Rudy Blatt was part of a Dutch resistance group known as the Engelandvaarders, or “England navigators,” who devised escape routes from the Nazi-occupied Netherlands to England with the intention of joining the Dutch government-in-exile.
Born and raised Jewish in Berlin, Rudy moved to Amsterdam at 21 years old, immediately following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. Seven years later, the Netherlands capitulated to the invading Nazi military. Rudy immediately joined the resistance forces of the Dutch government-in-exile, serving as an intelligence agent. In 1941, when roundups of Dutch Jews and resistance members were becoming commonplace, Rudy decided to establish an escape line to England with Fred Hecht, a fellow member of the resistance.
While making their way through Nazi occupied Europe, Rudy and his partner narrowly avoided capture on a number of occasions. In this clip, he recalls how they eluded a mass roundup in Lyon in Vichy France.
Interview with Rudy Blatt, 1990. Interviewer: Michael Alpert. Collection of Museum of Jewish Heritage in affiliation with the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University.
After arriving in neutral Switzerland, Rudy and Fred were temporarily arrested and then spent several months working as intelligence agents for the Swiss underground in Geneva. There, they met a French Jew who was organizing a route to England for escaped British prisoners of wars. Rudy and Fred both volunteered to escort groups of British POWs back to British territory. With help from a network of contact people known as passeurs or guides, they travelled via Marseilles to the Spanish border with false documents, and then crossed the Pyrenees on foot. Upon reaching the British Consulate in Barcelona, Rudy and the British POWs parted ways. He and Fred were sent to Gibraltar by diplomatic car and then smuggled to England on a British ship.
Upon reaching London, Rudy and Fred joined the community of over one thousand Engelandvaarders who escaped the occupied Netherlands to join the Allied Forces. He was assigned to the Princess Irene Brigade of the Dutch army and spent time at Oranjehaven, a refuge established for the Engelandvaarders. He also received military decorations from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. After training in Scotland, Rudy served in a commando unit in Burma and Borneo in the Pacific Theater.
When the war ended, Rudy was honorably discharged and immigrated to the United States, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1988, he donated his military decorations, false identity papers, and other mementos to the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. To see highlights from this collection, explore the slideshow below.