The Girl with the Red Hair

The below story was brought to my attention by a friend, he also published it in a local Athens-Alabama newspaper.

THE OWL’S EYE

Equal justice under the law

Some may believe an event both a continent and 76 years away of little interest to our Athens- Limestone County. Let this flight of recollection help. We just commemorated the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp in January 1945. We recall with dread the Holocaust. When the gates finally opened at the death camp, only a few were left in that place of evil. What remained of the millions of Jews, resisters against Nazi power and social outcasts condemned to that place were starving, barely recognizable human beings. Yet, they were human. As one philosopher from the late 1600s said, all wars are civil wars, for we are all part of the human family. To recall what drove so many to fight the white racist Nazi regime, I read “Seducing and Killing Nazis,” by Sophie Poldermans, a Dutch author whose country fell and then suffered dramatically under the Nazi whip. Poldermans points out, however, that after her country was occupied, the Nazis tried to divide her people against one another. She illustrates how this happened by telling a story of three young resisters who secretly opposed this false god of racial superiority.

These young women learned while growing up at home never to prejudge others. Because, as their parents counselled, “All humanity is equal.” Such simple life guidance was catastrophically upended when violent, white supremacist Nazi Germany overran the Netherlands. By then only teenagers, the young women were old enough to know something was dreadfully wrong. Sophie Poldermans, an insightful Dutch author who personally knew two of the heroic resistance fighters remembered here, tells their story with heart-rending passion. She reveals the fear, Nazi brutality and unique horrors of that age. She does, however, show how the brave actions of the Dutch resistance helped raise a jaded world back to simple humanity.

Subtitled “Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of World War II,” this book is simply terrifying. Though only teenagers, we learn how they were subtly drawn into secret resistance against the invaders. Poldermans reveals a horrific, clandestine measure to assure their reliability. Indeed their test will remain with you forever. We follow Jo “Hannie” Schaft, whose tomboy elemental understanding of right and wrong allowed her to courageously, indeed often recklessly, fight back against the conquerors. Truus and “Freddie” Oversteegen displayed leadership and wise caution, each bringing her skills to great use in the underground defence of their country against the Gestapo and Dutch traitors.

Nazi Germans implemented laws based on racial hatred and political suppression. They enforced racial discrimination against Jews and outlawed political parties. Opponents were sent to concentration and death camps. How three young girls, for none was older than 19 at the time, fought back against such “discrimination and inequality” is brought to life in this utterly spellbinding tale of assassinations, train sabotage, conspiracy and intrigue.

Indeed, seducing and killing Nazis by Dutch teens is what they did. One is fascinated by how their missions were planned, organized and executed. The remarkable details of underground life, of forgeries, gathering stolen documents, explosives, food and other essentials would be story enough. But no, assassinations were also carried out by girls pretending to charm Nazis. The horror of taking a life, and the limits to any reprisal, even against Nazis, are memorably told. Indeed these are tales you’ll want to discuss. Available in all American outlets, this story of three women who sacrificed their innocence to restore goodness will first shock, and then bring you to tears. What a magnificent testimony to such true heroines who fought as underground soldiers against real tyranny. Through their heroism, they helped restore a world open to dignity and equality before the law.

We who live in our little Alabama county have enshrined our national belief that “all men are created equal.” We created a system of liberal democratic institutions, peacefully transferred, that protect the rights of all. We need to remember this is a system which deserves our constant vigilance and protection. Ours is a nation of laws, before which everyone must be treated the same. Poldermans has done well in reminding us there are those who would destroy such an open, equal and free society, that we must defend it with all our ability.

— John William Davis is a retired U.S. Army counterintelligence officer, civil servant and linguist. He was commissioned by Washington University in St. Louis in 1975. He entered counterintelligence and served some 37 years. A linguist, Davis learned foreign languages in each country in which he served. His published works include “Rainy Street Stories: Reflections on Secret Wars, Terrorism and Espionage” and “Around the Corner: Reflections on American Wars, Violence, Terrorism and Hope.”

picture courtesy of https://latitudes.nu/hannie-schaft-the-girl-with-the-red-hair/

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