During World War II many people lived through things they never thought they’d have to endure. Millions lost their lives in the gas chambers, or due to military bombing, but underground groups sought to undermine the Nazi regime at every turn. We hear a lot about the French Resistance, but occupied Holland also had a very active resistance as well. It was in Haarlem that the 3 girls Truus Oversteegen, Freddie Oversteegen, and Jannetje Johanna “Hannie” Schaft were taking down as many Nazi informants and sympathizers as they could- and they were only teenagers.

Via: BBC/ YouTube

The Oversteegan sisters got their start handing out anti-Nazi flyers and then moved on to more active roles in the movement. With their innocent faces no one expected that they were assassins for the Dutch Resistance. The girls would approach those who had been giving out the names of Jewish people to the Third Reich and shoot them in broad daylight. They also had a routine going where they would flirt with Dutch operatives working with the Nazis, then lead the men into the woods for what they thought would be a tryst. Instead the girls shot them dead.

The 3 girls also did drive-by shootings on their bicycles so that they could escape quickly and quietly from the the scene of the crime.

The 3 women felt strongly that what the Nazis were doing was categorically wrong, yet they felt remorse for their actions. After the war, Truss said that having committed so much violence “poisons the beautiful things in life.”

 Freddie-and Truss Oversteegen receiving medals of honor
Via: Dutch Ministry of Defense/ Wiki Commons

The Oversteegan sisters survived the war and went on to have families of their own. Truus went on to become a lecturer on tolerance, as well as an author and artist. But, Hannie Schaft had striking red hair which made her recognizable to the Nazis and she was captured.

Schaft was executed on April 17th, 1945. Had she gone undetected another just a few weeks longer she probably would have survived. At one point she did dye her hair black and wear glasses as a disguise under the assumed name of Johanna Elderkamp, still Hannie for short, but she had already become a target by that time.

Her tragic story and red hair made her the subject of the popular film, The Girl with the Red Hair (1981).

photo of Hannie Schaft
Via: Wiki Commons

In her honor Truus set up the National Hannie Schaft Foundation, which Freddie later worked on as well- an organization which seeks to educate young people on the dangers of fascism, extremism, and religious hatred. The Oversteegan sisters have been awarded the Mobilisation War Cross for their service during the war.

You can hear Truus and Freddie’s children describe the stories their mothers told them in the video below.