The Comet Line and Andrée de Jongh

by Abigail Pfeiffer on May 23, 2010

Andrée de Jongh

I read a very fascinating book recently entitled: “The Freedom Line; the Brave Men and Women who Rescued Allied Airmen from the Nazis during World War II” by Peter Eisner.  This book is an account of an Allied resistance group originating in Belgium called The Comet Line that helped bring downed Allied airmen to the safety of Gibraltar during World War II.

There were numerous resistance groups throughout Europe during the war, but what really peaked my curiosity about the Comet Line was that it was headed by a woman.  This woman was Andrée de Jongh, the daughter of Frederic de Jongh. Andree moved to Brussels in 1940 after Belgium was invaded by Germany, and she became a Red Cross Volunteer. This is essentially where her resistance career began as she was assisting Allied troops who were hiding in safe houses throughout Brussles.  These soldiers were left behind at Dunkirk or  had escaped from the Germans.  Through these soldiers she began to make connections and build a network of safe houses to get Allied soldiers back to Britain.

With her father’s assistance she began to set up the network for Allied airmen to escape, which became the Comet Line. The route started in the safe houses of Brussels, through France and to the border of neutral Spain. Andree personally led many of these expeditions, and it is estimated that she accompanied 118 airmen herself and that the Comet Line helped approximately 800 Allied airmen to escape.

Perhaps I’m a bit biased with my fascination with De Jongh since we are both women. But I love to read about women who have made their mark on history. She knew that she was taking major risks by leading the Comet Line.  She was eventually caught by the Gestapo, after they caught and executed her father.  Her gender essentially saved her because while she was being tortured she admitted to being the leader of the Comet Line, but they did not believe her since she was a woman.  How wrong they were about her.  They let her live and sent her to Fresnes prison where she stayed until she was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp and then to Mauthausen. She survived and died in 2007.

What if people like Andree did not exist during the war? Would the outcome of the war been any different? Certainly there were many people who did nothing and chose to protect themselves before helping others during the war, as self preservation is part of human nature.  Thankfully there were people like De Jongh who took action and put their lives at risk to help the soldiers who were also putting their lives at risk.  If you lived during this time period would you have done the same things as de Jongh? To read more a more in depth account about de Jongh click here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dave Hill July 6, 2010 at 5:06 am

Hello,I wonder if you can help me ?My grandfather died when I was very young,he spoke very little about the war.His name was Lawrence Vallely Hill(lt-col 279455 with the 21st Army Group)What I do know is before because of his work he travelled widely in Europe and spoke many langauges.Also when the war started he fought with the French and Belgium resistance and hide in Brussells.In 1945 he was stationed in Antwerp and latter went with alied troops into the death camps.
Any further information would be fantastic.
yours faithfully
Dave H

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