28. A Star Who Supported the Resistance Through Dance
Audrey Hepburn danced and performed in illegal underground recitals known as zwarte avonden (“black evenings”), and donated her earnings to the resistance. This despite her enfeebled physical condition, after the Nazis squeezed the Netherlands hard for resources to fuel their war effort. Within a few years, Hepburn, like many other Dutch, began to suffer from malnutrition. She still danced, however. As she put it: “it was some way in which I could make some kind of contribution“. She also acted as a child courier, used because her youth made her less suspicious in the eyes of German occupiers. She carried documents, coded messages, and other items between various resistance groups. On one occasion, she recalled: “I had to step in and deliver our tiny underground newspaper, I stuffed them in my woollen socks and my wooden shoes, I got on my bike, and delivered them“.
In the last few months of the war, a German blockade of food to the Netherlands led to a famine known as the Hunger Winter. Hepburn and her family subsisted on minuscule food amounts, including tulip bulbs. By the time the Netherlands was liberated at the war’s end, she and her family were close to starvation. As she put it: “We lost everything, of course… but we didn’t give a hoot. We got through with our lives, which was all that mattered.” Soon after the war, she moved to Britain, got her first film role in 1948, and went on to star in dozens more movies. She never forgot her childhood experience in wartime. Hepburn eventually became a special ambassador for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide.