29 October 2018

Five Best Books on the Cost of Courage Under Nazism

‘Stepping Stones to Freedom’ by Bob de Graaff in Wall Street Journal

Megan Koreman, independent historian and writer, specialising in World War II  selected five best books on the cost of courage under Nazism for the Wall Street Journal. Stepping Stones to Freedom by Bob de Graaff is on number one. De Graaff is professor of Intelligence and Security Studies.

Prof. dr. Bob de Graaff
Prof. dr. Bob de Graaff

Stepping Stones to Freedom

One in seven Allied aviators who survived being shot down in the Netherlands were helped to safety. According to Bob de Graaff, roughly 6,000 Dutch civilians took part in the rescue operations. They included Roman Catholic clerics, veterinarians, farmers, rationing inspectors, air-defense officials, gendarmes and smugglers—all of whom joined in constructing, as Mr. de Graaff describes it, “a hodge-podge of intertwining lines” across the flat countryside.

Assisting Allied airmen, whatever the risk

The decentralized nature of the Dutch escape lines made them harder to infiltrate but, even so, it’s estimated that for every two Allied pilots saved and returned to their bases, one Dutch rescuer lost his or her life. Such was the cost that the Dutch Council of Resistance instructed resisters in 1943 to stop their pilot-rescue activities. To no avail—Dutch men and women continued to assist the Allied airmen, whatever the risk. Why? Part of the explanation is found, perhaps, in a contemporary Frisian ditty: “In the pale, pale moonlight / They bombed Berlin at night / Filling the Dutch with much delight.”