Escape room about Nijmegen student resistance reopened after moving to Vasim

12 Jan 2023

The educational escape room the university built in 2018 based on the story of student resistance leader Jozef van Hövell has moved. The recreated student house is now in a factory hall on the grounds of the Vasim.

How do you move a student house from the 1940s? It’s simple: you dismantle the walls, slide everything into a small bus and rebuild the whole thing in another place. The residence now suddenly has two storeys instead of just the ground floor. All this is possible if the house doesn’t really exist, but is merely a wooden copy of the brick original.

Mark Smolenaars was the one driving through Nijmegen a few weeks ago with the fake student house. Final destination: the Vasim. Together, the walls formed an escape room which was first built in 2018 in the basement of the Valkhof Museum but is now getting a second chance at life in a factory hall in Nijmegen-West.

Carolus Magnus

‘The contract with the museum expired’, he says. ‘We had been looking for a new location for a while now and meanwhile we stored the student house somewhere else. Luckily there was room in the Vasim, where we already have two other escape rooms.’

‘The idea of studying during wartime is still super relevant’

The fake house is based on the house where Jozef van Hövell van Wezeveld en Westerflier lived during the Second World War. This Nijmegen student was president of student association Carlous Magnus and leader of the student resistance in the city.

The escape room opened in 2018, the year in which Radboud University commemorated the university closing 75 years earlier. In 1943, the occupying forces demanded all universities to present their students with a declaration of loyalty to the Germans. The Nijmegen rector Bernard Hermesdorf refused to do so – as the only one in the Netherlands – for reasons of principle and decided to close the university.

With the educational escape room, the university wanted students to experience what it is like to live in wartime. Visitors can take on the role of Jozef his roommates and will be presented with complicated moral dilemma’s. Radboud historians collaborated on the project to ensure that the facts were historically accurate. When covid made its appearance, the doors of the replicated student house closed.

Two storeys

Mark Smolenaars is one of the men who was involved in building the escape room in 2018. Meanwhile the HAN student has started his own company (ROX) and in that role he recently acquired the escaperoom from the university.

He did not change anything about the story or the games. Only the decor has been changed here and there, so the ‘student house’ now has two storeys instead of one – which worked out better in the high Vasim Hall. Just before Christmas, the escape room reopened. Smolenaars hopes students will find their way to Nijmegen-West.

‘The idea of studying in wartime is still super relevant’, he says. ‘Just look at the war in Ukraine.’

Translated by Jan Scholten

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