second from the left, taken in 1946
One of the most well-known inmates at Natzweiler-Struthof was Albert Guérisse, a medical doctor and a resistance fighter from Belgium. Guérisse was in charge of an escape route for downed Allied pilots, called the PAT line, during World War II. He used the code name Patrick O'Leary, the name of a Canadian friend. In March 1943, Guérisse was arrested in Toulouse after the escape line was infiltrated and betrayed by French collaborator Roger Le Neveu.
Guérisse was first sent to the
Neue Bremm prison camp in the German city of Saarbrücken,
then to the infamous Class III camp at Mauthausen in Austria;
in the summer of 1944 he was an inmate at Natzweiler, along with
SOE agents Brian Stonehouse, Robert Sheppard and Ian Kenneth
Hopper who went by the name Johnny Hopper. Along with one other
SOE agent, they formed a group called the "English Officers."
The SOE was the Special Operations Executive,
a British spy organization, which carried on espionage and sabotage
operations in France and elsewhere during World War II. The SOE
was the model for the US Office of Strategic Services.
When the Natzweiler camp was evacuated in early September 1944, Guérisse, Stonehouse, Sheppard and Hopper were taken to Dachau along with the other prisoners. At Dachau, Guérisse became the leader of a group of prisoners who formed the International Committee in the camp. When the American liberators arrived, they found that the Commandant and most of the guards had left and the Committee had taken control of the camp. One American who was with the OSS was among the prisoners who were liberated by the US Seventh Army at Dachau.
Guérisse and the other English
Officers had managed to survive Mauthausen, Natzweiler and Dachau,
three of the worst camps in the Nazi concentration camp system.
All three of these camps had gas chambers, which Guérisse
was able to attest to.