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Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, 90; Dutch resistance hero in WWII

September 30, 2007|From the Associated Press

Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, a World War II Dutch resistance hero better known as the Soldier of Orange, died in his sleep Wednesday at his home on the Big Island of Hawaii, his family announced. He was 90.

Roelfzema was a student at the University of Leiden when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, and he later went underground and fled to England, where he carried out numerous missions in the service of the Dutch royal house in exile.

Roelfzema's wartime activities included delivering radio equipment by boat to the Dutch coast and collecting resistance fighters to return to England. He later became a pilot, carrying out 72 target-marking missions in bombing raids against Germany as a member of Britain's Royal Air Force.

He became an intimate friend of the House of Orange, serving as adjutant to Queen Wilhelmina during the war, and he remained close friends with Prince Bernhard, the husband of Queen Juliana, until Bernhard's death in 2004.

Roelfzema was born in Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, in 1917. After the war, he immigrated to the United States, where he worked for various media, including NBC, and in 1955 he returned to Europe to work as a producer for Radio Free Europe.

His fame in the Netherlands leaped after he published his book, "Soldaat van Oranje" (Soldier of Orange) in 1971. He became known outside the country after the book was made into the film of the same name by director Paul Verhoeven in 1977, starring Rutger Hauer in the title role.

Roelfzema took a job with energy company Barnwell Industries Inc. in the 1970s and later convinced the company to move to Hawaii, where it became a major gas and oil developer.

He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross from Britain and the Military Order of William in the Netherlands, the country's highest honor, which bestows knighthood for bravery in battle.

"I became a war hero because I stuck out, because I wrote about my experiences. But behind every soldier decorated with military honors there are a hundred anonymous heroes, some of them greater," he said. "I had the fortune to be recognized, and to grow old."

He is survived by his wife, Karin; son, Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema Jr.; daughter, Karna Hazelhoff-Castellon; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter.

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