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van der Geest escaped Buchenwald on March 3, 1943
Jack at Buchenwald 2003.jpg
Jack van der Geest at Buchenwald memorial, 2003

Jack van der Geest (September 17, 1923 - March 5, 2009) was one of only eight people ever to escape from Buchenwald concentration camp. He escaped on March 3, 1943. A copy of his own death certificate appears in his book, Was God on Vacation? [1] He was a member of the Dutch resistance movement and French resistance, afterwards he became a 101st Airborne translator during World War II.

Jack (Jacobus Petrus Cornelis van der Geest) was born at Tyler Straat 58 in The Hague, Netherlands. He was member of the Dutch Resistance and French Resistance. Jack and his father, Jacobus van der Geest, were heavily involved in Dutch resistance activities, including hiding Jews. Jacobus van der Geest (Jack's father) was President of Lensveld Nikola, a bread factory in The Hague. He had worked his way up from being an errand boy at the factory at age 14 to becoming president. This was the only factory at the time that brought bread to the Queen of the Netherlands. Jack's father (b. 11/07/1896) was sent to Kamp Vught and was killed there on 2/19/1943. It was previously thought that Jack's father had died in Dachau, however, records recovered in Spring 2009 indicate he was killed in Vught.

In May 1940, Jack and his friend, Fred de Koning, were in Rotterdam during the bombing of the De Bijenkorf Department Store . Fred's father, an accountant, died in the bombing of Rotterdam. Jack was also a close friend of the Cohen family in the Hague. The Cohen's were Jewish, and owned a clothing store there. Jack van der Geest and Sam Cohen were close friends. The Cohen family were sent to death camps and all are presumed to have died in the Holocaust.

Jack was educated at an Aviation Institute in Scheveningen. On his graduation date in 1942, he decided not to go the graduation and found out later the Nazis had forcibly enlisted the graduating class for Hitler's war machine.

In September 1942, the Gestapo raided the Van der Geest apartment in the Hague (Soestdijksekade 43 - 3rd floor). They had been betrayed by a neighbor. Jack and his parents were taken first to the Oranje Hotel. Anna van der Geest, Jack's mother, born Anna de Groot in 1894, was sent to Ravensbruck in Sept 1942 and was there for 3 1/2 months until being released (she died in The Hague in 1961). Jack's sister, Wilhelmina (Willie), was not home during the raid, so she was not arrested. She died in 1991 in The Hague.

Jack van der Geest was sent to Buchenwald and was incarcerated there from September 15, 1942 to March 3, 1943. His prisoner number was 512601. He stayed in Cell Block 46 and survived brutal medical experiments at the hands of Dr. Ding Schuler. He escaped on March 3, 1943 by pretending he was dead prior to the 5 AM roll call at Buchenwald. He was thrown into a pile of bodies approximately 50 yards long and 4 feet high. He laid there for 11 hours, and then, weighing about 80 pounds, killed an SS Guard, put on his uniform and rode a truck out of camp. He then traveled to Neufchateau, France where with the assistance of Maquis members Dr. Marvell, a dentist, and his wife Cherie he became a member of the French Resistance.

Jack later became attached to the 101st Airborne Division as an interpreter. He became a US citizen in 1953 and later joined the U.S. Air Force. In 1995, he wrote a book titled Was God on Vacation? (ISBN 0-964-96152-0). The 3rd edition of the book, published in 2002, includes a copy of his Buchenwald Death Certificate. He lived in Rapid City, South Dakota for more than 55 years. He was a member of the USA 101st Airborn association (#3272).

March 3, 2009, was Jack van der Geest Day in Rapid City and the State of South Dakota in celebration of the 66th anniversary of his escape. He died unexpectedly two days later at Rapid City Regional Hospital of natural causes. He was declared dead by the hospital at 4:59 AM. He died 66 Years and 2 days, almost to the minute, after he had "died" at Buchenwald.

He is buried in Calvary Cemetery on Sheridan Lake Road in Rapid City, South Dakota.


  1. ^ Jack van der Geest (2002). Was God on Vacation? (3rd Edition ed.). Rapid City.  
  • Sept 17, 2008 was Jack's 85th birthday, which was commemorated by a proclamation by US Senator John Thune of South Dakota:[1]


  • Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, SD.
  • van der Geest, Was God on Vacation, Rapid City, SD 2002

External links



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