Kathryn Atwood’s book Women Heroes of World War II is a story of the strength of women in even the most terrifying circumstances. The book’s subtitle explains the content: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. Women from seven European countries and the United States are included.
In short readable chapters, filled with tension, Atwood tells the tales of women who hid Jews, engaged in espionage, went into ghettos and tuberculosis asylums to rescue children, and spread forbidden propaganda. The women also worked in the Resistance throughout Europe, were recruited into Britain’s SOE and the United States’ OSS (precursor of the CIA), sent coded radio messages, rescued airmen, and provided false identification papers. They entertained, and reported, comforted and cured. They organized and provided leadership. Some were later acknowledged and rewarded. Some were killed for their efforts, but a surprising number of those in the book lived to what we call a “ripe, old age.”
It made me wonder if the adrenalin that must have flowed through their bodies as they were almost captured and risked their lives might be a secret elixir of life. But, then perhaps it is simply a matter of perspective. There are only 26 stories in this book, but there must be many more. Perhaps only those who lived long lives could finally put their dangerous and gruesome memories behind them and tell their stories.