Jan Campert was born in Spijkenisse in the Netherlands in 1902. After working in a bank for several years he tried his hand at journalism in 1926, first in local and regional papers, before working for a new newspaper, The New Vulture, in November 1927. Not only a journalist, Campert also wrote poetry and theatre criticism.
During the German occupation of the Netherlands Campert was involved in helping Jews escape to Belgium. On 21 July 1942 he and a colleague were arrested whilst helping Frans van Raalte to the Belgian border. The three men were taken to the prison in Breda where Van Raalte committed suicide. Campert was held for three months in Breda before being transferred to the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, where he died on January 12 1943.
Campert is best known for two poems: sonnet 14 “Rebel, my heart, imprisoned and enslaved” in Sonnets for Cynara (1942) and ‘The Eighteen Dead’, which describes the execution of 18 resistance workers by the German occupiers. The poem was written in 1941 and published clandestinely in 1943 as a poetry card, to raise money to hide Jewish children.