The best books on World War II heroines

Sophie Poldermans Author Of Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII
By Sophie Poldermans

Who am I?

I'm a Dutch author and lawyer specialized in international criminal law. My expertise is the role of women leaders in times of conflict, crisis, and change – especially during war and in post-conflict societies. Women are traditionally portrayed as victims, while it is precisely women who show genuine leadership skills in times of conflict, crisis, and change. I've done research on women’s armed resistance in the Netherlands in WWII, and am an expert on the lives and resistance work of Hannie Shaft and the sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen. In addition, I've done research in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and saw the same patterns in these conflicts and the impact on the generations after. 

I wrote...

Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII

By Sophie Poldermans,

Book cover of Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII

What is my book about?

This is the astonishing, true story of Hannie Schaft (19) and sisters Truus (16) and Freddie (14) Oversteegen who took up arms against the Nazis as one of the only women in the Netherlands during World War II. They seduced high-ranking Nazi officers, lured them into the woods, and killed them. In addition, they provided Jewish children with safe houses and gathered vital intelligence for the resistance. They did what they did “because it had to be done.” Above all, they tried to remain human in inhuman circumstances.

Hannie Schaft was executed by the Nazis three weeks before the end of the war and became the icon of female Dutch resistance. Truus and Freddie Oversteegen survived the war, but were forever haunted by the demons of their past.

The books I picked & why

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Sarah's Key

By Tatiana De Rosnay,

Book cover of Sarah's Key

Why this book?

This is such a fascinating, gripping, poignant but above all emotional story linking two families together with WWII as the binding factor. Informative, but most of all so incredibly moving, I cried my eyes out of both sadness and beauty. Because the story is linked to present-day life through an existing apartment in Paris, the story feels very close to us. A true page-turner and book that will leave an impression forever. I could certainly identify with the main character doing all the journalistic research, stressing the importance of WWII.


All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr,

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Why this book?

A beautiful moving story of a blind French girl and a German boy, an orphan, for whom a radio is a real life saver. The two stories of two completely different lives in a divided and war-torn world collide magnificently. A true piece of art, awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Doerr is an American author from Idaho. Since I did my senior year of high school as an exchange student in Idaho, I’m always extra charmed by someone from this particular area.


The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory

By Roxane van Iperen,

Book cover of The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory

Why this book?

An incredibly powerful book that sheds light on Jewish Resistance in the Netherlands, by two women. Both topics are rare and especially the combination of them. The style of narrative non-fiction is brilliantly chosen. The book is historically informative and accurate, but told with the arts and craft of a novelist. A New York Times bestseller. This is exactly what my platform ‘Sophie’s Women of War’ sheds light on. 


All Ships Follow Me: A Family Memoir of War Across Three Continents

By Mieke Eerkens,

Book cover of All Ships Follow Me: A Family Memoir of War Across Three Continents

Why this book?

A remarkable and incredibly brave epic saga of a young woman struggling with the inheritance of her father who grew up in the colonial era of the Netherlands in the Dutch East Indies and who had been interned in a concentration camp by the Japanese as a child and her mother who had been abandoned as a little girl at the end of WWII because her parents were Nazi sympathizers and were therefore imprisoned. The author grew up in California, USA, with many questions about her family’s identity and secrets in the war. A courageous book breaking the taboo of shedding light on ‘the other side.’ The author is a personal friend of mine.


The Last Train To London

By Meg Waite Clayton,

Book cover of The Last Train To London

Why this book?

A remarkable novel about Truus Wijsmuller, a very brave woman in the Netherlands, resisting the Nazis by smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the nations that will take them. A very moving and true story. The role of women in the resistance movement in the Netherlands has been neglected or underrepresented for way too long, so this story helps to shed light on the active resistance women carried out in WWII. This is exactly what my platform ‘Sophie’s Women of War’ sheds light on. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, family secrets, and the German occupation of Europe?

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