(transcribed in her original words)
A day came when S.S. men and the Gestapo with trained dogs raided the woods. Many Patriots and fugitive Russian prisoners were hopelessly trapped. In their hearts, they must have known that this was going to be their last battle. The Germans were superior in number and no prisoners were taken, for this was law in the underground.
To make believe that the underground had been completely wiped out and, I suppose, in order to discourage any further attempts at resistance, the Germans hung the body of three of us on a tree near the main road. With the blood that had dripped from all their wounds and their earth stained face and hands, they were a sad and pitiful sight. It filled every passerby with horror and an urge to rebellion. The bodies remained there the whole day, even late evening, but when dawn broke, they had disappeared. At the risk of their lives, brave men had buried them in the woods, amongst the pine trees that they had loved so.
After this, I did not hear from our leader for several weeks. We were for the first time, scattered, waiting for what was to happen. We all knew there was a traitor amongst us.
Then came the long awaited message to go to our meeting place. When I arrived, quickly going down the few hidden steps that led to the underground gallery, I was surprised to find the Chief waiting for me. He looked tired and worn out, but he gave me no time to brood over it for, after shaking hands, he came directly to the facts.
"Mea, I do not think you have ever been in contact with "Peter", the Dutchman, or have you? No, well here is his photograph. You must get to know him. He is at a certain cafe most every night. You must try to bring him here, outside, near the big pine tree, in front of which lies a little white stone. He should be facing the tree. Bring him as near as five o'clock as possible. A stroll in the woods, in broad daylight, is normal enough in summer. Flowers at your window will be the signal for the day of action. Alois will be passing every day at noon to check up".
I did not like this job and was disturbed about it. But I soon felt ashamed of my state of mind and decided to start to work immediately. Having carefully located the pine tree, I boldly went to the cafe where I was supposed to meet "Peter".
Luck served me. That day I had not only spoken to him, but promised to see him again. This is how a quite ordinary woman - a grandmother too - became a modern Cleopatra.... or were we playing a double game?
A few days later, my window was wide open. On the window sill laid a large bouquet of heather. Around five o'clock, as if to rest, I was leaning against a pine tree, a little white stone was lying at my feet. My hands were resting on the man's shoulders. Out of sheer will power, I managed to smile and talk. When I caught sight of Yvan, (we call him the wildcat for his swiftness), noiselessly coming down the tree, I closed my eyes. I heard a scuffle, smothered cries, groans. Then silence fell.
When I opened my eyes, Yvan was looking through the dead man's pockets. Showing me a medal he said: "Look, Gestapo". I felt faint. Yvan got up, stared at me, then poured a cupful of cognac from his flask. I looked with horror at his large hands. They were quite steady when he handed me the drink. I was shaking shamelessly, but I drank the cognac the Russian way. When he saw I was feeling better, he gently said: "You have a good head, Mea, but lo, what a chicken heart".
Marthe's True Stories
Copyright © 2001-2005 Tessa Steer (Leyder) / Van Hecke Family - All Rights Reserved Worldwide