Yolande Beekman bigraphy, stories - Spies

Yolande Beekman : biography

7 November 1911 - 13 September 1944

Yolande Beekman (7 November 1911 – 13 September 1944) was a World War II spy.

Awards and honours

Beekman's heroic actions were recognized by the government of France with the posthumous awarding of the Croix de Guerre. In addition, she is recorded on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England and as one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, she is listed on the "Roll of Honour" on the Valençay SOE Memorial in the town of Valençay, in the Indre département of France.

Wartime service and special operations executive

When World War II broke out, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force where she trained as a wireless operator. Because of her language skills and wireless expertise, she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for work in occupied France, officially joining the SOE on 15 February 1943. She trained with Noor Inayat Khan and Yvonne Cormeau.

In 1943, Yolande Unternahrer married Sergeant Jaap Beekman of the Dutch army, but a short time after her marriage she said goodbye to her husband and was flown behind enemy lines in France. Beekman was dropped into France on the night of 17–18 September 1943, flown in an aircraft piloted by Squadron Leader Austin of 624 (Special Duties) Squadron Royal Air Force.

In France, Yolande Beekman operated the wireless for Gustave Biéler, the Canadian in charge of the "Musician" Network at Saint-Quentin in the département of Aisne, using the codename "Mariette" and the alias "Yvonne". She became an efficient and valued agent who, in addition to her all-important radio transmissions to London, took charge of the distribution of materials dropped by Allied planes. On 13 January 1944, she and Gustave Biéler were arrested by the Gestapo while meeting at the Café Moulin Brulé. At the Gestapo headquarters in Saint-Quentin the two were tortured repeatedly but never broke.

Separated from Biéler (he was later executed), she was transported to Fresnes prison in Paris. Again she was interrogated and brutalized repeatedly; she shared a cell with Hedwig Müller (a nurse arrested by the Gestapo in 1944). Müller said after the war that Beekman "... didn't leave her cell much as she suffered badly with her legs..." In May 1944 she was moved with several other captured SOE agents to the civilian prison for women at Karlsruhe in Germany. She was confined there under horrific conditions until, sharing a cell with Elise Johe (a Jehovah's Witness), Nina Hagen (arrested for working as a black marketeer) and Clara Frank (jailed for slaughtering a cow on her family farm without permission). While imprisoned, Beekman drew and embroidered. She would take a needle and prick her finger to use the blood as ink and draw on toilet paper as there was no paper and pencils. She was identified from drawings made by Brian Stonehouse after the war.

She was abruptly transferred to Dachau concentration camp with fellow agents Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan, and Eliane Plewman on 11 September 1944. At dawn on 13 September, the day after their arrival in Dachau, the four young women were taken to a small courtyard next to the crematorium and forced to kneel on the ground. They were then executed by a shot through the back of the head and their bodies cremated.

Early life

Born as Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer to a Swiss family in Paris. As a child, Beekman moved to London and grew up fluent in English, German, and French.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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