Lesser known heroes of WWII
January 20, 2017 11:05 PM   Subscribe

"Here are ten lesser-known heroes of WW2 who are a reminder to us all that even when it feels like it’s hopeless (or when it feels like the world is being run by a madman) that you are not powerless: there are always things you can do."

Although it's an article written to promote the broadcast of documentary Hitler's Secrets on Australian TV channel SBS, Jenna Martin explores ten lesser known heroes of World War Two in a fairly relaxed (almost irreverent!) and laid back way.

These heroes are:
  • Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz
  • Alexey Maresyev
  • Virginia Hall
  • Giorgio Perlasca
  • Charles Joseph Coward
  • Susan Travers
  • Abdol Hossein Sardari
  • Lachhiman Garung
  • Witold Pilecki
  • Lyudmila Pavlichenko
Including: Most dangerous Allied spy, impersonator of a Spanish diplomat, most successful female sniper in history, the only woman in the foreign legion- an introduction to some really interesting individuals and their stories.
posted by freethefeet (9 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I am 10000% here for this right now.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:03 AM on January 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

These people are fantastic.

(I've no idea about the documentary itself, it sounds vaguely like it approaches weirder WW2 conspiracy theories but I've not watched it yet)
posted by iffthen at 5:30 AM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Weird WWII conspiracy narratives and pretty nearly anything involving Hitler are evergreen staples in popular media. These days they tend to be quickly-produced TV series but back when we (in the U.S.) had just three TV networks rather than hundreds of cable channels they were usually quickly-produced books instead; either "nonfiction" narrative or coffee table books extensively padded with archival photos. And the radio and late-night TV commercials for them were common enough for The Firesign Theater to use them for a couple sketches on their radio show around 1971.
posted by ardgedee at 6:08 AM on January 21, 2017

I'm slightly worried about the fetischisation of WWII that I see in US and UK media. I grew up in a country that was occupied by Nazi Germany and WWII is seen as a period of division, hardship, hunger, strife, and bitterness.

My great-grandmother's youngest brother showed up in the wrong uniform one day (having signed up to guard Allied prisoners) and we never knew that family branch existed until Nan died and his sin came to the funeral. Her oldest brother was awarded a medal of bravery for his work in the Resistance. He refused to talk about the war till the day he died (aged 100) and the documents are still classified. And mine's just an ordinary family.

War is messy and dirty. I get why people love hearing about heroic deeds and find them inspirational. I just see my great-granduncle Aage's face before me and I know that everything comes with a big, huge human price.
posted by kariebookish at 6:13 AM on January 21, 2017 [17 favorites]

Four of the ten are women.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:57 AM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Continuing Kariebookish' thoughts: even the heroes were blemished by the war. I get why we need to celebrate their efforts and I continue to do so, always thanking veterans, from all wars. But in order to survive, and maybe even succeed as a war hero and maybe specially a resistance hero, you need to cut off some basic human dignities. When I was younger, I lived in a student home reserved for the children of veterans. There was literally not one of us who hadn't experienced war trauma played out at home, and a huge part of us had mental health issues, as children of wwII veterans. The good thing was, we were in it together.
Something to think about: now they are all dead, but in 2002, when the Bush administration was going on about invading Iraq, every single wwII veteran I knew was abhorred. They easily recognized it for what it was: a sleazy land-grab, based on apparent lies. Many told me of the corrupting influence of war on society. How lies become truths, how good people become evil.
I am happy now that they died before Trump became president, so many of them were optimistic and hopeful about the post -89 world. Now Trump had definitively put an end to that.
posted by mumimor at 12:43 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Freddie Oversteegen seduced nazis and led them to their death when she was fourteen years old. Truly an inspiration for everybody wanting to punch neonazis in the face.

On the other end of the scale, Chiune Sugihara, Japanese consul to Lithuania who helped several thousands Jews escape to his country during 1940-41.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:53 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was wondering if they had done something similar with the Pacific War. I didn't find anything, but I did find a link to their doco on Australia's part in the Vietnam War. Americans tend to forget. I would rather we did not.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:38 PM on January 21, 2017

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