Paul Freudman deciphers a signature

Paul Freudman deciphers a signature

Pausing here in the Jan Zwartendijk story, we learned something new yesterday about the Dutch personnel in Toulouse.

Until now, I have written that A.J. van Dobben is the Dutch consul who issued Toulouse Curaçao visas. But the actual signature on Elly's Dutch visa is not "van Dobben" but a name I couldn't make out. Paul Freudman, a researcher with the Sousa Mendes Foundation and a descendant of an extended family of Mendes and Gissot visa-holders, had seen the Dutch visas before and he wrote that he read the signature as "Pichal."

Olivia from the foundation was on the email thread as well, and she chimed in that Pichal did not sound very Dutch. I did some quick searching and found that there is a present-day Sven Pichal, a radio journalist from the Flemish-speaking (Dutch) region of Belgium. Conceivably part of the same family, but at least suggesting that Pichal could be a Dutch-Flemish name.

And then I found a better hit at the Dutch diplomatic archives, which I had already encountered a day or two earlier. On an index page of "persons who were employed at Dutch embassies and consulates during the war," both the names of A.J. van Dobben and GPC Pichal are included.

And here are a few more sightings. An A.J. van Dobben de Bruyn was the mayor of the town of Langbroek near Utrecht from 1946-1975—quite possibly our same guy. There is also a G. Peter van Dobben de Bruyn, a board member of Hydratec Industries in Utrecht, an Olympic rower Jenny Van Dobben de Bruin, and two brother mathematicians (and heavy metal bandmates), Josse and Remy van Dobben de Bruyn. Some or all of these must be family members.

I am pretty sure van Dobben is the senior consul in the Dutch consulate. Pichal could be his deputy. He is certainly more than a clerk since he rates a listing in the diplomatic archive. Are both men in on the Curacao scheme together? Or is van Dobben the motivator with Pichal signing for cover, possibly unwittingly? Or it Pichal the conspirator working under the nose of his boss? It could be any of those.