Death Note

‘It was only after my mother’s death that I discovered she was a Resistance hero’

‘It was only after my mother’s death that I discovered she was a Resistance hero’
Written by publishing team

By April 1943, Sabine was being warned that the boss in the office where she worked could betray her. On 28 April 1943, she saw a military car parked near the office. Two men, one Dutch, one German, took her in for questioning and she began there two years of incarceration, first in prisons in Amsterdam and Utrecht and then in three concentration camps.

In prison, Sabine was interrogated and beaten. ‘But she kept repeating she knew nothing and no names,’ says Eva. Ella’s Sabine’s mother, Moeder Bien, was allowed to do her laundry. ‘I found these little scraps of paper from ella when she was first in the jail in Holland which she used to send to her mother de ella,’ explains Eva. The notes were smuggled out in the pleats in her skirts of her. ‘By wrapping her letter de ella, written on a cigarette paper, around a whalebone stay from one of her cellmate’s corsets, she managed to insert the scraps of paper into the top of the pleat.’

This resilience in the face of interrogations and beatings was like a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. It also trained a lens on the bond between Sabine and Moeder Bien ‘which was quite childlike’.

Sabine was sentenced for spying in late August 1943 and given the status of Nacht und Nebel, considered to be extra dangerous and, for the purposes of paperwork, to not exist.

She was taken to the male-only Amersfoort concentration camp, where she was placed in Cell 18 and spied on. She became terrified of rape. In November 1943, she was transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp, 80km north of Berlin, which housed more than 130,000 women and children in its six years of existence.

Sabine never spoke of Ravensbruck. She was one of 2,000 Dutch women. Victims died of slave labour, starvation, poisoning, torture, exhaustion, medical experiments, madness and executions. Loudspeakers blared out marching songs, dogs barked, guards screamed, and thousands of terrified women and children cried. Naked corpses were dumped in the washing area.

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