Cruel Crossing by Edward Stourton

I just found this book, Cruel Crossing by Edward Stourton. I found it through this good article in the Express.

 

I’ve seen the Yesterday Channel programme Shot Down: escaping Nazi Europe a couple of times and every time it just fills me with joy. Yes joy. Joy at the wondrous bravery of the women and men who ran The Comet Line, the escape route from Belgium down across France and across the Pyrenees into Spain. More than 800 servicemen were saved by this route and by these wonderful people.

One of the things that strikes me most is the comment from the then 17 year old Andree Dumont that she had to do something, to fight against the Nazis. And she was not alone, not by a long chalk. the founder of The Comet Line was a woman, just 25 years old, called Deddee de Jongh. She personally escorted many of the evaders over the Pyrenees and this book is about that journey over the mountains. The book tells of Nadine’s courage and shows the spirit of many of those who created and worked on the Escape Lines during WWII.

With so many people in trouble in their own countries – I’m thinking of Syria at the moment – I ‘m always pulled back to the many resistance organisations throughout Europe during the time of the Nazis, not just France and Belgium but every single country the nazis invaded. They oppressed, tortured and killed thousands of people apart from those they killed in concentration camps, but those people didn’t run away, they hung on, stayed and fought back. they had no weapons and daily, hourly, risked their lives and their sanity – torture doesn’t just cause pain in the body, it tortures the mind and leaves lifelong scars there. So does the fear of this happening to you even if it never does. This happens, happened, to the members of the resistance.

But they alos came out with the joy of knowing that they had done something, that they hadn’t just sat there and succumbed to the Nazis, neither had they run away. They had done something. That knowing does bring joy. So does the eternal thanks from the people they rescued and got home … and those people’s families, and all the rest of us who wouldn’t be here now if there hadn’t been folk like Nadine in the Comet Line.

In 1913 Stourton walked the Chemin de la Liberte, the route the Dedee and the Comet Line took to bring the servicemen to freedom. It’s a walk, trek, across the mountains which happens every summer to remember those who escaped this way – what a fabulous thing to do, and what a wonderful tribute to those resistance folk and the servicemen who just would not give up but needed to return home to continue to do their bit to help those countries who had been invaded. He tells us it’s a tough challenge, climbing up 15,000ft  and then down 11,000ft , and that it takes four days. Imagine that, four days of terrifying climbing and that you’re still not free … not until you eventually climb down into Spain. And that if you’re court the best you might hope for is to shot in the head immediately! Stourton was fortunate that a few of those who made the journey in the war were still alive and he had the great privilege of meeting some of them and hearing their stories. Having seen and heard the Yesterday film I can imagine how it might feel to meet Nadine (Andree Dupont) and others.

It’s a good story … have a read. And know that it’s not fiction, not Holywood thriller or Die Hard action movie, this is real, was real, really happened. It can be a wonderful inspiration to others …