Born Jannetje Johanna Schaft in 1920, in Haarlem, northern Holland, from an early age, Hannie, as she was known, had a keen interest in politics and social justice.
She decided to study law at university. But then the Nazi’s invaded the Netherlands. Horrified at the treatment of Jews, Hannie began her first acts of resistance while still at university, stealing ID cards for her Jewish friends.
She was forced to abandon her studies when she refused to sign the oath of loyalty to Germany. After her expulsion from the university, she joined a communist resistance organization Raad van Verzet or “The Council of Resistance”.
Hannie became a saboteur and assassin. She killed Germans, Dutch Nazis, collaborators, and traitors. But she refused to kill indiscriminately. She declined to be involved in the kidnap of the children of a Nazi official because she knew they would have been killed if the plot failed.
Finally, she was spotted during one of her assassinations, standing out because of her flaming red hair. “The Girl with the Red Hair” as she became known was now the Nazi’s most wanted woman. When they finally found out her real name, they were able to take action.
Unable to capture Hannie, the Nazis instead arrested her parents and sent them to the Vught concentration camp in an attempt to force her to give herself up. It almost worked. Such was her distress, Hannie gave up resistance work for a time. But when her parents were released, Hannie dyed her hair black and began work again
She was arrested in March 1945, distributing illegal newspapers at a German checkpoint. Initially, the Germans did not realize who they had captured because of her dyed hair. But they realized her identity as her roots began to grow out in prison.
After torture and interrogation, Hannie was taken to the Bloemendaal dunes and shot on 17 April 1945-three weeks before the end of the war. She showed remarkable courage to the end. When the first shot merely wounded her, Hannie taunted the marksman that she was a better shot. The second shot, however, met its mark. She was reburied with honors after the end of the war.