This page seeks to provide useful information about the U.S., British, Belgian, Dutch, and French archives that might be useful in research on escape and evasion. For additional suggestions for research sources, click the following sources: airmen who evaded or escaped and helpers of airmen.
Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Society in Brussels, Belgium, is the primary center for the history of 20th century conflicts, specializing in the two world wars. Click here for their home page, which lists a multitude of activities. In May a new book, War, Occupation, Liberation: Belgium 1940-1945 was published. On October 3, 2019 there will be a conference to investigate how Belgian families with a history of collaboration or resistance remember and experience the legacy of the Second World War.
Imperial War Museums. The IWM (see here for its home page), consists of five separate museums: Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford, IWM London, and IWM North (Manchester). A variety of events are held, e.g., the Duxford Battle of Britain, Sep. 21-11, 2019. The IWM London has extensive archival holdings.
Institut d’Histoire du Temps Present (Institute of History of Time Present). One of two sources of French records is IHTP. For contact information, click here. See also the French National Archives (Archives Nationales) above.
National Archives and Records Administration of the United States (NARA). Visit the home page of NARA where you will find archive news. To search the NARA catalogue, click here. World War II records are stored at its National Archives II (NAII) branch, in College Park, MD. A guide for planning your research provided by NARA is available here. For further information on using NAII provided on a WWII escape lines website, see this page. NARA announced in September 2019 that it is beginning to scan all its records using optical character recognition (OCR) to make it easier to search the contents. In late September the webmaster learned that the WWII Dutch helper files have been scanned and will be posted at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5709392. In October NARA announced a new feature, the Record Group Explorer, which lists all the different record groups and how far along each is in being scanned. Record Group 498 contains the files on evaders and their helpers. Also in October NARA announced Record Group 342, a collection of photographs documenting the activities of the U.S. Air Force and its predecessors during World War II and the Korean War, as well as U.S. military aviation history. The records are grouped into six broad subject categories: World War II; Pre-1940 Domestic; Pre-1954 Domestic; Non-Domestic; Korean War; and additional materials. The World War II category consists of approximately 50,000 images. Subjects covered include aircraft, crews and units, fields and installations, aircraft maintenance, transportation, reconnaissance, bombing and strafing, medical care, combat action, and more. Access to the photos is at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/542351?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wwiiairforce. In November, NARA reported as follows: “Join us in a continuing celebration of Veterans Day with a transcribe-a-thon focused on uncensored, handwritten reflections from World War II soldiers on war and military service: The American Soldier in World War II. More than 2,000 pages were transcribed during a 72-hour transcribe-a-thon earlier this week, over 65,000 pages have been transcribed since the project’s launch in May 2018. You can still participate! The project continues on Zooniverse. Can you help transcribe another 2,000 pages?”
National Archives (Nationaal Archief) of The Netherlands. Located in The Hague, not Amsterdam, these archives contain a wealth of information. For their website’s home page, click here. To go directly to their records on the Resistance, click here. The Archives are a quick tram ride from the main railroad station.
National Archives of the United Kingdom. The home page of the British National Archives is http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/. The Archives offers 61 guides to researching WWII. Their website also has a page on WWII books and memorabilia. The Archives has been releasing a War on Film Series on WWII, beginning in 2008 and continuing to October 2019. They include presentations on: Carve Her Name with Pride, The Longest Day, The Great Escape, The Man Who Never Was, The Dam Busters, Hope and Glory, The Great Escape: You’ve Seen the Film, Now Hear the Truth, and The Special Operations Executive, the French Resistance and the D-Day Landings. A new exhibit in the Cold War, “Protect and Survive, Britain’s Cold War Revealed,” is to be found here. In late September 2019 the Archives announced “This week, we made available to the public more than 100 previously top secret files from the Security Service, or MI5. The records cover a range of subjects and span the First and Second World Wars and post-war era up the late 1960s.” For “How Nazi Fake News Split Allied Commanders in 1945” click here. For new information on ordering documents, click here. A forthcoming event is Dunkirk: from the archives to Hollywood on 28 May. For details, click here. The archives announced on April 23 that it is making digital records available on its website free of charge for as long as its Kew site is closed to visitors. Click here for details. For a guide to Second World War records at Kew, click here. To view the Second World War blogs on the National Archives website, click here. For information on WWII prisoners of war, click here. The National Archives reading room is to reopen July 21, 2020. For details, click here.
NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (formerly Netherlands Institute for War Documentation). To visit their website, click here. Its page on research is here. One of their current research projects is on Dutch collaboration during WWII. Their WWII image database alone contains 175,000 images from the holdings of 30 different archives. Their archives search engine provides access to the records of 400 different archives. Their massive newspaper and magazine clippings (knipsels) file also may have useful articles. The index to the clippings is in the form of a 941-page PDF file which you can quickly access by clicking here. Use Control+F to search it for a specific name. Another valuable collection relating to aid to Allied airmen at NIOD are the files of WJM (Wim) Willemsen, a board member of the Dutch Association of Pilot Helpers from the Second World War, “the Escape”. They have to do with pilot aid in general and shot-down Allied war pilots in particular. A special presentation on the beginning of WWII appeared on the website in September 2019. Any one planning to visit Amsterdam should visit their library.
State Archives of Belgium (Archives de l’Etat en Belgique). To view the archives’ webpage, click here. To go directly to its page on research, click here. The archive has records of foreigners living in Belgium during WWII. If a member of the Resistance from The Netherlands, France, Poland, etc. was operating in Belgium, the State Archives may have records on him or her that were kept by the Belgian Foreigners (Etrangers) Police.
Verzets Resistance Museum. Although not strictly an archive, it is well worth visiting. Located in Amsterdam, it contains some interviews with members of the Resistance. Go to its home page.