Edda van Heemstra aka Audrey Hepburn

Audrey

There is one myth about Audrey Hepburn I have to dispel, she was not British-Belgian. In Belgium as in many other European countries you don’t automatically obtain citizenship just because you’re born there. You get the nationality of your parents, usually the nationality of the Father or sometimes the Mother.

Audrey was born on May 4,1929 in Brussels to a British father and Dutch mother.Therefore she was half British and half Dutch.

She was born  Audrey Kathleen Ruston or Edda Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston.Her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston , was a British subject born in Auschitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. Her Mother was Baroness Ella van Heemstra, a Dutch noblewoman. Her parents got married in Indonesia which was a Dutch colony at the time.Shortly after they married they moved to Europe, initially London but then later to Brussels.

Audrey’s grandfather Aarnoud van Heemstra, was the governor of the Dutch colony of Suriname.

audrey's gran

She had 2 half siblings from an earlier marriage of her Mother.

The WWII years of Audrey Hepburn do proof that it didn’t matter how well connected you were, survival was not a certainty for anyone.

In the mid-1930s, Hepburn’s parents recruited and collected donations for the British Union of Fascists, and allegedly were great admirers of Adolf Hitler. In 1935 Audrey’s Father abandoned the family. Following that mother moved with Hepburn to her family’s estate in Arnhem. Audrey and her mother did briefly live in Kent in 1937 but moved back to the Netherlands after Britain had declared war to Germany, The Netherlands were a neutral country and had remained neutral during WWI. Audrey’ mother hoped this would be the case again this time.

After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Audrey changed her name to Edda van Heemstra, because an “English-sounding” name could be potentially dangerous.

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Her mother  had already introduced Audrey to ballet lessons while they were still in England. The German occupation took a hard toll on the young Audrey Hepburn, who used ballet as a form of  escapism from the harsh reality of war. She trained at the Arnhem conservatory with ballet professor Winja Marova and became her star pupil.

The reality of war hit even harder when her uncle, Otto van Limburg Stirum(the husband of her Mother’s sister Miesje) was killed by the Nazis as reprisal for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement;on August 15 1942, while he had not been involved in the act, he was targeted due to his family’s prominence in Dutch society.

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Stirum’s murder turned Audrey’s Mother away from Nazi ideology, to become an avid member of the Dutch Resistance.

Audrey once said in an interview after the war.

“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”

In 1944, Hepburn met with Dr. Hendrik Visser ’t Hooft, a local physician, and Dutch Resistance leader. She became a volunteer for the Dutch Resistance, using her passion for dancing and talents for ballet by having secret shows to fund resistance groups.

She also worked as a courier.Many Dutch children were couriers because they were less likely to raise the suspicions of the Nazis.

Hepburn also witnessed the transportation of Dutch Jews to concentration camps, of which she later said:

“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 the train. I was a child observing a child”

TRANSPORT

The situation turned dire for Audrey Hepburn. Living conditions grew very bad and Arnhem was subsequently heavily damaged during Operation Market Garden. During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans blocked the resupply routes of the Dutch people’s already-limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder.

Hepburn’s family had to do with flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuit as food. Audrey developed acute anæmia, respiratory problems and œdema due to malnutrition.This would affect her for the remainder of her life.

After the war, she read Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and felt greatly impacted by the book. Luca Dotti, Audrey Hepburn’s son, talked about his memories of her in an interview with People Magazine.

“My mother never accepted the simple fact that she got luckier than Anne, She possibly hated herself for that twist of fate.”

Maybe that’s why she turned down the chance to play the part of Anne Frank.

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Sources

Vintage News

IMDb

http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/bwn1880-2000/lemmata/bwn5/heemstra

 

 

 

Anton de Kom, son of a slave and resistance fighter.

Anton-de-Kom

It is a well known fact that the Dutch like the British, French and Portuguese were a colonial power for centuries. The Dutch influence is still noticeable around the globe.

One of the Dutch colonies was Surinam a small country (but yet considerably bigger then the Netherlands) in South America between Guyana(former British Guyana) and French Guyana.

A fact that a lot of Dutch historians appear to overlook or ignore that the Dutch were also one of the biggest slave traders in the world.Slaves were also used in Surinam by the Dutch for the rich colonial occupiers, this was until 1 July 1863 when the Dutch, like other European countries abolished slavery.

Cornelis Gerhard Anton de Kom Born  22 February 1898 (1898-02-22) Paramaribo, Suriname. Died  April 24, 1945, Sandbostel, Germany.Was the son of a former slave.

A Surinamese resistance fighter and anti-colonialist author.

De Kom was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, to farmer Adolf de Kom and Judith Jacoba Dulder. His father was born a slave. As was not uncommon, his surname is a reversal of the slave owner’s name, who was called Mok.

De Kom finished primary and secondary school and obtained a diploma in bookkeeping. He worked for the Balata Compagnieën Suriname en Guyana. On 29 July 1920 he resigned and left for Haiti where he worked for the Societé Commerciale Hollandaise Transatlantique. In 1921, he left for the Netherlands.

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He volunteered for the Huzaren (a Dutch cavalry regiment) for a year. In 1922 he started working for a consultancy in The Hague. One year later he was laid off due to a reorganization. He then became a sales representative selling coffee, tea and tobacco for a company in The Hague, where he met his future wife, Nel. In addition to his work, he was active in numerous left-wing organizations, including nationalist Indonesian student organisations and Links Richten (Aim Left)

De Kom and his family left for Suriname on 20 December 1932 and arrived on 4 January 1933.

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From that moment on he was closely watched by the colonial authorities. He started a consultancy in his parents’ house.Where the people from Surinam could complain about the poor living conditions they were subjected to. The colonial occupiers saw him as a threat and were afraid he might cause a revolt.

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On 1 February he was arrested while en route to the governor’s office with a large group of followers. On both 3 and 4 February his followers gathered in front of the Attorney General’s office to demand De Kom’s release. On 7 February a large crowd gathered on the Oranjeplein (currently called the Onafhankelijkheidsplein). Rumor had it that De Kom was about to be released. When the crowd refused to leave the square, police opened fire, killing two people and wounding 30.

On 10 May De Kom was sent to the Netherlands without trial and exiled from his native country. He was unemployed and continued writing his book, Wij slaven van Suriname (We Slaves of Suriname) which was published in a censored form in 1934.

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De Kom participated in demonstrations for the unemployed, traveled abroad with a group as a tap dancer, and was drafted for Werkverschaffing (unemployment relief work), a program similar to the American WPA, in 1939. He gave lectures for leftist groups, mainly communists, about colonialism and racial discrimination.

After the German invasion in 1940, De Kom joined the Dutch resistance, especially the communist party in The Hague. He wrote articles for the underground paper De Vonk of the communist party, mainly about the terror of fascist groups in the streets of The Hague (much of their terror was directed against Jews). On 7 August 1944, he was arrested. He was imprisoned at the Oranje Hotel in Scheveningen, and transferred to Camp Vught, a Dutch concentration camp.

In early September 1944, he was sent to Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen, where he was forced to work for the Heinkel aircraft factory.

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De Kom died on 24 April 1945 of tuberculosis in Camp Sandbostel near Bremervörde (between Bremen and Hamburg), which was a satellite camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp.

He was buried in a mass grave. In 1960, his remains were found and brought to the Netherlands. There he was buried at the Cemetery of Honours in Loenen.

De Kom was married to a Dutch woman, Petronella Borsboom. They had four children. Their son, Cees de Kom, lives in Suriname.

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The University of Suriname was renamed The Anton de Kom University of Suriname in honor of De Kom.

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The University of Suriname also erected a statue in honor of Anton de Kom on the campus.

 

Anton de Kom was listed in De Grootste Nederlander (The Greatest Dutchman/Dutchwoman) as #102 out of 202 people.

In Amsterdam Zuidoost a square is named after him, the Anton de Komplein. It features a sculpture of Anton de Kom as a monument to his life and works, sculpted by Jikke van Loon.

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The  Surinam government print money bills in honor of De Kom .

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Pictures courtesy of the Family archive.