Tributes paid to wartime heroine

12:26 07 September 2012

Mieke Miller-Jansen

Mieke Miller-Jansen

Archant

Brave Mieke Miller-Jansen risked her life working for the Dutch resistance before making her home in Colyton

A heroine of the Dutch resistance, who made her home in Colyton, after the war, has died, aged 88, at a Seaton nursing home.

Tributes have been paid to courageous Mieke Miller-Jansen whose happy childhood came to an abrupt end when the Nazis invaded her native Holland.

She started work in a food distribution depot and went on to train as a general medical nurse, later switching to dental nursing in Amsterdam to avoid having to care for Nazi Germans.

From 1941, aged just 17, until the end of the war Mieke witnessed and endured many horrific experiences and privations, all of which had profound and lifelong consequences for her beliefs and attitude to life.

She lost family friends in the ruthless Jewish purges, witnessed the house raids by German soldiers and endured the cold winters with no heating and lack of food.

Unknown to her mother, Hubertha, or their closest friends, Mieke and her father, Bernadus, sheltered and protected several local Jews from capture and almost certain death at the hands of the occupation forces.

Many were hidden in the home and surgery of the dentist for whom she worked.

She also helped Dutch fugitives hiding from the Germans, acting as a courier of food and information by pedalling her bicycle between hideouts – a highly risky and dangerous enterprise. She maintained that her youthful good looks, blond hair and cheeky disposition helped her outwit many a German sentry.

By the end of the war, due to acute food shortages in Holland, Mieke was suffering from chronic malnutrition and exhaustion. So, in 1947, certified as a ‘Loyal Dutch Citizen’, she was given a work permit and sent to England for medical care and convalescence.

Arriving in Axminster, she initially worked as a nursery nurse. Later she obtained lodging in Honiton and resumed her career as a dental nurse working in a local practice.

She met Philip Miller – a Beer farmer’s son, who had recently served in the RAF, at Honiton Fair, and they were married in Amsterdam Town Hall in 1949, returning to farm at Lea Croft, Colyton Hill, in 1949.

Max Drukker, one of the Jewish friends that Mieke had helped to save from the Holocaust, in turn helped Philip and Mieke overcome early financial hardship, and so they went on to farm successfully on Colyton Hill for more than 40 years.

Mieke became actively involved in the community, joining the Women’s Institute and becoming a member of the Colyton Leisure Painters.

She served on Colyton Parish Council for two terms, well known for her forthright views and comments. She was secretary of the 1977 Queen’s Silver Jubilee committee and was involved in the building of the Jubilee shelter at the picnic site.

She helped raise funds for the Colyton Abbeyfield Retirement Home, which was opened and dedicated to Mrs Marjorie Baker.

Mieke was an original supporter of the Friends of Seaton Hospital, a staunch supporter of the Devon Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and served on the judging panel for the “Best Kept Village” competition. She was heavily involved in the Colyton Royal British Legion, being the organiser of the Poppy Appeal, and as a member of the Colour Party at the Annual Remembrance Service.

Widowed in 1994, Mieke continued to live at Rosamundford, where she and Philip had moved, until she built her new home in 2000, symbolically named “Manna”, using the code word for the RAF food drops over Holland after the war.

In 1995 Mieke travelled back to Meppel on the 50th anniversary of the liberation, where she was honoured for her work there with the Dutch Resistance, an occasion that filled her with enormous pride. Mieke is survived by two daughters and her granddaughter Alice.

A Service of Celebration will be held at St Andrew’s Church, Colyton, on Saturday (September 15) at noon and all are welcome.

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