These World War II Heroines Should be Household Names
These World War II Heroines Should be Household Names

These World War II Heroines Should be Household Names

Khalid Elhassan - August 15, 2022

These World War II Heroines Should be Household Names
Audrey Hepburn. Belatina

1. Fighting the Fascists 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, Audrey, 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“. The resistance also put her to work as a child courier, 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“.

These World War II Heroines Should be Household Names
Audrey Hepburn during a UNICEF mission. Manual Geek

Towards the end of WWII in Europe, a German blockade of food to the Netherlands led to a famine known as the Hunger Winter. Audrey and her family subsisted on miniscule food amounts, including tulip bulbs. By the time the Netherlands were liberated at 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. Audrey Hepburn eventually became a special ambassador for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an organization dedicated to the provision of humanitarian aid to children worldwide.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Accidental Talmudist – Girl With a Gun: Simone Segouin

All That is Interesting – Zinaida Portnova: The Teenage Partisan Who Became a Soviet Hero During World War II

Cracked – ‘The Limping Lady’ Was WWII’s Most Underrated Heroine

Daily Mail, August 29th, 2015 – The Hotpants Hotshot: Formidable Derring-do of the Nazi Hunting, Gun Toting Pin Up Teen of the French Resistance

Encyclopedia Britannica – Josephine Baker

Forward – True History of an Unknown Hero of the French Jewish Resistance

Greif, Gideon – We Wept Without Tears: Testimonies of the Jewish Sonderkommando From Auschwitz (2005)

History – This Teenager Nazis With Her Sister During WWII

History Collection – Dangerous Women That the Law Couldn’t Contain

History Network – Josephine Baker’s Daring Double Life as a World War II Spy

Imperial War Museums – Five Film Stars’ Wartime Roles

Jewish Virtual Library – The Revolt at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Jones, Sherry – Josephine Baker’s Last Dance (2018)

Life Magazine, September 4th, 1944 – The Girl Partisan of Chartres

National Archives – Virginia Hall of the OSS, May 12, 1945

National Public Radio – ‘A Woman of No Importance’ Finally Gets Her Due

OMG Facts – The Sisters Who Fought Nazis by Seducing Them

Paris, Barry – Audrey Hepburn (1996)

Poldermans, Sophie – Seducing and Ki*ling Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII (2019)

Purnell, Sonia – A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped America Win World War II (2019)

Rees, Laurence – Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution (2004)

Sakaida, Henry – Heroines of the Soviet Union, 1941-45 (2012)

Smithsonian Magazine, April 8th, 2019 – How a Spy Known as ‘The Limping Lady’ Helped the Allies Win WWII

Time Magazine, May 3rd, 2019 – How a Young Audrey Hepburn Helped the Dutch Resistance During World War II

Vice, May 11th, 2016 – This 90 Year Old Lady Seduced and Ki*led Nazis as a Teenager

Washington Jewish Week – Charlotte Sorkine: Unknown Hero of the French Resistance

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Prisoner Revolt at Auschwitz-Birkenau

US Army Online – Miss Virginia Hall

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