The world weighed in on Freddie Oversteegen when she was barely a teenager. Freddie, along with her sister Truus and a friend, Hannie Schaft, fought back against that world.
It was the world that Nazi Germany imposed on The Netherlands when it invaded and brutally opposed that country in 1940.
The girls began engaging in minor anti-Nazi activities — reporting on troop movements and pasting up posters — when they come to the attention of the Dutch resistance. They were invited to join and up the level of their activities.
According to the New York Times:
The three staged drive-by shootings from their bicycles; seductively lured German soldiers from bars to nearby woods, where they would execute them; and sheltered fleeing Jews, political dissidents, gay people and others who were being hunted by the invaders.
It was serious business — and, of course, dangerous. Just before their country was liberated in 1945, Hannie was arrested, tortured, and executed by the Nazis. The sisters survived.
Truus married a fellow resistance fighter and became a sculptor and painter. She wrote a memoir of her experiences, Not Then, Not Now, Not Ever, (which, unfortunately, is out of print in English at present) and died in 2016.
Freddie also married after the war but never sought or received much attention for what she had done.
The Dutch government was slow to recognize and honor the girls because of their affiliation with Communist-leaning organizations before the war. Finally, in 1982, a sculpture of Hannie Schaft by her friend Truus was unveiled by Princess Juliana in Haarlem (pictured here). Truus and Freddie were honored by the Dutch government with the Mobilization War Cross. Freddie died earlier this month; here’s her obituary in the New York Times: Freddie Oversteegen, Gritty Dutch Resistance Fighter, Dies at 92 – The New York Times
The story of Freddie, her sister, and her friend should be remembered and retold.
See also Kathryn J. Atwood’s book “Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue” (2011).
Photo: By Familieman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons
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