4. This Resistance Heroine Grew Up in an Antifascist Home That Sheltered Fugitives From the Nazis
Dutch Resistance Heroine Truus Menger-Oversteegen was born into a left-wing working-class family in 1923. She grew up in an industrial district north of Amsterdam known as the “Red Zone” for its residents’ political bent. Before WWII, her family actively assisted an organization known as Red Aid, which helped save Jewish and political refugees from the Nazis by facilitating their escape from Germany.
Truus grew up accustomed to fugitives hiding in her home from Dutch police, who were likely to return them to the German border and hand them to the dreaded Gestapo. She was thus already an antifascist long before the Germans conquered the Netherlands in 1940, when Truus was fifteen-years-old.
3. This Heroine Joined the Resistance When She Was Sixteen
When the Nazis began deporting the Netherlands’ Jews, the country’s communists and socialists came together in February 1941, to lead a massive strike in protest. It was one of the few successful nationwide protests against the Germans, and it encouraged the rise of the Dutch resistance.
The widespread protests against the deportation of Jews led the Nazis to ramp up their repression and brutality, in order to cow the Dutch into obedience and toeing the line. The repression increased the alienation of the Dutch people, and drove them in increasing numbers into the arms of the budding resistance. Truus Menger-Oversteegen joined the Dutch Resistance when she was sixteen. She began by distributing leaflets and illegal newspapers, and offering assistance to fugitives seeking to save themselves from the occupiers.
2. An Attempt to Save Jewish Children That Ended in Tragedy and Massacre
In 1941, following a massive Dutch workers’ strike, the Nazi occupation authorities cracked down hard. That further radicalized Truus, and spurred her to join an armed resistance that engaged in direct action against the Germans. After receiving military training and learning how to operate a firearm, Truus’ early assignments included flirting with and seducing German soldiers, and leading them into the woods, to be killed by her comrades. Before long, the teenager was shooting Germans herself, and using explosives to blow up bridges and railroad tracks.
Life as an armed partisan was a difficult row to hoe, full of dangers and marked by tragedy as often as success. Early on, Truus was present at a failed mission to save Jewish children from German clutches. It ended with the fugitives caught in searchlights in an open field, where most were massacred, mown down with machine guns.
1. Despite a Nazi Bounty on Her Head, This Heroine Survived the War to Become a Respected Artist, Sculptress, and Public Speaker
By the time WWII had ended, many of Truus-Menger-Oversteegen’s Resistance comrades had been arrested and executed, with her unable to do anything to save them. Suspicion was rife that Truus’ and other left-wing cells had been betrayed by conservative members of the Resistance. The right-wing of the Resistance was perceived as having been backward during the actual fight, only to come forward at the hour of liberation to claim the lion’s share of the credit.
Despite the setbacks and daily dangers, Truus courageously soldiered on and kept up the fight, evading capture despite a sizeable reward that was placed on her head. After the war, she put down her arms, and beating swords into ploughshares, raised a family and went on to make a name for herself as a respected artist and sculptress, and as a public speaker at war memorial services.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading