With some confidence and with sincere regret it may be said that the last Dutch national hero has passed away today.
Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema
1917 Java - 2007 Hawaii
Hazelhoff Roelfzema, World War II veteran and resistance fighter, has died today in Hawaii at the age of ninety. He was born in 1917 on the island of Java, then the Dutch Indies. He joined the resistance when, as a young law student in the historic university town of Leiden, the Second World War broke out. He got caught in 1941 and spent a week in the infamous Scheveningen jail.
Upon his release he went into hiding, graduated and did a daring escape to England. From there he carried out hazardous landings on the heavily fortified Dutch coast, where he dropped off radio equipment for the resistance and picked up other would-be exiles, whom he ferried over to England. Later on he became a pilot in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and flew his bomber seventy times over enemy territory.
At the end of the war he was appointed personal attendant to Queen Wilhelmina, also in London at the head of the Government-in-Exile. Upon the conclusion of the war in 1945 he became known as the man who carried the young princesses, Beatrix and Irene, from a plane onto Dutch soil.
After the war Hazelhoff Roelfzema moved to America, where he first attempted a career as an actor and screen writer. Later on he got to work for television and radio. From 1968 onwards he devoted his time entirely to writing.
In 1970 his best-selling war biography "Soldaat Van Oranje" ("Soldier of Orange") was published. The title refers to his work during the war in the service of the royal family, whose title is Of Orange. The story was put on screen in 1977, an early success of Paul Verhoeven, with actors Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé in leading roles.
In the 1980 coronation of Queen Beatrix he fulfilled an honorary role. In 1942 he received a Knighthood in the highest ranking order in the country (Militaire Willems-Orde).
His passing for me personally truly signifies the end of an era. His generation was the best a nation could wish for. We are on our own: it's our turn now. The road on the way to the new era is as yet confusing and diffuse. What the future form and essence will be is a matter that's being fought out at present by the forces that shape it. We all are its architects.
- Thomas Jefferson -