A little-known aspect of the 39-45 air war: the odyssey of Anglo-American airmen shot down over France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, then refugees in Switzerland. They were 350 to turn into hunted clandestine vagabonds, and to want to taste the neutrality of the Swiss harbor. So many traumas, but also human exploits in aerial combat or through terrestrial pitfalls. A demonstration also that the forces for survival are almost limitless.
Manual of historical, political, and aeronautical references. Eight years of painstaking work were required to verify all sources.
A work that ensures the sustainability of many archives that have disappeared over the century, and with the memory of the protagonists.
Four indexes allow reading by reference:
An index of raids 210 ref.
An index of names 1'400 ref.
An index of subjects 1'260 ref.
An index of places 1'400 ref.
Anthoine, Roger, Infringing Neutrality: The RAF in Switzerland, 1940-1945, 2005. Switzerland, that bastion of neutrality, was in an interesting position during the Second World War. Despite being neutral, the Allies used it as a short cut when flying over enemy territory, their planes often crash-landed there after being damaged over occupied Europe, and Allied airmen made for Switzerland when trying to escape from POW camps. Roger Anthoine has researched the RAF’s incursions into Swiss air space, the aircraft that landed there, and the men who sought Switzerland as a safe haven. Available from Amazon, AbeBooks,
Carah, John M., Achtung! Achtung! Die Flugfestungen Kommen! =: Attention! Attention! the Flying Fortresses Are Coming!: Memoirs of WWII. WW-II memoirs of 2nd Lt. John M. Carah, a B-17 bomber pilot based in England. The book describes Lt. Carah’s career from enlistment in the Army Air Corps in 1942 to the destruction of his aircraft over France in 1943, to his successful evasion to Spain over the Pyrenees Mountains in early 1944. After being shot down in Normandy, Lt. Carah made his way to Switzerland where he was appointed Military Attache for Air in the Bern Legation. He was responsible for finding lodging for American internees who had landed or parachuted into Switzerland during their bombing missions. He also was one of several coding officers who worked for OSS European Chief Allen Dulles who maintained an office across the street from the Military Attache’s office in Bern. After six months of serving as a military attache, Lt. Carah requested permission to return home. He and seven other American, British and Canadian airmen and seamen then made their way back into occupied France for the trip to Spain and eventually Gibraltar. The trip was dangerous and soon turned into an ordeal as the evaders spent weeks evading German and Vichy agents determined to find them. Available from Barnes&Noble, Amazon, Lulu.com. Note that the names of evaders and their helpers have been added to the following indexes on this website: Index to Evaders, A-L; Index to Evaders, M-Z; and Index to Helpers.
Carper, Janet Holmes, The Weidners in Wartime: Letters of Daily Suvival and Heroism Under Nazi Rule, Weidner Collection: 2020. The Weidners in Wartime is the intimate story, told in their own words, of a family separated by war. Despite the dangers of writing under the inspection of censors, their letters paint a vivid portrait of decent human beings fighting valiantly to maintain their courage, their humor, and their faith during one of history’s darkest hours. It so happens that one member of the family is also a leader of the resistance, whose heroic actions to save fleeing refugees will make him a hunted man and one of the greatest rescuers of World War II.
In 1942, Jean Henri Weidner founded the “Dutch-Paris Line” to guide Jews, downed Allied pilots, and other persecuted people out of Nazi-occupied Europe to freedom in Switzerland and Spain. The Line spanned four countries and hid or escorted to safety an estimated 3,000 people, many faced with certain death. After the war, Jean was awarded the French Legion of Honor and the United States Medal of Freedom. He is honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations at Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. Yet Jean’s actions to save the lives of strangers comes at a terrible cost to those he holds most dear.
Through these never-before-published documents-expertly selected, translated, and introduced by Janet Holmes Carper-readers will encounter the daily lives of an “ordinary” but remarkable family bound together by their deep love for each other and by their prolific correspondence across great distances. The frequently unvarnished words of the Weidners (including Jean; his spirited younger sisters, Gabrielle and Annette; his stalwart parents, “Papa” and “Mama” Weidner; and his fiancé and soon-to-be bride, Elisabeth Cartier) provide a unique window into historical events that continue to resonate in the present. Jean’s secret resistance work is barely alluded to in the family’s letters. What emerges instead are the distinctive personalities, voices, and moral characters of the Weidners as they face the harsh realities of the war with as much bravery and good cheer as they can muster.
The Weidners in Wartime builds to a devastating climax, raising profound questions about humanity and inhumanity, loyalty and betrayal, duty, and sacrifice, that do not admit easy answers and that linger after the book is set down. These letters, written more than 75 years ago, might inspire in new generations a commitment to selfless and courageous action in the spirit of Jean, Gabrielle, Annette, and the other members of the Dutch-Paris escape line. Available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Waterstones.
Carroll, Tim, The Dodger, The Extraordinary Story of Churchill’s American Cousin, Two World Wars, and the Great Escape, Guildford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2013. “The Dodger is the long-awaited story of Johnny Dodge, a wartime hero and a pivotal figure in the escapade immortalised in the legendary Hollywood film The Great Escape. Of all the Allied prisoners who broke out of Hermann Goring’s ‘escape proof’ camp in the famous episode of March 1944, Johnny Dodge was the most intriguing. American-born Dodge was a cousin by marriage of Winston Churchill. When the Second World War broke out, he volunteered for the Army but was quickly captured after the debacle of Dunkirk. He became a prisoner of war and an inveterate escapologist and troublemaker – eventually becoming one of the ringleaders of the ‘Great Escape’. Surviving the murderous Gestapo, he was thrown into a VIP compound of Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the orders of Heinrich Himmler – but escaped once more. After recapture, Johnny was spirited away by the SS to a meeting in Berlin with Hitler’s interpreter, who sent him on a clandestine mission to his cousin in Downing Street. His odyssey through the dying embers of the Third Reich to Switzerland and freedom in the company of a louche Nazi apparatchik is the last curious escapade in the story of Johnny’s adventurous life. The Dodger draws upon Dodge’s voluminous private papers, including photographs taken inside prison camps and letters home, casting revealing new light on the myth of the Great Escape.” Available from Amazon and Roman & Littlefield.
Culler, Daniel L., Black Hole of Wauwilermoos: An Airman’sStory. Paperback. Green Valley, AZ: Sky & Sage Books, 1995.
Culler’s obituary: “Daniel Culler was a member of the ‘Greatest Generation.’ He was a flight engineer and top turret gunner on B24s during WWII. He was imprisoned by the Swiss for trying to escape from internment after his B24 was forced to land in Switzerland. He spent time in Wauwilermoos Federal Prison where he was tortured and his wounds were left untreated. Fifty years later, the president of Switzerland, Kaspar Villager, personally apologized to Dan for his suffering during the war.”
Associated Press article about Culler, Aug. 1, 1996: “During World War II, Daniel Culler spent months in a Swiss prison for violent and mentally ill criminals, where he was raped, beaten and thrown into a ditch filled with vermin and feces. Culler, now 72, managed to escape to England through the French underground in 1944. Two years later, an Army intelligence officer forbade him from discussing his treatment in prison. He complied, keeping his nightmares and flashbacks bottled up inside for decades, not even confiding the details of his ordeal to his wife. But in 1990, Culler sought counseling through the Veterans Administration and wrote a book about his time in the prison, ‘Black Hole of Wauwilermoos.’ The book caught the military’s attention and prompted a review of his files. Last year, he received a personal apology from the president of Switzerland. On Tuesday, the Air Force recognized Culler’s heroism and patriotism with two long-overdue awards – the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Prisoner of War Medal.”
Evans, Alfred John, The Escaping Club, UK: Foothill Media Ltd., 2012. On July 16, 1916, Reconnaissance pilot officer with 3 Squadron RFC crash-landed over enemy territory. Captured, he escaped twice, the second time resulting in his reaching freedom in Switzerland. Sent to Palestine, his plane came down with engine failure and we was taken prisoner by the Turks. He made another escape but was recaptured. Available from Amazon and AbeBooks.
Ford, Herbert, Flee the Captor, Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Publishing Assn., 1966. The story of the Dutch-Paris Underground and its leader, John Weidner. “The story of John Henry Weidner, a hero of history’s greatest holocaust, who saved the lives of 800 Jews, more than 100 Allied aviators, and many others who fled Nazism.” Available from Amazon and AbeBooks.
Foster, Steven with Alan Clark, The Soldier Who Came Back: The True Account of a Heart-Stopping Journey and a Heart-Breaking Decision, London: Mirror Books, 2018. “Northern Poland, 1940: at the Nazi war camp Stalag XX-A, two men struck up an unlikely friendship which led to one of the most remarkable wartime escape stories ever told. Antony Coulthard was the privately educated son of wealthy parents with a degree in modern languages from Oxford. Fred Foster, the son of a bricklayer, had left school at 14. This mismatched young pair hatched a plan to disguise themselves and simply walk out of the camp, board a train, and head straight into the heart of Nazi Germany. This audacious plan involved 18 months of undercover work, including Antony spending 3 hours each evening teaching Fred German. They set off for the Swiss border via Germany, but when they reached the border town of Lake Constance, with Switzerland within their reach, Antony crossed over into freedom, while Fred’s luck ran out. What happened to them both next is both heartbreaking and inspiring.” Available from Amazon, AbeBooks, and Independent Publishers Group.
Hickman, John Forrest, 1986, For God, Country and the Hell of It. Durng his WWII service in Europe, his P-51 was shot down one month before D-Day. He was held captive by the German forces in France only four days before he made a daring escape and was rescued by the underground and taken to Switzerland. His book has a complete account of his activities.
Holden, Norman W., The Lucky Seven, www.normanholdenbooks.com, 2023. The author wrote this book on behalf of his father-in-law, the late Mr. James J. Goebel, Jr., a B-24 pilot, who was also an AFEES member and organization director. Published on June 1, 2023, The Lucky Seven tells the story of James’ journey in 1944 after having being shot down over Europe. He reaches freedom thanks to brave resistance fighters in Belgium and France. The author says that “researching this book took several years and was truly a labor of love and includes stories from his fellow airmen and the Europeans who ensured his path back to safety. So, I’m extremely proud to bring his incredible true story to life.” To contact the author, write to him at [email protected].
Koreman, Megan, The Escape Line: How the Ordinary Heroes of Dutch-Paris Resisted the Nazi Occupation of Western Europe , New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. “In early summer 1942 a Dutch textile merchant living in Nazi-occupied France received a letter from a Jewish couple seeking his help in getting safe passage to Switzerland. John Henry (‘Jean’) Weidner barely knew the couple and had no experience in clandestine activities or direct connection to any underground organizations. Yet he and his wife, Elisabeth Cartier, decided to help, risking their lives to transport the couple from the French prison in which they were being held across the border to Switzerland. So began what became known as the Dutch-Paris escape line. Over the next three years it grew from a two-person border operation into one of the most extensive resistance organizations of World War II, running from the Netherlands through Belgium and France into both Switzerland and Spain, numbering 330 members and rescuing around 3000 persons…. Dutch-Paris largely improvised its operations–scrounging for food on the black market, forging documents, raising cash. In addition to Jews, it helped resistance fighters, saved Allied airmen (at least 120) who had bailed out of their planes or crash-landed, and spirited out young men looking to get to London to enlist. Dutch-Paris also acted as a messenger system for the Dutch government-in-exile, smuggling microfilm with news and information about the home front. Hunted relentlessly by the Gestapo, many members were captured and sent to labor camps. Yet Dutch-Paris continued to function until the war’s end.”
Mears, Dwight S., Interned or Imprisoned?: The Successes and Failures of International Law in the Treatment of American Internees in Switzerland, 1943-45. A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History, 2012. To view the thesis, click here. Contains considerable information on escapes and attempted escapes by interned American airmen. See the bibliography beginning on pg. 332.
Neave, Airey, They Have Their Exits, Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Leo Cooper, 2002. Originally published in 1953. “Wounded and captured at Calais in May 1940, Second Lieutenant Neave wasted little time before attempting to escape. Always a thorn in his captors’ sides, he earned his place in the ‘escape-proof’ Colditz Castle. Undeterred he had the distinction of being the first British officer to make a home-run, via Switzerland, Vichy France and Spain. Soon back in France working with the French Resistance as a member of MI9, rescuing Allied airmen, he found himself playing a leading role saving stranded survivors of 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem.” He later served at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials. Available at Amazon and AbeBooks.
Neury, Laurent, L’ESPOIR AU BOUT DU PONT: HISTOIRE DE LA “FILIÈRE DE DOUVAINE” (1939-1945) (HOPE AT THE END OF THE BRIDGE: HISTORY OF THE “FILIÈRE DE DOUVAINE” (1939-1945), Cabedita, 2019. Google translation: “Today, Sunday walkers idly stroll along the edges of the Hermance river, its bridge as well as its forest paths, and pass and repass on either side of the border without even realizing it. However, during World War II, this same place was a no-man’s land riddled with barbels, deemed impassable and guarded by armed guards. This work recreates the history and memory of “the Douvaine line” which ignored this closure during the fascist and Nazi occupations. Gathered around Abbot Rosay, these ordinary villagers allowed several hundred fugitives, mainly Jews, to take refuge in Switzerland. Descendant of one of the actors of the sector, the author rediscovers this family heritage but above all tries to understand the meaning of this commitment in a France willingly anti-Semitic.” French edition available from Amazon.
Tanner, Stephen, Refuge from the Reich, American Airmen and Switzerland During World War II, Rockville Center, New York: Sarpedon Publishers, 2000. Imagine the courage of a U.S. aircrew whose plane is rocked by explosions at 26,000 feet. The engines smoking, wounded crying, pilots desperately trying to control the falling craft, secretly unsure whether to shout the dreaded order: “Bail out!” A final moment of terror occurs when fighter planes suddenly appear alongside the stricken craft-and then a sigh of relief. The agile fighters are marked with the white cross of Switzerland. The crippled bomber is escorted to an airfield, and to safety. By 1943, a multitude of U.S. airmen who just months earlier had been farm boys, clerks or students were soaring over Germany, braving the vicious wrath of the Luftwaffe and storms of enemy flak. Thousands of flyers died; thousands more fell into Nazi hands. But for over 1,700 U.S. airmen, salvation came from a small, surrounded country that defied Hitler throughout the war. Refuge from the Reich is the story of how the world’s two oldest democracies came into contact amid the raging inferno of Nazi-held Europe. Having parachuted or crash-landed into Switzerland, U.S. airmen encountered a world they were unprepared for: a country where food and heat were rationed and every man was a soldier, subject to instant mobilization to counter the German threat. There were clashes of culture, as well as episodes of high drama. And, by the end of the war, there was an overriding sense of warmth and respect between U.S. airmen and the Swiss who had given them shelter. Refuge from the Reich tells the gripping story of U.S. flyers waging history’s greatest air campaign, while providing a firsthand, insiders’ view of the small democracy that was able to offer safety to our airmen, while facing dangerous odds of its own. Available from Amazon, AbeBooks.
See also the book list on the Swiss Internees Association website at https://swissinternees.tripod.com/books.html. And also the bibliography, beginning on pg. 332, of the doctoral dissertation by Dwight S. Mears, Interned or Imprisoned?: The Successes and Failures of International Law in the Treatment of American Internees in Switzerland, 1943-45.