Seducing the Nazis
In a continuation of my research into lesser-known heroes, I have come across two sisters who took a stand during the darkest time of the twentieth century. Freddie Dekker-Oversteegen and Truus Menger-Oversteegen were just young teenagers when they joined the DutchResistance. And like their more well-known comrade, Hannie Schaft, their story is one of youth acting with tremendous courage against the greatest evil of the modern world.
Born in 1925 and 1923 respectively, Freddie and Truus spent their early childhoods on a barge in Schoten (later absorbed by Haarlem), Netherlands until their parents divorce. Thereafter, the sisters lived with their mother, an avowed communist, in an apartment in Haarlem. Mrs. Oversteegen raised her girls to believe that one’s principles should be supported by one’s actions. With war looming, mother and daughters demonstrated their belief in fair treatment for all by harboring Lithuanian refugees after the Soviet invasion in 1940. It should be remembered that the USSR and Germany were allies early in World War II. After Hitler overran the Low Countries, the family hid a Jewish couple in their
apartment for a time until the couple was arrested and sent to a concentration camp where they perished.
The Oversteegen girls’ resistance to the Nazi occupation began in an informal, but very dangerous way. They started by handing out anti-Nazi pamphlets and pasting warnings over Nazi posters seeking workers to go to Germany. With a fair number of Dutch collaborators vying for German favor by turning in resisters, this activity was dangerous indeed for the Nazis had no compunction about torturing and killing anyone, including children, who opposed them in even the simplest ways.
In 1941, a commander of the Haarlem Resistance Group approached Mrs. Oversteegen hoping to recruit the girls. Their mother and the girls agreed. Freddie was only 14 and Truus 16 at the time. Many of the young women who were part of the Resistance did not take part in armed actions. Instead, they hid refugees and downed Allied pilots. They acted as curriers between resistance groups. They gathered intelligence, but they did not take up arms. The Oversteegen girls played a very different part in resisting the Nazi occupation of their homeland. Because of their ages, it might have been felt they were less likely to fall under suspicion. Whatever the reasoning, Freddie and Truus were trained in the tactics of armed resistance. They learned how to shoot, how to blow up bridges, and how to sabotage railway lines. They literally took up arms against their Nazi occupiers just like the men of the resistance, but the girls also had assets their male counterparts did not.
To the usual list of saboteur responsibilities the girls added “liquidations.” Their targets were Dutch collaborators and Nazis and the girls were very effective. Who would suspect two young teens out for a ride on their bicycles were stalking and killing people? But that is exactly what they did and they reserved their most strategic plans for Nazi soldiers.
As one can see from her photo, Freddie was a lovely girl. No matter the horrors of war soldiers do not lose their interest in girls. In fact, being far from home and in dangerous situations probably heightens their desire for the normalcy found in female companionship. The girls took complete advantage of this. They met, probably flirted with, and invited Nazi soldiers to accompany them to isolated “make out” spots. Once in the wooded areas, the anticipated romantic interludes turned deadly. The girls or other resistance fighters killed the soldiers on the spot. In 1943, the Oversteegen sisters joined forces with Hannie Schaft and the trio formed a sabotage and assassination cell. Luring Nazi soldiers to their deaths became their mission and stock-in-trade. The sisters were devastated when Hannie was captured and killed in 1945 just three months before the war’s end.
After the war, the girls refused to talk about how many people they had killed, saying that “soldiers do not tell and we were soldiers.” Truus became a sculptor and later wrote and spoke about her wartime experiences. Freddie married and had a family. While they knew their war work was vital, what they had done marked the rest of their lives. Freddie suffered life-long insomnia. “We did not feel it suited us,” Truss told [an interviewer] of their assassinations. “It never suits anybody, unless they are real criminals.”
It took many years for the Dutch government to officially recognize the Oversteegens’ contributions to the Resistance because they were communists, but in 2014 they were finally honored with the Mobilisatie-Oorlogskruis, or “War Mobilization Cross.” Truus died in 2016 at age 92 and Freddie in 2018 one day before her 93rd birthday.
One can only imagine the courage it took for young teens to undertake the work they did on behalf of their nation during its darkest hour.
Related Fiction: Three recent bestsellers featuring wartime resistance.