People tend to think of warfare as a man’s pursuit, and it’s easy to understand why. Throughout history, men have donned armor, taken up weapons, suffered and died for country and cause.
Yet almost every major conflict has featured brave women who’ve acted every bit as valiantly as their male counterparts. The biblical book of Judges records how Jael overcame the Canaanites by driving a tent peg into the head of Sisera, their commander.
Smithsonian Magazine recounted the tale of Violette Szabo, who fought Nazis in World War II by serving as a British spy and perished in a concentration camp. A world away, Filipino resistance warrior Nieves Fernandez hunted Japanese aggressors during the same period according to Rare Historical Photos.
Yes, Nazi forces, in particular, had plenty to fear from fierce female warriors. And one of the most effective was Freddie Oversteegen, a Dutch woman who passed away on Sept. 5 at the age of 92.
According to The Washington Post, Oversteegen fought against the Nazis for five long years. She grew up in poverty, the child of a single parent, but her mother always tried to help others.
When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, the Oversteegens sheltered a Jewish family — to no avail. “They were all deported and murdered,” Oversteegen said.
About that time, Oversteegen told Vice that a member of the Dutch resistance approached her mother and asked if the 14-year-old girl and her 16-year-old sister could help against the Nazis. After all, who would expect two young teens of being trained killers?
And that’s exactly what they would become. Young Oversteegen would pedal past German soldiers on her bike with a basket full of firearms.
They also used their female charms to best their invaders. She and her sister would flirt with Nazis, promising them (ahem) physical affection as they led them into the woods.
Sometimes they encountered them in the streets. Sometimes they wooed them in bars.
Yet the result was always the same. The only thing waiting for those soldiers was a bullet to the head and a quick burial in a shallow grave.
The sisters would also shoot them from their bikes. Yet they didn’t take their actions lightly.
“It was tragic and very difficult, and we cried about it afterwards,” Oversteegen’s sister said, according to Smithsonian Magazine. “We did not feel it suited us.
“It never suits anybody unless they are real criminals. … It poisons the beautiful things in life.”
Still, Oversteegen’s sacrifice did undeniable good. Her duties also involved aiding Jewish refugees and ferrying them toward safety.
And as for the killing that haunted her, she said, “We had to do it. It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people.”
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