Monday, June 27, 2011

Hortense Daman: One Last Chance

A tall German officer in an SS uniform stepped onto a train car loaded with female prisoners, their hands and feet chained to their train seats. He glanced around the car until he noticed one particular prisoner, a pretty 17-year-old girl. He walked over to her.

"I'll give you once last chance," he said.

"I don't understand," the girl replied.

The officer almost smiled. "I'll give you your freedom, set your free, if you can tell me where I can find your brother."

"I can't help you," the girl replied.

"Can you hear what I'm saying to you?" he asked again. "Do you understand?"

"I've nothing to say," she replied.

The officer knew that this girl had been subjected to 30 days of beatings and interrogation by the Belgian SS. They were all looking for her brother, Francois Daman, a leading member of the local Resistance who had thus far skillfully evaded their grasp. The girl had taken beating after beating but repeatedly refused to reveal her brother's whereabouts.

This officer was an experienced interrogator who had seen grown men break down and betray their associates under similar treatment. This young woman had been beaten day after day but had remained silent . . .

"A pity, Hortensia," he said. He stepped back, snapped his heels together, and saluted her. "I wish you had been a German." Then he stepped off the train. The wheels of the train began to squeak. It was headed for Ravensbruck, a place called L'Enfer des Femmes or "the Women's Inferno." It was a concentration camp for women . . .

Excerpt from "Hortense Daman: Partisan Courier" from Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.

Quotations taken from pages 188-189 of "Child at War: The True Story of a Young Belgian Resistance Fighter."

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