Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Audrey Hepburn: Member of the Dutch Resistance
Believing that living in a country that had pledged neutrality during WWII would keep them safe, actress Audrey Hepburn’s mother relocated the family to Holland in 1939. But within weeks the Nazis invaded, and life as they knew it was over.
Audrey’s mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra, was Dutch royalty. Her father, Joseph Ruston, was a British subject born in Bohemia. Her parents met and married in the Dutch East Indies country of Batavia (now Jarkarta). They moved numerous times to various countries, and as a result Audrey learned to speak five language. In the mid-1930s her parents joined the British Union of Fascists, and her father became a true Nazi sympathizer. Because of his infidelities, the Baroness divorced him in 1936.
The Nazis cut off food supplies to Holland, and the population began to slowly starve. According to her son, Luca Dotti, Audrey suffered malnutrition and weighed eighty-eight pounds at the end of the war. Her much-envied svelte figure was actually a result of the lack of food available. During an interview toward the end of her life, the actress said she and her family subsisted on nettles, boiled grass, endive, and tulip bulbs. After the war, she never ate endive again.
She was a child during the war-aged 9 to 16, and despite her deprivation, Audrey became part of the Dutch resistance. She held silent ballet recitals (there was no music or applause to keep from being found out by the Nazis) and donated her earnings to the Resistance. She also acted as a courier, delivering parcels and messages.
When she was liberated at the end of the war, a Dutch soldier gave her a handful of chocolate bars. Audrey wolfed them down along with the condensed milk she received from the UN, but her malnourished body couldn’t take the rich food. She became violently ill.
According to her son, throughout her life “the taste of chocolate, was the taste of freedom.”
What special memories does chocolate hold for you?
A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett writes historical fiction. Her novella Love’s Harvest is available on Amazon. She is currently seeking a publisher for her series about WWII war correspondent Ruth Brown. Visit her at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com