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Andrée De Jongh; saved Allied airmen

BRUSSELS - Countess Andrée De Jongh, who set up an escape route that helped hundreds of British airmen flee the Nazi occupation of Belgium during World War II, died Saturday. She was 90.

Countess De Jongh, a female nurse in a men's world of war resistance, helped found the Comet Line escape route while still in her 20s. After her arrest in 1943, she survived German camps before being liberated at the end of the war.

"She was driven by humanitarian conscience," historian Etienne Verhoeyen told VRT network. "She stood out because she could not be deterred and because she was a woman."

The escape route, known as "Comete" in French, was set up in 1940 to allow downed British airmen to return home and escape German imprisonment. The route went through Belgium, occupied France and over the Pyrenees into Spain's Basque country.

"We accepted that we could be arrested. It was our job," she said years ago. "We didn't say 'if we get arrested,' we said 'when we get arrested.' "

By the time she was arrested, she had already brought 118 people, including 80 downed pilots, to safety.

She became a countess in 1985.

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