This month’s selection is Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. It is written by Kathryn J. Atwood. These stories all have one thing in common – concern/love for others who are not being treated right. Each of the 26 women in this book stood up when there was evil being done and said, in her own ways big and small, “I will not take this.” And then she did something about it.
Many of these women joined others in formal resistance organizations, but not all. Most of these women lost their lives for standing up for what is right, but not all. All are heroes and all are being remembered for staying the course, even in the face of things I cannot fathom.
I was to highlight just a few, though I encourage you to read all of their stories. It will bring both delight and encouragement to you. And, if you want to read more, each individual has a small box at the end that tells you about other books and articles that have been written about them.
Sophie Scholl from Germany – Sophie was involved with an underground publishing group sharing leaflets in Germany and encouraging students to not tolerate the Nazi beliefs that were being forced on them. She is quoted in the book as saying “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!” What bravery and courage it must have taken to state that. Having seen the growth of the German forces, she knew that it was not right and determined to make a stand. She was executed after a trial in which she was found guilty of possessing The White Rose pamphlets and distributing them. A tribute to her and others from The White Rose came when Allied forces reprinted some of The White Rose pamphlets and dropped them from the air over Germany.
Noor Inayat Khan from Great Britain – Noor was a gentle, quiet spirit who enjoyed writing and illustrating, especially children’s stories. When the war began, she joined the WAAF and became a radio operator. This was the beginning of her quiet, unsuspected assistance in the resistance movements. Her special training allowed her to join the SOE (Special Operations Executive) which sent agents into Nazi-occupied countries to fight secretly. She was a radio operator for this, sending messages from other agents back to London from France. She was a very successful radio operator but was betrayed and arrested. She was eventually executed at Dachau but not before she sent additional encouragement to others who were in the prisons with her.
Fernande Keufgens from Belgium – This was a teenager who did might work and kept her cool in many close situations. One of my favorite related in the book is when she was able to get a five year old child to safety, even after being directly questioned by the Gestapo. She evaded capture very narrowly several times but always continued helping the Resistance. She survived the war and her story lives on.
Josephine Baker from France – Josephine was an elegant singer who entertained many. What they didn’t know was that was also a spy for the Deuxieme Bureau, a military intelligence group. She was able to move about from place to place and no one would suspect an African-American-turned-Frenchwoman to be gathering intelligence to pass along to the military while she was singing and dancing. She was able to gather many important bits of information and often knew more about the war than the servicemen she was performing for. She was an encouragement and help to many in the war efforts.
Without these and many, many others, the war could have drug on more many more years. I am so inspired by those who stepped up when they could have just turned away. They didn’t ignore; they didn’t hide their faces; they didn’t walk away. The said “not on my watch” and did something. Every little thing helped.
What lessons there are in that for me today. I need to look around for ways to assist and then to boldly do so. I challenge you to do the same as these women.
Join us next month for the book club selection of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. It will post on July 6.