A talk by Rick Stroud on Wednesday 11 April 2018 in The Kincaid Gallery, The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum. (see link at bottom of page)
“The French Resistance began almost as soon as France surrendered to Germany. At first it was small, disorganised groups of men and women working in isolation but by 1944 around 400,000 French citizens (nearly 2% of the population) were involved. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up in 1941 saw its role in France as recruiting and organising guerrilla fighters; supplying and training them; and disrupting the Germans by any means, including sabotage, collection of intelligence and dissemination of black propaganda.
Infiltrated into France and operating in Resistance circuits
the basic SOE unit was a team of three: a leader, a wireless operator and a
courier, many of them women. This is the
story of those women, their selection, training, dropping into occupied France
and their attempts to survive on a daily basis whilst being hunted by the
Gestapo. Some survived by luck through
the war, whilst others were captured, tortured and executed before the Nazis
Rick Stroud is a writer and television director who has directed such actors as Pierce Brosnan, John Hurt,and Joanna Lumley. He is the author of several books including Rifleman, the story of Vic Gregg, ex 2RB. He is currently working on a book about the kidnapping by the SOE of General Kreipe from his headquarters on Nazi occupied Crete.”(Ricard Shroud April 2018)
(Unless otherwise stated all photographs are Public domain/common licence)
Hannie Schaft was born in Haarlem northern Holland on 16
After the German occupation of the Netherlands Hannie Schaft started providing stolen and forged identity papers to Jewish families to prevent them being deported to concentration camps. This first act of resistance by 20-year-old Shaft came to the attention of the Council of the Resistance which was a group closely linked to the Communist Party of the Netherlands and they decided to recruit her.
The leadership wanted her to become a courier but Schaft refused and said she wanted to fight the Germans.
Shortly after completing her
firearms and other training a member of the resistance pointed out a senior
Gestapo officer and told her to kill him.
Schaft walked behind the officer then put her pistol to his head and pulled the trigger but all she heard was a click. Unbeknown to Schaft the Gestapo officer was a member of the resistance, she had been given an unloaded pistol and this was a test to ensure she was capable of assassinating members of the occupying forces and collaborators.
One of several assassinations took place on 15 March 1945 when Hannie and 16-year-old Truus Oversteegen whose sister was also with the resistance shot dead Ko Langendisk who was a paid German informer. Truus later said, after the assassination they both hid in a hotel and Hannie put on face powder because she wanted to die pretty.
Hannie Schaft had distinctive red hair and after being involved in acts of sabotage and several assassinations she was high on the German wanted list and was known as ‘the girl with the red hair’. Aware the Germans had her description and were looking for her Schaft dyed her hair black and continued her resistance work.
Apart from assassinations and
sabotage including her part in blowing up a power station near Haarlem she also
transported and distributed weapons.
On 25 March 1945 Schaft was
arrested at a routine German checkpoint in Haarlem but only after her
interrogators noticed the red roots of her hair did the Gestapo suspect she was
the woman on their wanted list. It has also been alleged another member of the
resistance identified her after they had been tortured.
Three weeks before the end of the
war Hannie Schaft was shot but the first bullet did not kill her. It has been widely
claimed although seriously injured Schaft said to her executioner, “I shoot
better than that”, after which she was killed by a second bullet to the
On 27 November 1945 Hannie was reburied during a state funeral along with 421 other members of the Dutch resistance who had served with various organisations.
During the Cold War East Germany
used Hannie Schaft in their propaganda and printed a postage stamp in her
memory and due to increasing tensions between the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact
and western Europe the history of the Communist
section of the Dutch resistance became politically unpopular. Only after the
fall of the Berlin Wall did the communist resisters who fought for the
liberation of the Netherlands once again
start to be recognised for their
sacrifices and bravery.