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Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins and WWII Heroes, by Tim Brady, Citadel, New York, 2021, $26

In May 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands. Despite the ever-present threat of retaliation, many Dutch did whatever was necessary to undermine the occupation. Resistance efforts ranged from the distribution of illegal publications and concealment of Jews to the assassination of traitors and collaborators.

In Three Ordinary Girls author Brady relates the activities of Haarlem resistance fighters Hannie Schaft and sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen. Raised in suburban families with communist leanings and witness to Nazi atrocities, the young women joined the Dutch resistance as teens and eventually became highly effective scouts, couriers and assassins.

As Brady notes, their outwardly innocent appearance, quick wits, daring and resourcefulness enabled Schaft and the Oversteegens to become the principal eyes and ears of the Haarlem Council of Resistance. The author also details the difficulty of establishing resistance groups in Holland, the tragic capture and death of Schaft, the postwar lives of the Oversteegen sisters and their struggle to gain government recognition of all three women’s sacrifices.

Three Ordinary Girls is a poignant account of heroic young women who demonstrated idealism, patriotism and courage in the face of constant danger. The book is also a reminder of the hazard of underestimating one’s enemies and the bravery that springs from the most unlikely sources.

—S.L. Hoffman

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