Year End Obituary: Freddie Oversteegen, Dutch Resistance Fighter In World War II
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
As the year winds down, we're remembering people whose deaths didn't grab headlines in 2018 but whose obituaries told fascinating stories.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
People such as Freddie Oversteegen. She was 92 when she died in September, Dutch, a mother of three.
SHAPIRO: A seemingly ordinary housewife except she was also the last surviving member of the Netherlands' most famous female resistance cell during World War II.
KELLY: When she and her older sister were teenagers, they led Nazis and their Dutch collaborators to their deaths.
BAS VON BENDA-BECKMANN: When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, they were young girls. I mean, she was 15. But they were more or less prepared.
KELLY: That's researcher Bas von Benda-Beckmann. He says the girls were ready to do whatever was necessary to defend their country because they'd grown up in a home steeped in anti-fascist philosophy.
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FREDDIE OVERSTEEGEN: (Speaking Dutch).
SHAPIRO: That's Oversteegen talking about her wartime experiences in an interview recorded in 2010 with the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. Before the invasion, her family had hidden German Jewish refugees.
KELLY: Later when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, the girls took part in a general strike. That was a brave thing for teenagers to do, and it caught the attention of a resistance fighter.
BENDA-BECKMANN: He asked the girls to join his armed resistance group. We're going to sabotage the Germans by using explosives, maybe also shoot Nazis. Are you prepared to join me? And then they said yes.
SHAPIRO: The plan was to use the sisters' looks. They were pretty and could pretend to be naive. They could lure their victims into a trap.
BENDA-BECKMANN: They did this by asking German SS men to go for a stroll. And they would just flirt a little bit with him and ask him to come along. And they would lead him into the woods.
KELLY: And then he would be shot to death.
SHAPIRO: After the war, Oversteegen married and started a family. And while she did appear to live a normal, quiet life, she suffered from insomnia and depression.
KELLY: She was also apparently troubled by the lack of recognition for what she'd done. Her wartime role was downplayed by her former fellow resisters, especially by the men.
SHAPIRO: When von Benda-Beckmann talked to Oversteegen in her later years, she told him something unsettling about how she felt after seeing someone she had killed fall to the ground.
BENDA-BECKMANN: The first thing you want to do when you shoot somebody is to pick him up.
KELLY: The instinct never left her no matter how many Nazis and Nazi sympathizers she or her sister killed. No one knows the number, and neither she nor her sister would ever say.
BENDA-BECKMANN: Until the end of their lives, it seriously haunted them. They were to some degree anxious about it but also proud.
SHAPIRO: World War II Dutch resistance fighter Freddie Oversteegen died in September at the age of 92.
(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW BIRD'S "TRUTH LIES LOW")
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