Fernanda Kapteijn

The Netherlands
22.01.1925 - 16.12.2001
Fernanda Kapteijn, ca 1943 © Utrechts Archief

Fernanda Kapteijn was a teenager from Utrecht and a bicycle courier for the resistance. Women like Kapteijn were essential to the resistance as they were less likely to attract suspicion and were not subject to forced labour for the Nazi regime.

Fernanda Kapteijn was the daughter of communist parents who ran a bookshop in Utrecht. The family lived above the shop. Right from the beginning of the war, Fernanda, like her parents, became active in the resistance. In the bookshop, illegal newspapers were stenciled. Fernanda distributed these newspapers and money to families whose fathers had been arrested. “You couldn’t be afraid. You just had to be safe. Your bike had to be okay, your light had to be okay. Because you should never be caught for anything else.”

One day, Fernanda was en route with 500 illegal brochures in her saddlebags when things almost went wrong. “Suddenly, there was a German checkpoint.” One of the German soldiers nudged her saddlebag with the butt of his rifle. There were potatoes on top of the brochures and the German soldier allowed Fernanda to pass.

 “I started walking as slowly and casually as I could, though I felt like running at full tilt!”

By the end of 1944, bicycle couriers became even more essential to the resistance. In mid-September 1944, the Dutch government in exile in London had called for a railway strike to bring the transport of German troops to a halt. Some 30,000 railway workers went into hiding, with financial support from London. Because of the railway strike, it became more difficult for the resistance to communicate over longer distances. There were hardly any cars and there was no petrol. As a result, the resistance communicated mainly via bicycle courier services and illegal telephone connections. To facilitate this a bicycle courier network with regular connections was established.

When Fernanda was ordered to carry a gun by the communist resistance group of her parents, she refused. “Then I thought to myself: not now and not ever. I don’t have the right to take someone’s life.”