Jannetje Johanna Schaft was born in 1920 in Haarlem and was a student in Amsterdam when Holland capitulated to the Germans in 1940. While still studying, she began committing little acts of resistance against the Germans. She started off going to swimming baths in order to steal identity cards which she could then distribute to her Jewish friends. Then she graduated to stealing weapons from the Germans and distributing pamphlets.
Eventually all university students were required to sign declarations of allegiance to the Germans in order to continue with their studies and Schaft refused. Unable to stay at school she moved back to live with her parents and decided to increase her involvement with the resistance. In 1943 she joined the communist resistance group Raad van Verzet. She started off gathering information and helping fugitives but soon her role within the group increased. She started going by the name of Hannie Schaft during this time.
She got a reputation for being willing to undertake missions that were considered too dangerous for women. Schaft took part in sabotage, weapon transports, and the liquidation of collaborators. She even learned German and would interact with German soldiers during her missions. Her reputation within the resistance and among the Germans grew and she found herself wanted by the Gestapo. The Germans knew her only as “the girl with the red hair” until her true name was revealed to the Germans by a captured resistance member.
To continue working with the resistance and to avoid capture, she started dying her hair black and wearing large glasses. As the war progressed her resistance efforts only grew until her capture in March 1945. The resistance made several plans to rescue her but none were successful. She was held in Amsterdam with the Germans having no clue to her identity, until her red roots began to grow out. Upon realizing they had “the girl with the red hair,” her captors executed her.