War II has been a long time coming. In a way, it started when she was just 5 and visiting her uncle in Holland.

Megan Koreman
Megan Koreman

“He told me how he had been in the resistance,” she said. “But he only told me the stories you’d tell a 5-year-old.”

Those stories never left her. Now she’s celebrating the publication of her book “The Escape Line: How the Ordinary Heroes of Dutch-Paris Resisted the Nazi Occupation of Western Europe,” including two recent appearances in the Bay Area.

“Dutch-Paris” was a network of over 300 people in Holland, France, Belgium and Switzerland that helped some 1,500 Jews and others reach safe places like Switzerland and Spain. They also helped Jews who were hidden or underground.

“Rather ordinary people — bankers, widows, shopkeepers, secretaries, farmers — were confronted with a stranger who needed help, and they said, ‘Yes, I’m going to help,’” Koreman said. “And just by saying ‘yes’ they broke the law. They took an enormous risk, and some died in a concentration camp.”

Koreman’s book was written with the support of the John Henry Weidner Foundation for Altruism. Weidner was one of the original members of the Dutch-Paris network. A Dutch businessman in Lyon, he first helped a friend escape the Netherlands but ended up saving hundreds.

Koreman gave a private lecture Oct. 2 at Hoover Library & Archives at Stanford to commemorate the donation of Weidner’s papers to the library. An Oct. 3 talk at the Jewish Community Library was attended by children of Dutch-Paris Resistance members, as well as the children of those they helped.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.