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The Fascinating Secrets of Audrey Hepburn

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Ravi loves writing within the cusp of relationships, history, and the bizarre, where boundaries are blurred and possibilities are immense.

Not many know that the legendary Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn was also a secret World War II hero who worked against the Nazis during her teenage days.

Not many know that the legendary Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn was also a secret World War II hero who worked against the Nazis during her teenage days.

The Two Brave Girls of the Netherlands

The year 1929 saw the birth of two little girls in the Netherlands who went on to captivate the world.

One was Ann Frank and the other was Audrey Hepburn. The Frank Family as we all know went into hiding in a room in Amsterdam during which Ann Frank wrote her famous diary detailing the heart-wrenching details of her daily life. Then the family was betrayed and every person in hiding was captured by the Nazis.

Audrey Hepburn also lived only miles away from her. The daughter of a Dutch baroness and a British-Austrian father, she went ahead to become the most beloved of all Hollywood stars, known not only for her role as UNICEF ambassador but also for starring in cult films like Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Years later when she became a big star, Audrey was asked to play Ann Frank’s role in a movie. Ann’s father Otto Frank had himself requested Audrey to play that role. Audrey refused and spoke.

“I was so destroyed by it (reading Anne’s diary) again, that I said I couldn’t deal with playing Anne Frank in a movie. It’s a little bit as if this had happened to my sister. In a way, she was my soul sister.”

That said, while ‘several biographies’ have chronicled her stardom, not one biography has mentioned her 5 years as a teenager when she had fought the Nazi rule in the Netherlands. And it was an intense period in her life where every day meant either life or death.

This was her biggest secret in life that she had kept hidden until her death and it was only later when author Robert Matzen, author of “Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II” revealed it to the world after piercing together painstakingly those “crucial” years of her life where she became an unlikely hero for the Dutch resistance.

As her son, Luca Dotti rightly says.

“The war made my mother who she was.”

While ‘several biographies’ have chronicled her stardom, not one biography has mentioned her 5 years as a teenager when she had fought the Nazi rule in the Netherlands.

While ‘several biographies’ have chronicled her stardom, not one biography has mentioned her 5 years as a teenager when she had fought the Nazi rule in the Netherlands.

The Secret Life of Audrey Hepburn

Author Robert Matzen, after reading through secret war archives, interviewing surviving Hepburn family members and after talking with old veterans of the Dutch resistance brings us an interesting aspect of a young Audrey Hepburn’s life as a revolutionary.

One of the most important war efforts Audrey did was as a ballerina dancer at the Arnhem city theatre where she danced for nearly four years with the encouragement of the Dutch Resistance Leader Dr. Hendrik Visser ’t Hooft for whom she volunteered. Her objective was to raise funds for the resistance for the war efforts and also keeping Dutch music alive after it had been declared illegal by the Nazis.

These events called the zwarte avonden, or ‘black evenings’ were introduced by Dutch musicians as a way to protest against the Nazi union of artists, the Kultuurkamer who had forced them out of their livelihoods.

Soon Audrey became the star of these evenings with the resistance able to raise a lot of funds to support the thousands of Jews who had gone underground fearing the Nazis. They were known as black evenings because windows were blacked out or darkened so the Germans didn’t know of the activities going on inside.

Audrey, herself gives us a hint of her teen ballerina days in one of the interviews.

“Guards were posted outside to let us know when Germans approached. The best audiences I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance.”

One of the most important war efforts Audrey did was as a ballerina dancer at the Arnhem city theatre where the objective was to raise funds for the resistance for the war efforts.

One of the most important war efforts Audrey did was as a ballerina dancer at the Arnhem city theatre where the objective was to raise funds for the resistance for the war efforts.

Audrey Hepburn Was a Fearless Spy

The events were high-risk, illegal activities with the danger of betrayal ever omnipotent, but Audrey continued with her shows bravely disregarding the repercussions of getting caught.

Besides the dancing, Hepburn also spoke fluent English as she had spent some time in England. Accordingly, her talent was tapped by Visse ’t Hooft to carry messages and food to downed Allied pilots in 1944.

She was just a teenager, and still young enough to avoid suspicion from the police. She also delivered a Resistance newspaper, Oranjekrant stuffed within her woolen socks nearly every single day without fail.

As Robert Matzen writes.

“As a fluent English speaker, she could communicate with the pilots, tell them where to go and who would help them. On one occasion when she saw the German police approaching, she kept her cool and starting picking flowers by the roadside as a diversion tactic and when the German reached her, she sweetly presented her flowers to them. After a check of her identity card, she was allowed to pass.”

It was this inner strength that she had cultivated and acquired during the war-torn years that helped her to be an empathetic UNICEF ambassador in the later years.

As her son Luca Dotti says about her.

“My mother always said that there is no greater evil than war because it affects the children.”

Audrey died in 1993 in Switzerland at the age of 63 after battling colon cancer. And her world war years were published 26 years after her death. But the pertinent question comes as to why she kept all those years hidden.

Audrey died in 1993 in Switzerland at the age of 63 after battling colon cancer. And her world war years were published 26 years after her death. But the pertinent question comes as to why she kept all those years hidden.

Why Did She Keep Her War Years Hidden?

Audrey died in 1993 in Switzerland at the age of 63 after battling colon cancer. And her world war years were published 26 years after her death. But the pertinent question comes as to why she kept all those years hidden.

Matzen speculates that Hepburn kept the story secret for 'various reasons' and the main being that her dad was a Nazi agent, and her mother was pro-Nazi for the first two years of the occupation. Audrey could not recover from the fact that her father walked out on the family and moved to London. The abandonment stung her as a child and left her with bitter memories.

And it is this ‘shame’ about her father’s ideologies that prevented her from disclosing her war days as she did not want to be disbelieved and worse still considered like her father. She also had the fear that the ‘unnecessary’ attention on her past might derail her career.

Whatever be the reason, the Dutch girl surely proved that she was a complete package of beauty, brains, and bravery concocted into one deadly combination that can rarely be replicated by anyone else.

Sources

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Ravi Rajan

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 01, 2021:

Thanks, Manatita for your kind comments.

manatita44 from london on September 01, 2021:

A beautiful tale. Both women were fascinating and I knew Audrey mostly for her flamboyant Hollywood role. Great to hear of this other side.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 31, 2021:

Thanks, Flourish.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 31, 2021:

I had no idea about this part of her life. Very well told.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 31, 2021:

Thanks, Lora for your kind and insightful comments.

Lora Hollings on August 31, 2021:

You did a fine job of writing this article, Ravi. Audrey Hepburn was always one of my favorite actresses and I admired her for being such a humanitarian as well. I loved the role she played in Lilian Hellman's The Children's Hour and she was great in The Nun's Story. I read that she died from a very rare cancer of the appendix. Millie Perkins ended up taking the role of Ann Frank in the movie and she was wonderful. She has a look very much like Audrey Hepburn. I really enjoyed your article and I learned a lot of things that I never knew about this extraordinary woman. Thank you!

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks, Vidya for your comments.

VIDYA D SAGAR on August 30, 2021:

Thank you for this wonderful article Ravi. Audrey Hepburn is my all time favorite actress and Roman Holiday is my favorite movie. To know that she did such good work in her teen years feels so good. Rarely can we find such an incredible combination of beauty, brains, talent and courage in a person. Kudos to you for enlightening us on this.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks Teodora

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks, Brenda. She is also one of my favorite actors.

Teodora Gheorghe on August 30, 2021:

One of my favorite actresses from the Golden Age. did not know she also worked against the Nazis in her teenage years... Great article!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on August 30, 2021:

She's one of my favorite actors.

That's some information I definitely didn't know.

Secretly concealing in her socks.

Not playing a part because of Anne Frank.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks, Denise for your comments.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks, John for your comments.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks Peggy

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks Maria

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 30, 2021:

I remember reading that as a result of her continual malnurishment she had to give up ballet dancing because her bones had been weakened. She was truly amazing and beautiful.

Blessings,

Denise

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 30, 2021:

I had no idea about Audrey’s teenage war years or that she had turned down the role of Ann Frank. Thank you for sharing this interesting account.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 30, 2021:

I have always enjoyed the movies in which Audrey Hepburn played a part. I did not know the details about her teenage years, and found this to be not only fascinating, but admirable.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 30, 2021:

Beautifully written article on one of my favorites, Audrey Hepburn. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks, Chitangada for your comments.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks, MG for your comments.

Mar from United Arab Emirates on August 30, 2021:

great

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 30, 2021:

An interesting read, Raviji. Wasn’t aware about this secret of Audrey Hepburn.

You always bring out some unique facts about people and places. Well done. Thank you for sharing this information.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 30, 2021:

Audrey Hepburn is one of my favorite all-time Hollywood stars. I have seen how movies in reruns with 'wait until dark' her best.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on August 30, 2021:

Thanks, Bill. Audrey Hepburn was a remarkable woman.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 30, 2021:

She was such a classy act, and such a remarkable woman. This was a fascinating read.

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