Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema

Family tree of Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema

Author, Member of the French Resistance during World War II

DutchBorn Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema

Dutch writer who became a resistance fighter and RAF pilot during the Second World War

Born on April 3, 1917 in Soerabaja, Java , Indonesia

Died on September 26, 2007 in Ahualoa, Hawaï , United States

Family tree

Report an error

This form allows you to report an error or to submit additional information about this family tree: Erik HAZELHOFF ROELFZEMA (1917)

More information

Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema (3 April 1917 – 26 September 2007) was a Dutch writer who became a resistance fighter and RAF pilot during the Second World War. Near the end of the war he was adjudant (assistant) to Queen Wilhelmina. He was made Knight 4th class of the Military William Order. He is perhaps best known for his book Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange) which described his experiences in the war. His book was later made into a film. The book and the film about it eventually were made into the most successful Dutch musical ever, premiering 30 October 2010.

...   Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema (3 April 1917 – 26 September 2007) was a Dutch writer who became a resistance fighter and RAF pilot during the Second World War. Near the end of the war he was adjudant (assistant) to Queen Wilhelmina. He was made Knight 4th class of the Military William Order. He is perhaps best known for his book Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange) which described his experiences in the war. His book was later made into a film. The book and the film about it eventually were made into the most successful Dutch musical ever, premiering 30 October 2010.

Early life
Roelfzema was born in the former Dutch East Indies in Surabaya, on Java, when it was under colonial rule. He was from a patrician family, which is listed in the Nederland's Patriciaat. He was the second child of Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema and his wife Cornelia Vreede. His older sister, Ellen, had been born two years before. His father managed rubber and coffee plantations. In the 1930s the family returned to the Netherlands so the children could be provided with a good education. They initially moved to The Hague, and later moved on to Wassenaar. He played soccer and was a member of the Hague Football Association.
Roelfzema started writing in his teens. From 16 years of age onward he was committed to becoming a writer. He attended the University of Leiden and was a member of the Leidsch Student Corps Minerva society while living at Rapenburg 56 across the canal from the Academiegebouw. During his hazing initiation the president of his student corps, Ernst de Jonge, threw a soup tureen at a group of new students, striking Roelfzema in the head and cutting his scalp. De Jonge had been an Olympic rower at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, and was very popular among the students. His accidental wounding of Roelfzema was the basis for their forming a friendship.After completing his first year of study Roelfzema took time off to travel to the United States and crossed the country by freighthopping and hitchhiking. In 1939 he wrote a book of this experience, titled Rendezvous in San Francisco, which became a bestseller in the Netherlands.

War in Europe
Following his trip abroad Roelfzema returned to Leiden University to continue his studies. When war broke out in Europe in September, 1939, Roelfzema and his fellow students supposed Holland would remain neutral as it had during the First World War. When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in November he traveled there to cover the conflict, working as a war correspondent for the Rotterdams Nieuwsblad, the Dordrechtsch Nieuwsblad and the Haagsche Courant. Afterwards he wrote a book about it, titled Het Smeulende Vuur (The Smoldering Fire).Following the conclusion of the war in Finland in March 1940, he returned home and resumed his life as a student at Leiden. He was there at the time of the German invasion of the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. Roelfzema joined the Dutch army reserve, but the Netherlands was overrun by the German army in five days, bringing the war to a close before he was deployed. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands fled to London to establish the government in exile there.Roelfzema continued his studies during the occupation and became involved in the Dutch underground. In October the faculty at Leiden received a letter demanding to know if they were of Jewish heritage. On 23 November all the Jewish staff at the university were dismissed. The dean of the Law School, Professor Rudolph Cleveringa, gave a speech on 26 November 1940 condemning these dismissals. He and several other of the law professors were arrested. This instigated a 48-hour strike by the students. In response the Germans closed the university.
In February 1941 Roelfzema wrote his 'Leids manifesto', which criticized German demands of excluding the Jewish students from the student societies. It called upon the students of Leiden to resist the policies of the German occupiers. At his own expense he had it printed, and during the night of 14/15 February Roelfzema and eleven of his compatriots posted it all over Leiden. Ten days later the board of the university made a request of the students that they resist the German occupiers no further. Roelfzema wrote a reply on 6 March, pledging in principle to commit no more opposition at the university. In April he was arrested by the secret police and held for a week at the notorious "Orange hotel", a political prison run by the Germans in Scheveningen.In the midst of the unrest and disruption, the Germans re-opened the University of Leiden for ten days. As it happened Roelfzema had been studying hard and took this opportunity to take exams. Taking his exams in formal tuxedo, as was the custom of his student society Minerva, he passed and was awarded his doctorate in law on 10 June 1941. He was the first member of his class to attain the degree. Leiden was closed again soon afterwards. Three weeks later he was an Engelandvaarder, a Dutchman who escaped Nazi control by finding a way to reach England. Roelfzema, Peter Tazelaar, Bram van der Stok, Gerard Volkersz and Toon Buitendijk posed as crew members aboard the SS St. Cergue, a Swiss freighter bound for New York City. The ship was intercepted in the North Sea by the British cruiser HMS Devonshire, suspecting her to be a German supply ship. The Devonshire escorted her to Tórshavn, in the Faroe Islands, were the stowaways were brought ashore. Roelfzema persuaded the captain of the British cruiser to give them passage to Britain.

Activities in England
Once in London, Roelfzema became involved in a secret service group of escaped young Dutchmen called the Mews, after Chester Square Mews, the neighborhood in London where they lived. The group was being run under the direction of François van 't Sant, director of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (CID, Centrale Inlichtingendienst). The agents were trained under Colonel Euan Rabagliati of MI9. Their operation was called 'Contact Holland', whose goal was to establish links with the disparate Dutch resistance groups, support them and coordinate their activities in the Netherlands. Most agents were brought into the Netherlands by parachute drop. This required the agent to be trained in parachuting and exposed them to the risks of doing so at night. Roelfzema, Peter Tazelaar and Chris Krediet came up with an alternative method of insertion. They proposed gaining access to the Netherlands by sea. They would use a Motor Gun Boat (MGB) to cross the channel, covering the last stretch of water by taking a small boat and rowing into shore.
Due to internal politics Van 't Sant was required to step down from his position with intelligence and control of the CID was transferred to Colonel Mattheus de Bruyne of the Dutch Marine Corps. De Bruyne lacked experience in intelligence work and did not have a good grasp on the subtlety required. He failed to recognize the fact that his agents were often arrested and yet were continuing to broadcast messages, except now they were under the control of the Germans. The usual procedure for transmitting messages was to include small errors. If an agent was forced to work for the Germans, he would leave out the errors. The result should be that contact was aborted immediately. De Bruyne concluded that the agents simply forgot to use the security-checks and even sent messages to remind them. This would tip-off the German intelligence and the agent would be replaced with a German and sent off to a concentration camp. Other intelligence mistakes by De Bruyne included attaching detailed maps of the landing sites at Noordwijk, Scheveningen and Walcherento to the walls of his London office and leaving them up. Observing this, Louis d'Aulnis, an agent of the CID, elected not to announce where his landing place would be beforehand, a measure which ended up saving his life.
In their first mission, Peter Tazelaar was to deliver radio equipment and bring two men back from the occupied Netherlands to join the government-in-exile in Britain. Roelfzema had met Tazelaar when the two men had worked as stokers on the St. Cregue during their escape. Roelfzema had often spent time at the seaside resort of Scheveningen and knew that every Friday night a large party was held at the Kurhaus of Scheveningen (Grand Hotel) which had been taken over by the Germans as a headquarters. Their plan was to approach Scheveningen late at night and take Tazelaar into shore by dinghy.
In the pre-dawn hours of 23 November 1941, Tazelaar, Roelfzema, Krediet and Lieutenant Francis 'Bob' Goodfellow rowed in on a small dinghy. When they neared the surf, Roelfzema and Tazelaar slipped off the boat and waded onto the beach. Tazelaar was then helped out of his wetsuit to reveal the black tuxedo he was wearing beneath it. Roelfzema then poured a generous amount of brandy over Tazelaar and left him, returning to the dinghy. Reeking of brandy, Tazelaar managed to pass himself off as a drunken party goer and staggered past the sentries stationed around the hotel. Two months later he returned to the beach with three others for a return to England. They were waiting on the beach for Roelfzema but the Sicherheitspolizei arrived on the scene first. Tazelaar and one other were able to escape. With no contact to England, he had to return overland, taking his chances traveling through Belgium, France, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal, before reaching England three months later.
Roelfzema led fifteen small-boat missions to the shores of the Netherlands. He was in charge of the insertion mission, while a Royal Navy lieutenant was in charge of the Motor Gun Boat carrying them. The small group would wait for the dark of a moonless night to attempt their missions, with Roelfzema going ashore with whoever was being dropped. 108 such Engelandvaarders returned to the Netherlands by parachute or boat to support the resistance. Only half survived the war.
On 22 February 1942, Roelfzema's 'transport service' performed an infiltration for his friend Ernst de Jonge. They rowed ashore at Katwijk. Roelfzema had already become suspicious that something was amiss with their insertion operations. He feared they were being betrayed by Nazi sympathizers present amongst the officers of the exiled government. Some three months after De Jonge's drop, a courier on his way to England was picked up by the secret police. He was carrying detailed reports written by De Jonge that had been transferred onto three roles of microfilm. De Jonge heard about the arrest but refused to go into hiding. Three days later, on 22 May, De Jonge and two of his fellow agents were arrested at an apartment in Rotterdam. They were brought to Kamp Haaren. From there they were transferred to Assen. Roelfzema did not hear from him again; De Jonge and a group of 52 others were sent to the Rawicz concentration camp in Poland. Of that group, 47 were sent over to Mauthausen, where they were executed. Ernst de Jonge remained with six others at Rawicz and died there in September 1944; he has no known grave.With the capture of De Jonge, Roelfzema blamed de Bruyne. When de Bruyne instructed Roelfzema to provide information to another branch of the exiled Dutch government, Roelfzema refused for fear that it had been infiltrated by Nazi sympathizers. De Bruyne was angry with this insubordination and moved to have Roelfzema court-martialed. Queen Wilhelmina intervened and recommended him for the Netherlands' highest honor, the Militaire Willemsorde (Military Order of William). The court-martial proceedings were set aside and the Militaire Willemsorde was bestowed upon Roelfzema in the summer of 1942 by the Queen. Following this he met with Dutch Navy minister Johan Furstner and the court-martial was cancelled. Roelfzema had had enough of working with the secret service. He resigned from the Mews and volunteered to serve in the Royal Air Force.
The British military historian M. R. D. Foot has confirmed the degree of German penetration of SOE's Dutch networks, something SOE denied during the War. In his history of the Special Operations Executive, he wrote that the Allied intelligence effort in the Netherlands had been penetrated from the start of the war. Two Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) agents, Captain Sigismund Payne Best and Major Richard Stevens, had been captured in November 1939 during the Venlo Incident. This culminated in the capture of some 50 British and Dutch agents by the Abwehr and the Sicherheitsdienst in Operation North Pole.

Flying with the RAF
To fly for the RAF Roelfzema first had to qualify. Poor vision had disqualified him earlier from mandatory service in the Dutch reserves. The glasses he wore for visual correction should have disqualified him from pilot training as well. Ever resourceful, Roelfzema worked around this by smuggling in a lens and palming it during his vision test. He passed and was sent to Canada for flying school. He trained in single-seat fighter aircraft and was awarded the gold cufflinks on graduating his training course given to the best pilot cadet in the training group.On returning to England he found himself sidelined, unable to get posted to an operational squadron. An unlikely avenue was with the elite Pathfinder Force of Bomber Command's most experienced and best pilots, whose job it was to guide the Bomber stream of the RAF night bombers through all weathers to their targets in Germany. While lamenting his situation with girlfriend Midge Cooper at a public house, 'Hamish' Mahaddie happened by. Mahaddie was a wing commander with the Pathfinders, who frequented the public houses after giving talks on Pathfinder techniques to see if he could recruit any pilots for his force. "Here's just the man we need!" said Cooper. Though hesitant to take on an inexperienced pilot, Mahaddie granted Roelfzema a spot at RAF Warboys, where the group trained pilots on twin-engine aircraft and night flying in preparation to work in the PFF. To obtain a position in the squadron, Roelfzema needed to score an "above average" in the training course, which he did. Thus the near-sighted novice fighter pilot was posted to the elite PFF, flying the De Havilland Mosquito.
Roelfzema flew with 139 Squadron. His aircraft was unarmed and relied on its speed to escape from German night fighters and luck to get through the flak. Normally Bomber Command crews were considered to complete a tour after 30 sorties. In the Pathfinder Force crews initially were required to complete 60 sorties but later this was reduced to 45. Roelfzema completed 72 operational sorties, including 25 missions over Berlin, the most heavily defended city in the Reich. For his service the RAF awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross. While serving in the RAF, Roelfzema flew with pilots and aircrews from other nations that had become occupied by Nazi Germany, whom he saw as comrades in arms. Years later he came to realize that working with Danes, Poles and others gave him a broader sense of the world which he came to appreciate.

Adjudant to the Queen
In early 1945, with France and parts of the Netherlands liberated, Roelfzema was appointed adjudant (assistant) to Queen Wilhelmina. To his surprise and delight, Peter Tazelaar had been selected as well. The two accompanied her back to the Netherlands when she returned 13 March 1945, after a five-year exile in London. The Queen landed in Antwerp, Belgium, and traveled west by car to Maldegem, where she turned north to enter the Netherlands at Eede. The Queen chose Eede as the point to enter her country because the village and surrounding area had been severely damaged by the war, resulting in many victims. The arrival of the Queen symbolized the end of years of oppression and loss of freedom and the beginning of a period of peace and prosperity. She stepped out of her armored carriage and walked firmly over the border, which was marked for the occasion. Years later, she recalled the border crossing in her memoirs as "One of the greatest events of my life". He flew the Queen home on the liberation of the Netherlands in May of that year. Shortly afterwards Roelfzema attended the two future Dutch monarchs, Princess Juliana and her daughter Princess Beatrix, on the aeroplane which brought them back to the Netherlands on the Gilze en Rijen flight of 2 May 1945. He helped Beatrix take her first few steps on liberated Dutch soil.
At the Queen's inauguration in The Hague on 6 July 1945, Roelfzema was in attendance at the Queen's request. He was also on hand when the princesses returned at Teuge Airport 2 August 1945.

After the war
After the Second World War, Queen Wilhelmina offered him a permanent appointment as her adjudant but he declined this position. Shortly thereafter he emigrated to the United States, became a US citizen and married his long-time girlfriend Margaret "Midge" Cooper. He worked in Hollywood, initially as an actor and then as a writer. He moved on to work in the television industry as a writer for the first Today Show program and later helped to launch The Tonight Show in New York City. He also wrote for a number of Dutch newspapers. In 1950 he was approached by Dutch admiral Conrad Helfrich, who asked him to help support the Moluccans. The Moluccas are a group of islands north and west of New Guinea. The islanders are predominantly Christian. Following the withdrawal of the Dutch from the Dutch East Indies, the Molluccans declined to be a part of the newly formed Republic of Indonesia, which was Muslim-dominated and under the rule of Sukarno, who had become increasingly authoritarian. They declared their independence as the Republic of South Maluku.Sukarno was in the process of forcibly taking control of the islands. Roelfzema was approached to contact the resistance on the Moluccas and document that Sukarno was using military force against them. This evidence was to be presented to the United Nations, where the case of the Molaccan people could be heard. He was provided with a small float plane in the Philippines, a Republic RC-3 Seabee and a former aviator from the US Navy to fly the aircraft to Ambon in the Mollucas. The aircraft turned out to be overloaded and could not get airborne. Roelfzema and the pilot spent the next three days removing the aircraft's wheels to lighten it. After three days the pilot gave up and left Roelfzema to deal with the mission and the aircraft. He had not flown since the war five years previously and had never flown a float plane. He reached the Mollucas and obtained the evidence requested to support the claim before the UN. His efforts created a lot of public interest, which Roelfzema made use of to bring attention to the plight of the people of the Moluccas.In 1956 he was appointed director of Radio Free Europe, and moved to Munich. In the late 1950s Roelfzema had a number of meetings in New York City with fellow Dutch national Ben van Marken, where they discussed their mutual interest in auto-racing. In 1963 he and Van Marken became co-founders of 'Racing Team Holland', a Dutch motorsport team.
In November 1968 he married for the second time, to Karin Steensma, an interior decorator. At this time he was contacted by a Dutch publishing company whose primary holding was a Dutch newspaper. They asked if he would convey his war experiences for a series of articles to run in their paper and they proposed to send a ghost writer to take down narration and compose the pieces. After twenty years in the business world, he longed to return to his first calling of writing. He wanted to write about what had happened to him and his friends during the war. As a writer, he had the ability to express himself about what they had gone through, where he knew the others could not. Steensma supported his decision. He agreed to write the articles himself, if they would give him an advance and publish them in book form at the end. They agreed and he set about his task. After a year of work his book was published in 1970 under the title Het Hol Van De Ratelslang (The Rattlesnake Cave). Roelfzema was not happy with the book, the title, the cover, the publisher or how the book was being promoted. After six months it had sold some 13,000 copies in Holland. Roelfzema purchased the rights to the book, reworked it to make the stories flow together better, changed the title and got Prince Bernhard to write a foreword. This second presentation was titled "Soldaat Van Oranje" (Soldier of Orange), for his association with the royal family. It became an international bestseller.In 1971 his son Erik invited him to visit him at his home on Maui, at the time a remote location. Roelfzema found the landscape, climate, smells and friendliness of the islands reminded him of his childhood home in Java. He felt he was coming home, purchased land there and after introducing his wife Karin to the island, the couple moved there together. They lived on Maui for a number of years before moving to a more remote location on the big island of Hawaiʻi.
Prominent Dutch film maker Paul Verhoeven took an interest in Roelfzema's Soldaat Van Oranje and brought it to the screen. He cast Rutger Hauer in the part of Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. Roelfzema was on the set as a consultant and the two became lifelong friends. With the release of the film Soldaat van Oranje in 1977, Roelfzema gained greater public attention and Hauer was made into an international film star. The film won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film in 1979. One year later, in 1980, it received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. In 2010 the story was brought to the stage as a musical. The musical version of Soldier of Orange was presented in a unique rotating theater, which was special built in an old hangar at the former military airport at Valkenburg, which is located between Wassenaar and Katwijk near Leiden. The musical was very well received.
Roelfzema joined Barnwell Industries as a director in 1977. He encouraged the company's chairman to look to Hawai'i as a possible location to headquarter the business. He was instrumental in bringing the Tennessee-based energy company to Hawai'i in the early 1980s. The company drilled the first commercial geothermal well in Puna on the Big Island in 1980. The company is a leader in development in Hawai'i and performs oil and natural gas exploration in Canada and North America. Alex Kinzler, Barnwell president, said Roelfzema was an active and valued member of their board. While living in Hawaii Roelfzema became a member of the Waimea Outdoor Circle, a group that fosters environmental preservation and the enhancement of nature through education and community involvement. Outdoor Circle is a statewide environmental non-profit that works with branches throughout the Hawaiian Islands to protect Hawai'i's unique natural beauty.He was close to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who visited at his home on the Big Island of Hawaii. In 1980, Roelfzema played a ceremonial role as one of two kings of arms at the coronation of Queen Beatrix. Roelfzema wrote a second autobiography, In Pursuit of Life, in 2000. He died on 26 September 2007 at his home in Āhualoa near Honokaʻa, on the Island of Hawaiʻi, at the age of 90. He was survived by his wife, Karin Steensma, his son Erik, step-daughter Karna Hazelhoff-Castellon, granddaughter Meadow, a great-granddaughter and great-grandson.
In his research for his biography of Dutch statesman François van 't Sant, Dutch author Sytze van der Zee discovered a letter from Van 't Sant to Queen Wilhelmina, where he informed her that a date had been set for a coup to overturn the acting Dutch government. The letter gave the date for the coup as 24 April 1947. It also outlined some of the ministers to be appointed to serve in a new government. Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema was listed as one of the men that could be relied upon. The coup never took place.

The Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema Prize in Literature
In 2009 a foundation was established in memorial to promote writing and the ideals of Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. The foundation offers a bi-yearly literary prize in two categories: the Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema Young Talent Prize, awarded to the best master's thesis written in Dutch or English at a Dutch or Flemish university, and the Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema Biography Prize awarded to the best Dutch-language Biography. The Young Talent Prize aims to encourage young academic writers. The Biography Prize aims to promote interest in and the reading of biographical works among the Dutch. The thinking of Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema and the standards and values that characterized his life are used as a guide in evaluating submissions. Princess Irene accepted the position of guardian of the "Erik Hasselhoff Roelfzema Foundation Prize".

Hazelhoff Roelfzema was acclaimed in the Netherlands as one of the nation's greatest heroes of the war. He was the recipient of the highest Dutch military honour. His experiences during the war became known throughout the world through his writings on those events and the film. Late in his life he was given the Dutch American Heritage Award. He did not see himself as unusual and when honoured was ever mindful of the friends that he had lost. In an interview in July with De Telegraaf, Hazelhoff Roelfzema said he had received too much recognition for his wartime exploits. "I became a war hero because I stuck out, because I wrote about my experiences".He went on to offer:

Achter iedere soldaat met talrijke militaire onderscheidingen staan honderden anonieme helden. Ik had het geluk herkend te worden, en oud
(Behind every soldier with numerous military awards are hundreds of unknown heroes. I was lucky enough to be recognized, and to live to grow old).

National honours
Netherlands: Knight 4th class of the Military Order of William 4 June 1942
Netherlands: Airman's Cross 22 September 1945
Netherlands: Cross of Merit 20 March 1944
Netherlands: War Commemorative Cross (Oorlogsherinneringskruis) with 2 clasps
Netherlands: Resistance Memorial Cross
Netherlands: Queen Beatrix's Inauguration Medal 1980

Foreign honours
United Kingdom: Distinguished Flying Cross, 3 July 1945
United Kingdom: 1939-1945 Star
United Kingdom: Air Crew Europe Star
United Kingdom: France and Germany Star
United Kingdom: War Medal 1939-1945

List of works
Rendezvous in San Francisco (Rendezvous in San Francisco ) (1939)
Het smeulende vuur (The smoldering fire) (1941)
Het hol van de ratelslang (The rattlesnake hollow) (1970)
Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange – a revision of Het hol van de ratelslang) (1971)
De verre tamboer; Soldaat van Oranje zwaait af (The distant tambourine; the Soldier of Orange bids farewell) (1973)
Op jacht naar het leven (Hunting for life) (2000)
In Pursuit of Life (2003)
Het leven van de Soldaat van Oranje – Autobiografie (The Soldier of Orange – Autobiography) (2006)


External links

Obituary, Honolulu Advertiser, 28 September 2007
Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema at IMDb
Obituary, The Times, 1 October 2007
Obituary, The Guardian, 15 November 2007
Literary Prize, Erik Hazelhoff Prijs, 5 September 2009

Biography from Wikipedia (see original) under licence CC BY-SA 3.0


Geographical origins

The map below shows the places where the ancestors of the famous person lived.

Loading... An error has occured while loading the map.