Born: October 22, 1912, Brussels, Belgium
Johan was the eldest of four children born to Dutch parents. His father was a minister in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Johan grew up in Collonges, France, where his father served as a pastor. After attending French public schools, Johan graduated from the Seventh-Day Adventist Seminary in Collonges, and went on to study law and business at the universities of Geneva and Paris.
1933-39: After completing my studies in 1935, I opened an import/export textile business in Paris. Business prospered and three years later I also opened a shop in Collonges. The town was near the Swiss border, and I liked to go mountain climbing. Around this time I went to Geneva to attend sessions of the League of Nations, and I saw firsthand how ineffective that body was in preventing the outbreak of war in 1939.
1940-44: Germany invaded France in May 1940. I moved to Lyon to help organize the "Dutch-Paris" underground network to help Dutch Jews and political refugees to escape to Switzerland and Spain. In February 1943 I was arrested. During my interrogation by the Gestapo, a guard repeatedly held my head in water until I almost drowned. Then I was forced to kneel on the edges of steel rulers. I was released, but was later caught in a roundup of men to be sent to Germany as slave laborers. I jumped off the train and hiked to Switzerland.
Johan fought in the Dutch army during the final months of the war. After the war, he served in the Dutch diplomatic service. In 1955 he emigrated to the United States.
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