Audrey Hepburn fought the Nazis as a teen, according to new book

The book features never-before-published archival photographs, diaries and other records that add a new chapter to the story of a woman who was beloved by so many.

By
July 1, 2019 01:49
1 minute read.
An artist puts finishing touches to a wax figure of actress Audrey Hepburn during a photo opportunit

An artist puts finishing touches to a wax figure of actress Audrey Hepburn during a photo opportunity, a day before the opening of Madame Tussauds' Japan exhibition, in Tokyo September 27, 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON)

Audrey Hepburn, the Hollywood actress who was celebrated for her portrayals of princesses (Roman Holiday) and glamour girls (Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and later for her work as a UNICEF ambassador before her death from cancer in 1993, had a secret past as an anti-Nazi fighter, according to a new book.

Robert Matzen’s recently published Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II explores how her sometimes perilous wartime experiences helped her grow into a strong woman who always fought hard for her beliefs.
She was 11 years old when the Germans invaded the Netherlands and turned Arnhem, her hometown, into one of their largest bases of operations. She watched Jewish acquaintances forced aboard trains for deportation, and an uncle she loved was executed when he was caught working for the resistance. One of her brothers was sent to a German labor camp while the other hid throughout much of the war.

Upset by both of her parents’ pro-Nazi sympathies, Hepburn devoted herself to dance, using her talent for ballet to raise funds for the Dutch resistance.

At 15, she brought provisions and messages to downed Allied fighter pilots and even worked as a doctor’s assistant caring for the injured during the bloody Battle of Arnhem. When food was cut off during the “Hunger Winter” of 1944, she suffered severe malnutrition, which led her to value and enjoy food and never to take her good fortune for granted.

Her son Luca Dotti wrote in an introduction to this book. “When my mother talked about herself and what life taught her, Hollywood was indeed the missing guest. Instead of naming Beverly Hills locations, she gave us obscure and sometimes unpronounceable Dutch ones. Red carpet recollections were replaced by Second World War episodes that she was able to transform into children’s tales. We considered her lessons as tokens of wisdom, but we knew we were missing the complete story of her life in the war — until ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ Robert Matzen wrote to me, introducing himself and his book, Dutch Girl. The war made my mother who she was.”

The book features never-before-published archival photographs, diaries and other records that add a new chapter to the story of a woman who was beloved by so many.



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