Belgian resistance heroine Andrée de Jongh dies at 90

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Countess Andrée de Jongh, who as a young nurse founded the Comet Line, an escape route for Allied airmen during World War II, died Saturday in Brussels at the age of 90. The Comet Line went from Brussels to the Pyrenees through France to the British consulate in Madrid and on to Gibraltar. Andrée de Jongh and her father Frédéric De Jongh organised the escape line, which helped more than 700 airmen to escape Nazi-occupied Belgium. Andrée herself accompanied 118 of them before she was arrested by the Gestapo.

The Gestapo captured Frédéric de Jongh in June 1943 and later executed him. Many other members of the Comet Line were also captured and 23 in all were executed. Andrée was captured in January 1944. Unwilling to believe she could have organised the network herself, the Gestapo let her live. She was sent first to Fresnes prison in Paris and eventually to Ravensbrück concentration camp and Mauthausen concentration camp. She was liberated by the advancing Allied troops in April 1945. "We accepted that we could be arrested. It was our job," she said later. "We didn't say 'if we get arrested,' we said 'when we get arrested.'" The Comet Line inspired the BBC drama series Secret Army.

Andrée de Jongh was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom and the George Medal by the late King George VI of the United Kingdom. She was also granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Belgian Army. Later, she was granted the title of countess by the late King Baudouin of Belgium in 1985.


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