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Resistance fighter Jean van Geuns (96) died: ‘What he did, he didn’t think was special’

In World War II he committed attacks on German soldiers, but it was only two years ago that Jean René van Geuns from Nijmegen came into the picture as a resistance fighter. Last Thursday he died in his sleep, in a clinic in New York.

At 96 years old, Van Geuns (1924) was one of the very last, if not the last, resistance fighter of the Second World War, says Floris van Dijk, who confirms the death. In historical research Van Dijk came across the name of the resistance fighter three years ago by accident. He turned out to have emigrated to the United States shortly after the war and was therefore out of the picture in the Netherlands.

Student-like protests

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At the age of 14, Van Geuns returns to the Netherlands from the Dutch East Indies. Although he was born in Article link

The Hague, he grew up in the former colony. In 1938 the family moves back and the family settles in Nijmegen. Two years later – when he was 16 – Van Geuns became involved for the first time in riots with NSB members. He starts fires and smashes windows among collaborators, later also distributes anti-German pamphlets and paints resistance slogans on walls.

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The real resistance starts in 1941: after the student-like protests, Van Geuns wants to join the Dutch army with friends in England. That does not work and the trio returns to Nijmegen via France. There, Van Geuns helps smuggle Jewish families to Switzerland. He will also participate in the distribution of extra ration cards and has to pay for this several times with a prison sentence.

Van Geuns then makes another attempt to come to England, but is stranded again. He eventually ends up in Ghent and there joins a communist resistance organization. Under the leadership of leader Lievin de Muynck, the group carries out attacks on the SS and the Wehrmacht.

He was involved three times in an attack on German soldiers. “We sneaked to the window, threw the grenade in and ran away. Yes, you bet I was scared,” he says in 2019, when he tells his story for the first time.

Falstad concentration camp

In 1944, after two unsuccessful attempts, Van Geuns tries to come to England one more time, this time via Norway and neutral Sweden. He is arrested and imprisoned in the Norwegian concentration camp Falstad. There he helps Soviet fellow prisoners with food and clothes.

Then the war is over and Van Geuns is released. Once back in the Netherlands, he discovers that his father, who was also in the resistance, has been executed. He was executed in 1944 at Camp Amersfoort. Article link

The death of his father was still carried by Van Geuns at a later age, says Van Dijk. “He has always thought that his father’s death was related to his own resistance.”

Van Dijk, scientific researcher at the National Monument Kamp Amersfoort, remembers Van Geuns as a very modest man. “He didn’t think it was special what he had done during the war,” says Van Dijk. “He loved the Netherlands. You do something like that, he always said.” Jean RenĂ© van Geuns would have turned 97 in three weeks.

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