*Three* Women to Know: Hannie Schaft, Truus Oversteegen and Freddie Oversteegen

They were unusual, these girls. — Bas von Benda-Beckmann

They were unusual, these girls. — Bas von Benda-Beckmann

(The Oversteegen sisters, image via Wikimedia Commons)

When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands in 1940, Hannie Schaft was a 19-year-old college student. But because she refused to pledge allegiance to Germany, she had to drop out of school. She threw her energy into the underground Resistance, soon partnering with the Oversteegen sisters, her childhood best friends, to track down Nazis.

Hannie, Truus (age 16) and Freddie (age 14!) devised a plan. They’d pretend to flirt with Nazi soldiers and Dutch traitors, feigning sexual interest and luring the unsuspecting men into the woods. There, they’d execute the men and abandon the bodies, escaping the scene on their bicycles.

As one researcher put it:

There were a lot of women involved in the resistance in the Netherlands but not so much in the way these girls were. There are not that many examples of women who actually shot collaborators themselves.

Hannie was taking the greatest risk, being the oldest and the most recognizable. Nazi soldiers began telling one another to look out for the Dutch girl with the flaming red hair. In 1945, when she was just 24, German soldiers arrested her for murder and later executed her. Just two weeks later, the Netherlands was liberated from Nazi rule.

The Oversteegen sisters survived the war and created the Hannie Schaft Foundation to honor their friend. They each lived well into their 80s, and every November 24, they gathered with their families to commemorate Hannie’s courage and legacy.

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