This week’s objects of the week from Eden Camp Museum in Malton is an identity number from Mauthausen Concentration Camp – the inverted red triangle containing the letter ‘B’ denotes a Belgian political prisoner and a picture of Andrée Antoine-Dumont.
Born in the Congo in 1922 to Belgium parents, Andrée Antoine-Dumont OBE – King’s Medal for Courage, was a civilian who became involved in the Belgium Resistance organisation following the invasion of her country by Germany in May 1940.
Her initial involvement was low key – making V for Victory symbols out of newspaper and distributing them around her local town, but as the war progressed she would take on a key role in the organisation and running of one of the most successful ‘Escape Lines’ of World War Two : the Comete Line.
‘Escape Lines’ were established to provide routes with Safe Houses that Allied military personnel could follow and use when they found themselves behind enemy lines, either after having been shot down from the air over occupied territory or having escaped from a POW camp or other captivity.
The Comete Line had been set up by 24-year-old Andrée de Jongh (code name ‘Dedee’) and her father, Frederic and was centred around Brussels. Allied servicemen were collected in the Brussels and Lille areas, then usually escorted to Paris, and then via Tours, Bordeaux or Bayonne to the South of France where they would cross the Pyrenees into neutral Spain, with the aim of reaching Madrid or the ports of Bilbao, or Gibraltar, from where they could be transported back to the UK and so achieve a ‘Home Run’.
Known by the code name ‘Nadine’, and along with her sister Micheline Ugeux, code name ‘Michou’, Andrée became one of the first ‘couriers’ on the Comete Line. Between them they collected their parcels (Allied evaders and escapers) in Brussels and took them on to Paris.
At times the men were taken via Corbie where the River Somme had to be crossed to avoid border controls. Later Nadine took evaders from Paris to the Western Pyrenees, mainly by train, for the crossing into Spain.
The Dumont family were involved fully with Comete, both daughters were couriers, and M and Mm Dumont were involved with the Line in Brussels.
Nadine was arrested in August 1942, together with her parents. Michou, still free, took over Nadine’s job on the Line and continued to move evaders.
The Gestapo thought that they had captured ‘Dedeé’ as they both shared the same Christian name of Andree and were similar in size. She was treated badly in prison and interrogated daily for twelve months.
Finally when the Germans decided that they would get no information from her, she was moved to the appalling conditions of Ravensbruck concentration camp north of Berlin, and then on to the death camp at Mauthausen located in Austria which was described as a place for “incorrigible political enemies of the Reich” where she remained until released by the Allies.
Nadine returned to Brussels very ill where she discovered that her mother had also been released, but her father had been murdered by the Nazis. Nadine was instrumental, along with other surviving members of the Comete Line, in forming the Comete Line Remembrance Association and took on the role of its national secretary for many years.
Nadine still lives in Brussels, and travels to the UK on an annual basis to attend the reunion of the Escape Lines Memorial Society whose national memorial, dedicated to the civilians of Occupied Europe who helped Allied servicemen to escape and evade capture, is located at Eden Camp Museum.
l Eden Camp is open Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm.