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About the escape room

The "University in Resistance" educational escape room is an initiative of the Radboud University in Nijmegen. The story told by the escape room is based entirely on true events, reconstructed and retold by historians from the Radboud University. The escape room is therefore not just about having fun — it is also about learning lessons from history.

Nijmegen’s forgotten wartime history

It is 1943 and the Second World War is raging on. Bernard Hermesdorf, Rector Magnificus of the university in Nijmegen, must present a declaration to his students — a declaration the students must sign to prove their loyalty to the German occupiers. 11 April 2018 marks exactly 75 years since Bernard Hermesdorf become the first and only Dutch Rector to make a particularly fateful decision. To spare his students from having to face the moral dilemma of whether or not to sign the declaration, Hermesdorf himself closed the university, posting the announcement in the hall of the main university building.

The consequences of the university’s closure were far-reaching. Though freed from the dilemma of whether or not to sign the declaration of loyalty, the students were soon confronted with another: should they register with the Arbeitseinsatz, the German forced labour programme, as the occupying forces demanded? Or should they go underground and risk their family and friends having to face the repercussions? 

This unique story taken from the history of the university, Nijmegen and the Netherlands at war and in resistance forms the background to the educational escape room, located in Nijmegen’s Museum Het Valkhof.

A true story brought back to life

Participants in the escape room will step into the shoes of the friends of Jozef van Hövell van Wezeveld en Westerflier. Jozef was president of the Nijmegen students' union, Carolus Magnus, banned by the German occupying forces before the university’s closure. He was a key figure in the student resistance in both Nijmegen and the Netherlands during the Second World War and participated in a number of acts of resistance. Jozef was ultimately arrested and died in the Neuengamme concentration camp in 1945 shortly before the end of the war. In 1946, he was posthumously awarded the Dutch Cross of Resistance 1940–1945.

Participants in the escape room will be confronted with the same dilemmas as the students of Nijmegen university 75 years ago. They must solve puzzles, answer questions and complete a series of tasks in their attempt to escape.

A unique concept

Never before has an escape room been used as the setting for the retelling of a true historical story based on academic knowledge. By using such an innovative platform, the university hopes to make this powerful story of resistance known to as wide an audience as possible. The escape room should provide young people in particular with a better understanding of what people their age had to endure while the Netherlands was at war, as well as what their peers are currently going through in other war-torn parts of the world today.

An exhibition also accompanies the escape room, showcasing a variety objects mentioned in the story, as well as special documents, photographs and other items.