For many years I wondered how my uncle must have felt in 1938-1939, when dark clouds were gathering over Europe. My namesake Robert van Voren was then 21 years old, out of secondary school and studying to be an engineer in Delft, The Netherlands. He was a bit of a loner, cycling across Europe on an old-fashioned black Dutch bike and observing how the continent was changing rapidly. One of his trips brought him to Finland, where he watched Soviet planes fly over Vyborg as an omen of the Finish-Soviet War that would soon break out and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Europe was on the brink of war.
Whatever he felt, he was upset enough to join the Dutch resistance almost immediately after the German invasion in May 1940. For more than three years he would falsify documents for Jews and British pilots, help the first to hide from the Germans and the latter to escape back to Britain via Portugal. He did this under various pseudonyms, until he was arrested in October 1943, incarcerated in the prison in Scheveningen (now the “home” of the defendants of the International Criminal Court), and then sent to camps in Germany and Poland. He lived to see the Americans, but died two weeks later of starvation and a variety of illnesses. Continue reading