- Yolande Beekman
Infobox Military Person
Dachau concentration camp
United Kingdom, France
Special Operations Executive, French Resistance
rank=Field agent and guerrilla commander
Mentioned in Dispatches
Yolande Beekman (born
November 7, 1911, Paris, died September 13, 1944, Dachau concentration camp, Germany) was a World War II spy.
Born as Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer to an educated Swiss family (father Berthe Lydie Unternahrer) in
Paris, Beekman moved as a child to Londonand grew up fluent in the English, German, and French languages.
War time service and special operations executive
World War IIbroke out, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Forcewhere 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 February 15 1943. She trained with Noor Inayat Khanand 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. According to official government records, her mother, who referred to her as someone who was gentle and quiet but made with a core of steel, stated that Yolande Beekman was already pregnant at the time she was sent on her mission.
Beekman was dropped into France on the night of September 17/18 1943, flewn in a aircraft piloted by Squadron Leader Austin of 624 (Special Duties) Squadron Royal Air Force. [ [http://www.624squadron.org/index_files/Page1099.htm Sorties ] ]
In France, Yolande Beekman operated the wireless for
Gustave Biéler, the Canadian in charge of the "Musician" Network at Saint-Quentin in the northern Aisne"département", using the Codename Mariette and the alias of 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 Alliedplanes. However, on January 13, 1944, she and Gustave Biélerwere arrested by the Gestapowhile 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 prisonin 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 Karlsruhein 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). Whilst imprisoned, Beerkman embroidered and drew; 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 Stonehouseafter the war.
She was abruptly transferred to
Dachau concentration campwith fellow agents Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan, and Eliane Plewmanon September 11 1944. At dawn on September 13, the day after their arrival in Dachau, three of the four young women were taken to a small courtyard next to the crematoriumand forced to kneel on the ground. They were then executed by a shot through the back of the head and their bodies cremated. The fourth, Noor Inayat Khan, was eventually shot after suffering horrendous torture and possibly rape.
Awards and honours
At the end of the War, Yolande 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 Memorialin Surrey, Englandand 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 Memorialin the town of Valençay, in the Indredépartement of France.
List of female SOE agents
* [http://www.specialforcesroh.com/browse.php?mode=viewiroll&rollid=3591 Information on and photographs of Yolande Beekman on the Special Forces Roll of Honour] .
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