Audrey Hepburn

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by Za Rodinu, Jan 18, 2009.

  1. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Audrey Hepburn (4th May, 1929 – 20th Jan, 1993) was an Academy Award-winning Belgian-born British actress of film and theatre, Broadway stage performer, former ballerina, fashion model, and humanitarian.
    Raised under German rule in Arnhem, Netherlands during World War II, Hepburn trained extensively to become a ballerina, before deciding to pursue acting.


    Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston in Belgium in 1929. Audrey's father, who had fascist sympathies, left the family under mysterious circumstances when she was 6 years old. Soon after this, in 1939, her mother, Ella, moved her and her two half-brothers to their grandfather's home in Arnhem, Netherlands. Ella believed the Netherlands would be safe from German attack. Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945 where she trained in ballet, in addition to learning a standard school curriculum.
    In 1940, the Germans invaded Arnhem. During the war Hepburn adopted the pseudonym ''Edda van Heemstra'', modifying her mother's documents to do so, because an "English-sounding" name was considered dangerous. This was never her legal name. The name Edda was a modified version of Hepburn's mother's name, Ella.
    By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballerina. She secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the underground movement. She later said, "the best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance."
    After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, things grew worse under the German occupiers. During the Dutch famine over the winter of 1944, the Germans confiscated the Dutch people's limited food and fuel supply for themselves. Without heat in their homes or food to eat, people in the Netherlands starved and froze to death in the streets. Hepburn and many other Dutch people had to resort to using flour made from tulip bulbs to bake cakes and cookies. Arnhem was devastated during allied bombing raids that were part of Operation Market Garden. Hepburn's uncle and a cousin of her mother's were shot in front of Hepburn for being part of the Resistance. Hepburn's half-brother Ian van Ufford spent time in a German labor camp. Suffering from malnutrition, Hepburn developed acute anemia, respiratory problems, and edema - a swelling of the limbs.
    Hepburn noted the similarities between her and Anne Frank. "I was exactly the same age as Anne Frank. We were both 10 when war broke out and 15 when the war finished. I was given the book in Dutch, in galley form, in 1946 by a friend. I read it . . . and it destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it but I was not reading it as a book, as printed pages. This was my life. I didn't know what I was going to read. I've never been the same again, it affected me so deeply."
    "We saw reprisals. We saw young men put against the wall and shot and they'd close the street and then open it and you could pass by again. If you read the diary, I've marked one place where she says, 'Five hostages shot today'. That was the day my uncle was shot. And in this child's words I was reading about what was inside me and is still there. It was a catharsis for me. This child who was locked up in four walls had written a full report of everything I'd experienced and felt."
    These times were not all bad and she was able to enjoy some of her childhood. Again drawing parallels to Anne Frank's life, Hepburn said, "This spirit of survival is so strong in Anne Frank's words. One minute she says, 'I'm so depressed.' The next she is longing to ride a bicycle. She is certainly a symbol of the child in very difficult circumstances, which is what I devote all my time to. She transcends her death."
    One way in which Audrey Hepburn passed the time was by drawing, and some of her childhood artwork can be seen today.
    When the tanks came in and the country was liberated, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration trucks followed. Hepburn said in an interview that she ate an entire can of condensed milk and then got sick from one of her first relief meals because she put too much sugar in her oatmeal. This experience is what led her to become involved in UNICEF late in life.

    From Audrey Hepburn - War44
    Steve G likes this.
  2. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Thanks for posting that Za, it make very interesting reading. One only sees the film star not the real woman. Rest in peace Audrey.
  3. militarycross

    militarycross Very Senior Member

    I did not know this story. Thank you for sharing it about a beautiful lady.
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Never knew that, cheers.
  5. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I was aware of her life in wartime Holland but this is a good reminder. Thanks Za.
  6. hoggene

    hoggene Member

    She was probably highly affected when her father left the family, but after the War “she stayed in contact with him and supported him financially until his death.”

    Her parents were also members of the British Union of Fascists in the mid-1930s – How could that had affected her? British Union of Fascists - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    (I prefer Julie Andrews …. And she sang great)

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