On the 3rd of April 1917, Erik Hazelhoeff Roelfzema was born on Java. He would become a resistance fighter during World War II. He wrote an autobiography about his experiences, which was turned into a film, Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange) in 1977.
Hazelhoff Roelfzema grew up in the Dutch East Indies, and the family moved to the Hague in the 1930s. Hazelhoff Roelfzema was an adventurous type, heading to the United States in 1938 to travel around as a hobo. He wrote the book Rendez-Vous In San Francisco about this. He also reported as a journalist on the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland in 1939 and 1940.
He studied Law at Leiden University when World War II broke out in the Netherlands. Hazelhoff Roelfzema, like many others, resisted the German occupiers where possible. He wrote the Leiden Manifesto and spread this around the campus to show the Germans how the students of Leiden would fight against them. Leiden University was then closed down.
He managed to finish his Master’s degree later in 1941, then fled to England. With two other Dutch men who had fled, Chris Krediet and Peter Tazelaar, he crossed the Channel several times to bring transmitting and radio equipment to the Netherlands for the resistance, and to collect people from the Netherlands who were needed in the United Kingdom. They used a motor gun boat from the British Royal Navy to get close, then used a rowboat to get to shore.
In 1942, he joined the British Royal Air Force to become a pilot and in 1944 he joined the 139th squadron and was part of 72 Pathfinder-missions to Germany. For this, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross from King George VI of Britain. He was also made adjudant to Queen Wilhelmina, a sort of assistant. He piloted the plane that brought Princess Juliana, Prince Bernhard and Princess Beatrix back to the Netherlands.
After the war, Hazelhoff Roelfzema didn’t settle in the Netherlands but went back to the United States in an attempt to make it as an actor and writer in Hollywood. This didn’t go as planned, although he did briefly work for the Today Show and Tonight Show for NBC. By 1955 he went back to Europe as director or Radio Free Europe in Munich, an American propaganda radio channel.
He also sympathised and fought for the independence of the South Moluccas Republic. While his mission to make contact with the resistance on the Moluccas he failed, he did use the attention his mission got in the Netherlands to argue in favour of supporting the independence.
In 1968 he settled down to write his autobiography on his experiences during World War II, which was published in 1970 as Het Hol van de Ratelslang (The Rattlesnake’s Lair) and in 1971 as Soldaat van Oranje. The film version from 1977 does differ from the autobiography in some ways, and stars Rutger Hauer as the titular character.
In 1980 he had an important ceremonial role at the inauguration of Queen Beatrix as one of her King of Arms. He had moved to Hawaii in 1973, where he lived until his death on the 26th of September 2007, aged 90.
(Above: From left to right, Peter Tazelaar, Rie Stokvis and Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema on the 2nd of May 1945 in Breda when Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana visited the city)
- It saddens me to see you among all these fascist bunker-builders. - Oh, it’s war. - And it’s a nice party - I heard you were abroad. - Rubbish. - I heard you were in London. - No, I’m right here, as you see. - Shame we’re not fighting on the same side. - A shame. - In a few years the Germans and English will be fighting the communists. - I doubt it. - We won’t see it. We won’t survive the war.
Soldaat van Oranje de Musical - Als wij niets doen
Denk je soms dat dit ons leven niet raakt
Of wachten we tot de storm over waait
Onze vrienden kapot worden gemaakt
Kijken we toe tot de wind weer draait
Niemand van ons, heeft hier om gevraagd
Maar doen of je neus bloed is god geklaagd
we zitten te slapen, ons huis staat in brand
En je kunt niet weg ’t is overal steek je kop niet in het zand
Als wij niets doen?
We zien toch dat dit niet kan
’t is nu aan jou en mij
Onze enige hoop zijn wij
Denk maar niet dat dit geruisloos verdwijnt
Het gaat niet weg als je, je ogen maar sluit
Je hoort en je ziet (maar je zwijgt)
Volg je je hart of redt je je huid
We kunnen niet blijven doen of dit niet bestaat
We vergeten de regels en we stellen een daad
Er zijn veel te veel tranen je voelt toch de pijn
’t is nu aan jou, nu moet je er zijn
als wij niets doen, wie dan?
we zien toch dat dit niet kan (zien dat dit niet kan)
’t nu aan jou en mij
onze enige hoop zijn wij
verschuil je niet achter je hoge en veilige muur
je moet je zelf vragen als de wereld in brand staat wie blust dan het vuur (blus jij het vuur?)
’t gaat over jou en mij
onze enige hoop zijn wij
we zien toch dat dit niet kan
als wij niets doen
Er waren veel hele mooie liedteksten bij Soldaat van Oranje, maar deze stak er voor mij toch wel boven uit.
Hoe actueel ook nog, zat ik mij te bedenken.