Aside from my interest in WW2 and I am also a movie buff. And to be honest looking at actors and actresses nowadays none of them have the screen presence like the classic screen Icons such as Audrey Hepburn.
Although I was never a huge fan there is no denying her acting talents and some of the all time classic movies she starred in. ‘Robin and Marian’ is still one of my all time favorites.
Bur not to get side tracked since this blog is referring to her activities during World War 2 and is not meant to be a movies review.
The fact that she actively did help the resistance is amazing given the background of her parents.
Hepburn was born on 4 May 1929 at number 48 Rue Keyenveld in Ixelles, a municipality in Brussels, Belgium.Her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston was a British subject born in Úžice, Bohemia.
Her mother, Baroness Ella van Heemstra , was a Dutch aristocrat and the daughter of Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra, who was mayor of Arnhem from 1910 to 1920, and served as Governor of Dutch Suriname from 1921 to 1928.
Hepburn’s mother and father married in the Dutch-Colonial Batavia (now Jakarta), Dutch East Indies, in September 1926. They moved back to Europe, to Ixelles in Belgium, where Hepburn was born in 1929, before moving to Linkebeek, a nearby Brussels municipality, in January 1932.Hepburn held British citizenship through her father.
As a result of her multinational background and travelling with her family because of her father’s job,she learned to speak five languages: Dutch and English from her parents and later French, Spanish, and Italian. Hepburn began studying ballet when she was five years old
Hepburn’s parents were members of the British Union of Fascists in the mid-1930s,with her father becoming a true Nazi sympathizer.
The marriage began to fail in 1935, and after her mother discovered him in bed with the nanny of her children,[Hepburn’s father left the family abruptly. Joseph settled in London following the divorce.In the 1960’s, Hepburn would finally locate him again in Dublin through the Red Cross.
Although he remained emotionally detached, his daughter remained in contact and supported him financially until his death.
Hepburn’s father, Joseph, who abandoned her when she was a little girl, and her mother, Ella, were members of the British Union of Fascists. In 1935, they toured Germany with other members of the organization, including the notorious Mitford sisters, British aristocrats who were jailed for their Nazi sympathies. After Hepburn’s parents divorced, Ella returned to Germany to attend the Nuremberg rallies and wrote an enthusiastic account of the experience for fascist magazineThe Blackshirt. Joseph was investigated by the British House of Commons for receiving seed money to start a newspaper from Germans with ties to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He was imprisoned as an enemy of the state for the duration of the war.
In 1937, Ella and Audrey moved to Kent, South East England, where Hepburn was educated at a small independent school in Elham, run by two sisters known as “The Mesdemoiselles Smith”.In September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany, and Hepburn’s mother relocated with her daughter back to Arnhem in the hope that (as during World War I) the Netherlands would remain neutral and be spared a German attack.
While there, Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945 where, in addition to the standard school curriculum, she trained in ballet with Winja Marova. After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Hepburn adopted the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra because an “English sounding” name was considered dangerous during the German occupation. In 1942, Hepburn’s uncle, Otto van Limburg Stirum (husband of her mother’s older sister, Miesje), was executed in retaliation for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement.
While Hepburn’s half brother Ian was deported to Berlin to work in a German labour camp. Hepburn’s other half-brother Alex went into hiding to avoid the same fate.”We saw young men put against the wall and shot, and they’d close the street and then open it and you could pass by again…Don’t discount anything awful you hear or read about the Nazis. It’s worse than you could ever imagine.” Audret Hepburn recalled.
After this, Ella, Miesje, and Hepburn moved in with her grandfather Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra in nearby Velp. At the time, Hepburn suffered from malnutrition, developed acute anæmia, respiratory problems, and edema.Hepburn, in a retrospective interview, commented, “I have memories. More than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon.
I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on to the train. I was a child observing a child. Later in her career, Hepburn was asked to play Holocaust victim Anne Frank in both the Broadway and film adaptations of Frank’s life. Hepburn, however, who was born the same year as Frank, found herself “emotionally incapable” of the task, and at almost 30 years old at the time, too old.
By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballet dancer and she had secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance.
“The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performances”, she remarked She also occasionally acted as a courier for the resistance, delivering messages and packages Had she been discovered doing either of these things, a swift execution would have followed.. After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse and Arnhem was subsequently destroyed during Operation Market Garden.
A panoramic view of the city of Nijmegen, Holland, and the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal (Rhine) River in the background. The city was hit by German and Allied bombardment and shelling. September 28, 1944. Poznak. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-194568 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1067
During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans blocked the resupply routes of the Dutch’s already-limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder German occupation.
People starved and froze to death in the streets; Hepburn and many others resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits.
During those times, the future Hollywood icon’s meals were often comprised of endive, the low-calorie green leafy vegetable often used in salads, tulip bulbs that she dug up from the ground and water. This was how she survived.Audrey Hepburn disclosed that there were times she couldn’t stand up; she felt to weak to make use of her limbs.
By the time WWII ended, the then 16-year-old Audrey Hepburn only weighed 88 pounds [about 40 kilograms]
One way young Audrey passed the time was by drawing; some of her childhood artwork can be seen today.When the country was liberated, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration trucks followed. Hepburn said in an interview that she fell ill from putting too much sugar in her porridge and eating an entire can of condensed milk. Hepburn’s war-time experiences sparked her devotion to UNICEF, an international humanitarian organisation, in her later career.
Audrey Hepburn’s legacy as an actress and a personality has endured long after her death. The American Film Institute named Hepburn third among the Greatest Female Stars of All Time. She stands as one of few entertainers who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards. She won a record three Bafta Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role. In her last years, she remained a visible presence in the film world. She received a tribute from the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1991 and was a frequent presenter at the Academy Awards. She received the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. She was the recipient of numerous posthumous awards including the 1993 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and competitive Grammy and Emmy Awards. She has been the subject of many biographies since her death and the 2000 dramatisation of her life titled The Audrey Hepburn Story which starred Jennifer Love Hewitt and Emmy Rossum as the older and younger Hepburn respectively. The film concludes with footage of the real Audrey Hepburn, shot during one of her final missions for UNICEF.
During the 1950s, it would have been disastrous for Hepburn’s squeaky clean image if it were known that her parents were Nazi sympathizers. By today’s standards, her rejection of her parents’ racist ideology makes her even more admirable.
Hepburn’s image is widely used in advertising campaigns across the world. In Japan, a series of commercials used colourised and digitally enhanced clips of Hepburn in Roman Holiday to advertise Kirin black tea. In the United States, Hepburn was featured in a 2006 Gap commercial which used clips of her dancing from Funny Face, set to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, with the tagline “It’s Back – The Skinny Black Pant”.
To celebrate its “Keep it Simple” campaign, the Gap made a sizeable donation to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.In 2013, a computer-manipulated representation of Hepburn was used in a television advert for the British chocolate bar Galaxy. On 4 May 2014 Google featured a doodle on its homepage on the occasion of Hepburn’s 85th birthday.