In the midst of all of this they tried to remain human under inhuman circumstances.
By Chauncey K. Robinson
Peoples World (8/28/19)
The book Seducing and Killing Nazis is essential reading because there’s nothing “normal” about Nazis. From past to present, they are a group of people who support the genocide of others based on hate and the idea of “white pride.” There’s nothing “normal” about fascist regimes; they stamp out democracy and encourage suppression.
Yet, in these times, allies and representatives of these ideas are being glamorized on pop culture reality shows like Dancing with the Stars, or given sympathetic profile pieces in mainstream news publications like the New York Times. Author Sophie Poldermans’s highlight of three women who dared to fight back against fascism in World War II is a bold challenge to resist instead of adapting to—and normalizing—hatred.
These women could have lived their lives as “normal” because they weren’t initially directly affected, but they recognized then that there was nothing normal about the situation. They saw Nazism and its goals as the enemies of freedom and humanity’s progress. These three young women left no room for compromise.
Seducing and Killing Nazis—Hannie, Truus, and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII is a non-fiction book that details the journey of three teenaged girls who faced the question: “Do we adapt or resist?” Freddie Oversteegen, Truus Oversteegen, and Hannie Schaft, while living in the Dutch city of Haarlem, made the decision to take up arms against Nazi Germany. The book details their lives before the Nazi occupation of their hometown, their lives during the war, and the political and emotional aftermath once the war ended. The book not only serves as a historical report that goes beyond dates and figures but puts into context those events and their impact on society today.
When the last of the three women, Freddie, passed away in 2018, there was a media storm surrounding her life. The headline of Freddie’s obituary in The Washington Post read “Freddie Oversteegen, Dutch Resistance fighter who killed Nazis, through seduction, dies at 92.” Of course, the article received a great deal of attention, especially now that the discussion on neo-Nazism and white nationalism have entered mainstream discourse. Yet, what articles like those failed to do was dig into the political layers of the resistance movement the women were part of and the post-war significance of their fight. Poldermans’s book fills in those gaps and expands on these ideas.
A book with a purpose
The author makes it clear in her prologue and preface that this is a book with a purpose. Poldermans, who knew Freddie and Truus personally, lifts up the lesser known aspects of Holocaust and WWII history around the perspective of female heroines, specifically in the Netherlands. This book has been a long time coming for Poldermans, who explains that from an early age she admired the ideals of the three women. She notes in the opening that the world is still dominated by men, and war often portrays women as the main victims, while it is “precisely women who resist under such circumstances and show genuine leadership.”
Poldermans wants the world to know about Freddie, Truus, and Hannie, to display that women like these existed and that it is their kind of conviction that may be what the world needs today. By interweaving her own personal story and inspiration into the introduction, Poldermans challenges the reader not to be a passive consumer of the story but an active student of the lessons her book can provide. …