Jean-Michel Reder
b. ca. 1913; d. 1959
Netherlands

Benedictine monk and architect of the Monastery at Toumliline. Born in Amsterdam, joined the Benedictine Abbaye Saint-Benoît d'En Calcat in 1947 and, in 1952, was one of the monks from the monastery sent to establish the monastery in Morocco. He was educated in Berlin, but left Germany for England when Hitler came to power. His life between that and entering the monastery is recounted by Peter Beach and William Dunphy in Benedictine and Moor: A Christian Adventure in Moslem Morocco (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1960)


After a year in Britain, he returned to his family in Holland and began his formal training as an architect. The year he opened an office in Amsterdam, Germany invaded his country. Three times he and a friend tried and three times failed to escape to England. They had already made plans for a fourth attempt when Reder announced without explanation he would stay in Holland. His companion went on alone and reached the safety of the British Isles. The future monk, for his part, went back to Amsterdam, reopened his business office, and for the next three and a half years eked out a living designing an occasional house. It did not seem to trouble him that right next door was the headquarters of a German commercial firm busy with shipping Dutch foodstuff to the east. The personnel of the German concern were amused by the bespectacled, skinny, blue-eyed Dutchman who always addressed them in their own language. They may have even felt a little sorry for him because he worked such long hours.
However, it was not only architecture that occupied Reder. For he was operating a flourishing though entirely unprofitable trade as a forger for the Dutch underground. His specialty was creating identity papers and food cards for Jews in Amsterdam. As a sideline, he guided many of them out of the city to hiding places in the provinces. Those who knew him well realized that it was his love of Jews that had kept him in his homeland. He had grown up among them and did not want to desert them. His concern was, of course, well-founded ninety percent of the Jewish population in Amsterdam was killed by the Germans during the Occupation.
The future Benedictine had a flair for clandestine work. When the time came that he could not have lights in his office because of a power shortage, he calmly tapped the cable that supplied the German office next door. And when on occasion he was hiding Jews in his own quarters while preparing forgeries for them, he fed them by robbing supplies from his Nazi neighbors. At times, too, his knowledge of German came in especially handy. While returning to Amsterdam on a train after dropping off two Jews at a hideout, he heard two Dutch quislings loudly threaten a woman with arrest by the Gestapo if she didn't cooperate with them. After that, the only sound in the compartment was the weeping of the woman. Suddenly an authoritative voice boomed out in German, 'Nobody is arrested by the Gestapo unless I give the order.' The two quislings looked over at Reder it was he who had spoken and quickly changed their seats. When the train arrived at its destination, they ran.

When he reached his office that day, he heard that the Germans were searching the area in which he had hidden the two Jews. He felt especially responsible because they were two ancient and helpless women. And then he remembered the oriental cast their features had and this gave him the idea to forge papers identifying them as Indonesians, who were fairly common in the Netherlands. The next morning he was back at the hideout with the documents. He was so proud of the work that he insisted they come back to Amsterdam with him so that he could find rooms for them. Frightened as they were, the women agreed. When they reached the capital, Reder registered them at a relatively elegant hotel, where they stayed right through to the end of the war.
It was toward the middle of 1944 that Reder, now on the run, entered the Church. And when peace came, he told his spiritual adviser that he wanted to enter a monastery. The priest argued against it, saying that the decision should be postponed until he had lived long enough in the world as a Catholic. In 1947 he was vacationing in southern France and happened to visit (the Benedictine Abbey at En-Calcat. He asked if he could stay. Abbot de Floris said yes and put him in the charge of Dom Denis Martin, who was back at his old task of directing the brothers of the community.

Jean-Michel Reder died in a car accident in Morocco in 1959 and is buried in the Rabat Christian cemetery. 

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Variant Names
Jean-Michel Reder
Brother Jean-Michel Reder