Saturday, February 10, 2024

Women Heroes of World War II by Kathryn J. Atwood


 It is a pleasure to read how these brave, intelligent women fought and fooled the Nazis. Their endeavors were not easy. Some of them perished in the process, but many of them survived and shared their stories, setting alight a wellspring for inspiration and education for those who dare to learn the facts of history.  

   The experiences of these women are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit amid harrowing circumstances. Their guile and courage saved many lives. 

This edifying read also delves into the root causes of World War II. The introduction offers an insightful and thorough analysis of the ways Adolf Hitler became popular.

    Kathryn Atwood’s book is a unique read because the meticulous research on the experiences of these remarkable women follows an in-depth explanation of the political and social context of their countries of origin during World War II. Women Heroes of World War II is a valuable resource for schools and universities. It is also a reminder that countries that treat women as second-class citizens are in reality afraid of their power and intelligence. (Cowardice has many faces and treating women like property is one of those faces).

 The forces that empowered a dictator like Hitler should not be ignored. The economic constraints of the 1930s are often cited to explain the origin of the horrifying Nazi regime, but there are social issues that are conveniently overlooked. Atwood’s book integrates every aspect of this period with sensibility and knowledge.

 Hatred was the engine that drove the irrational behaviors of this regime.

 Schools became places of indoctrination, where history classes taught that Hitler was descended from great German heroes, math classes discussed how much money the state lost while supporting mentally challenged individuals, and biology classes taught the superiority of the Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jewish race.”

 Many people were blinded to the cruelty of the Nazis. Certain countries chose to ignore it, claiming that their own interests had to take precedence over the abuses of the Nazi regime. Hitler established a system that incited hatred and violence toward those who were different.

 He instituted the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth), a state- run program for all children ages 10-18. The Hitler Youth program was geared to make Germany’s children proud, military Nazis. They engaged in warlike games, killed small animals (to become insensitive to suffering and death), sang songs about German streets running with Jewish blood, and were encouraged toward fanatical, personal devotion to Hitler, a devotion that was to take precedence over their relationships with their parents. (Children were encouraged to turn in their own parents to the Gestapo if they heard them say anything against the Fuhrer).”

 I am rereading some of the parts that explore the situation of various countries during World War II: Germany, Poland, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain and the United States of America.

 The invasion of Poland was of special interest to me.

World War II officially began on September 1, 1939, when German tanks and planes stormed into Poland with a new type of warfare called blitzkrieg, or ‘lightning war,’ in which an enemy was quickly overwhelmed by the simultaneous use of aircraft, tanks, and armed soldiers.”

  Poland military leaders were not prepared because their allies—France and Great Britain—had urged them to refrain from preparing for a defensive war to avoid aggravating Germany. The allies promised they would help them if German forces invaded them, but they did not keep their promise. Poland waited in vain for assistance. Poland eventually had to surrender to the German forces. To make matters worse, the eastern side of Poland was also invaded by the Soviet Union under Stalin’s power, so Poland ended up being divided by Germany and the Soviet Union. Millions of Poles were slaughtered or deported by the German Nazis. Thousands were also killed by Stalin’s soldiers.

 The Nazis separated Polish children from their families by force and ran tests on them to evaluate how Aryan they were. Based on their conclusions, they decided what to do with them.

  “As badly as these non-Jewish Poles were treated, Poland’s Jews were treated even worse. They were squeezed into tiny ghettos where living conditions were horrible and where many died quickly from disease, exposure, and starvation. But the worst was yet to come. Toward the end of 1941, the Nazi occupiers began to build camps that could kill large numbers of Jews very quickly. Jews from Poland, and, later, Jews from all over occupied Europe, were shoved onto cattle cars destined for these camps, where they were starved and worked to death, or immediately killed.”


 Who were the people who went against this extermination and helped to save lives during World War II? Atwood’s book highlights the stories of women who had the courage to defy the Nazis by fooling them and going against their “norms”. These women saved many lives amid the chaos. How did they do it? Kathryn Atwood explores their experiences and shares astounding details. I hope their names and stories will not be forgotten. I hope they will offer a beacon of hope wherever there is despair. May their strength persist in the desire of those who have the confidence to stand up against the oppression of fascist dictators, theocracies and other totalitarian regimes that force-feed their citizens with  factoids in order to destroy the essence of democracies across the world.

  May we all stand up for democracy with the voice of truth, and may the inspiration of these women live on in our aspirations and goals.

 Names of all the women included in the book: Sophie Scholl; Irene Gut; Irena Sendler, Stefania Podgorska; Marie-Madeleine Fourcade; Andree Virot; Josephine Baker; Magda Trocme; Diet Eman; Hannie Schaft; Johtje Vos; Corrie ten Boom; Andree de Jongh; Hortense Daman; Fernande Keufgens; Monica Wichfeld; Ebba Lund; Noor Inayat Khan; Nancy Wake; Pearl Witherington; Virginia Hall; Muriel Phillips; Marlene Dietrich; Maria Gulovich; Martha Gellhorn.