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Women Agents of the SOE

 

War Memorial dedicated to the SOE. Photo by mattbuck (2014). PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.
War Memorial dedicated to the SOE. Photo by mattbuck (2014). PD-Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

We have all read or seen articles and films on the activities of spies during World War II. Usually these are about the men of MI6 (British), OSS (America), and to a much lesser extent, the Soviet Union’s spy networks (e.g., The Red Orchestra). We’ve recently heard (thanks to declassification) about the wartime contributions of British women in regards to code breaking and Operation Enigma. However, there was a group of young and very dedicated women who were important members of the clandestine British operation called Special Operations Executive (SOE).

The SOE was formed in July 1940 on the orders of Churchill. There is some question by historians as to its effectiveness during the German occupation of European territories but to the SOE agents, their activities were extremely beneficial to the various Resistance movements, especially in France. It was also very dangerous.

The organization was divided up into departments based on the country they operated in. The network in France was code named “F Section.” Women from the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) or the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force were recruited for the SOE. A total of 55 women served as agents during the war (39 of them in F Section). Thirteen or one third of the women dropped into France went missing and it was ultimately determined they had been murdered in various Nazi extermination camps. Read More Women Agents of the SOE

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Night and Fog

The body of Wilhelm Keitel after being hanged, 16 October 1946. Photo by U.S. Army. P.D.-U.S. Government. Wikimedia Commons.
The body of Wilhelm Keitel after being hanged, 16 October 1946. Photo by U.S. Army. P.D.-U.S. Government. Wikimedia Commons.

Early on the morning of 16 October 1946, Wilhelm Keitel walked up 13 steps of the scaffold, had the rope adjusted around his neck, and dropped 6 feet through the trap door. The Nuremburg Court’s verdict of death by hanging was carried out on one of the major architects and perpetrators of the Nazi war machine.

Today, we tend to see World War II through the lens of the History Channel framed by the events of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the Holocaust. Rarely do we dig below the surface and become exposed to the sheer brutality, horrors, and inhuman behavior of the Nazi regime and its criminals (yes, these were criminals, thugs, lowlife, misfits, and degenerates). Researching my new book (Where Did They Put the Gestapo Headquarters? A Walking Tour of Nazi Occupied Paris) has brought many of these barbaric events and behaviors to my attention. I have trouble comprehending so many horrific stories as I scratch the surface. One of these stories is Nacht und Nebel. Read More Night and Fog