Thursday, January 29, 2015

Behind Enemy Lines

Behind Enemy Lines by Marthe Cohn

This is the true story of a French Jew who later became a spy near the end of WWII in Nazi Germany. Written years after the war, Marthe talks about her time living in hiding in occupied France, unable to tell anyone she was a Jew without risk of getting sent to the camps and later of the work she did in Germany.

I first picked this book up as research for Brothers-in-Arms. I mistook it as a book about a Jew fighting in the resistance. By the time I realized I had it wrong and it had little to do with the resistance I was so drawn in I kept reading.

Marthe - her name is pronounced Mart - had something of a wild and unruly attitude. She stood up for what she believed and was very stubborn at times. Though it was later her stubbornness which helped her in getting her family out of occupied France. She worked hard to get forged papers and them smuggled to safety, only to later go back herself to try and find a younger sister who had been sent to the camps.

Refusing to ever give up, Marthe did everything she could to find her sister, which put her in touch with some young men working in the resistance. When she heard of what they were doing to stand up to the Nazis she realized she wanted to do the same thing and encouraged her to be husband to do the same. 

Because of her forged papers and her blond hair - which made her look more French then Jewish....(in other words she could pass for not being a Jew)....she was able to stay in occupied France until it was liberated. She lived with her older sister, and while she never took part in the resistance, she did everything she could to stand up to the Nazis.

Near the end of the war Marthe joined up in the army. When it was discovered she was a Jew she was given the title of Social Worker and not allowed to do much. (She had joined up to be a nurse, which she'd gone to school for.) However, when it was discovered she spoke fluent German and could even pass as a German she was given the rank of Sargent and sent on a dangerous mission into Germany.

Once in Germany Marthe sought out information to help the allies. But the part of her mission I loved best involved the German soldiers themselves. Using her small stature and sweet face to her advantage, she would talk to the Germans whenever she came across bands making a stand against the Allies. She would say how she'd just come from a village where the Allies had attacked and destroyed everything. She'd tell the Germans how brave they were to stand and fight even though there was no hope of them living. Then she'd bike off, and leave them to flee.

Her story was amazing, Every part of it. I love books which talk about those who aren't well known, and this one is well worth reading. 

(Sadly I can't get a good picture of the cover so you will have to live with the one I found.)

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