George Williams in his religious history of the Netherlands wrote, “Persecution of the Anabaptists in the southern Netherlands (Belgium) had been especially severe from the outset. In the period of our narrative the number of Belgium martyrs was about three thousand, of whom the majority were Anabaptist. By the end of our period some fifty thousand dissidents had been driven from the Hapsberg Netherlands (mainly Flanders), the majority of them Anabaptists.”
Anabaptist Dirk Willems, of Asperen, was being pursued by the authorities in the middle of winter. When he heard them at his front door he fled out the back. The officers soon resumed the chase, and Bro. Willems deemed it necessary to risk his life by running down a semi-frozen canal. He would have been successful in his escape had not the leading man in the chase fallen through the ice and was about to die in the cold water. Dirk turned and risked his life to save the life of his enemy, only to be arrested by the man he saved.
On this day in 1569 sentence was passed that Dirk Willems was to be burned at the stake as an Anabaptist heretic. On the day the sentence was to be carried out, there was a strong, cold wind which kept blowing down the flames. Several times the poor sufferer was heard to cry out, “O My Lord; O my God.” Finally the bailiff with a pittance of mercy, ordered an officer “Dispatch the man with a quick death,” and he obeyed, sending Dirk Willems into eternity with his Saviour.