occupied France

Photo of the Day

WING COMMANDER FOREST FREDERICK EDWARD YEO-THOMAS – British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent

“The White Rabbit”

His action-packed life was the stuff of boyhood fantasy

Tommy Yeo-Thomas was dropped into occupied France three times and fell into the hands of the Paris SS and Gestapo. Brutally interrogated to the point of death for a total of over 6 months at the SS and Gestapo HQ at 84 Avenue Foch and Fresnes Prison, he told the Germans nothing. Transported to Buchenwald Concentration Camp he escaped and eventually made his way to the Allied lines.

Espionage has always been a business marked by deceit, betrayal, and frequently, death. The fate of a captured spy is usually brutal, and even relatively benign entities like the Allies dealt harshly with such individuals. Still, their treatment was relatively kind compared to the Nazis. The remarkable World War II?spy stories?include heroes and villains, loyalists and traitors, and the greatest World War II spies that were motivated by duty, principle,?or just plain money.

Forest Yeo-Thomas

Recruited: February 1942

Role: Deputy Head (RF Section)

Missions: SEAHORSE, MARIE CLAIRE, ASYMPTOTE

Codenames: Shelley, “The White Rabbit”

Fate: Captured, deported to Germany, survived

Forest Frederic Edward Yeo-Thomas (who went by F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas) was not your typical clich? espionage agent, photographing documents in the early morning hours behind the embassy doors of some darkened office. After serving for two years in the RAF during the Battle of Britain, Yeo-Thomas requested even more hazardous duty in occupied France serving as a liaison between the French government in exile and the Resistance.

On his third mission in 1944, he was betrayed to the Gestapo and was so badly mistreated that he developed blood poisoning from the shackles worn during his isolated confinement. After numerous escape attempts (which prompted the Gestapo nickname “the White Rabbit”), Yeo-Thomas was transported to Buchenwald. He survived eight more months of abuse, escaped from a work detail, and eventually lead other POWs to freedom in the final days of the war. Yeo-Thomas is recognised by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “among the most outstanding workers behind enemy lines whom Britain produced”. Yeo-Thomas is also credited as the inspiration for the character James Bond.

Read more »

Photo of the Day

YEARS AGO?Marthe Cohn as a young woman in the 1940s. Photo: Marthe Cohn

YEARS AGO?: Marthe Cohn as a young woman in the 1940s. Photo: Marthe Cohn

Marthe Misses Nothing

The Lady was a Spy

?During World War II, Marthe Hoffnung was a French espionage agent in Nazi Germany, posing as Martha Ulrich, a 25-year-old ‘Fr?ulein’ whose cover story was that she needed to find her fianc? at the German front

???You should never accept to be kept under the boot of anybody; you have to fight back.?

Marthe Cohn

Marthe Cohn (nee Hoffnung), was crouching in a forest, dressed in a skirt and jacket, with white socks covering her silk stockings. She took a deep breath and grabbed her suitcase, taking leave of Georges Lemaire, the Swiss intelligence officer who had accompanied her to this spot on the Swiss-German border. Marthe began crawling through the underbrush toward the stretch of road patrolled by two German sentries. She waited until they met midway and reversed direction, so their backs were to her.

This was her cue. She was to pose as Martha Ulrich, a German nurse searching for her fianc?, but she was suddenly paralyzed by fear, overcome by the enormity of her mission, so she just lay there for more than two hours. Then she thought about a captain named Mollat, the French officer who had overseen her previous 14 missions to infiltrate enemy territory, all unsuccessful, and who had doubted her abilities.

She rose, pulling herself up to her full 4-foot-11 height, and walked to the road. ?Heil Hitler,? she greeted the sentry coming toward her, presenting her papers. ?Go on your way,? he said.

It was April 11, 1945, two days before Marthe?s 25th birthday.

Marthe Cohn was an unlikely World War II spy. At just 4 feet, 11 inches, Cohn was petite with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was also Jewish. Never hesitant to resist an unjust cause, especially during the Nazi reign in World War II, she courageously risked everything and contributed to the Allies? victory.

With her fair features and flawless German language skills, however, she was able to convince Nazi officers she posed no threat.

?I was now in Germany,? she said.

Cohn had no compass, map, radio or weapons, only clothes without labels and German money and vouchers.

?Everything I needed to know was in my memory,? she said with a smile. ?I have a pretty good memory.?

Now 96 years old, Cohn said she feels compelled to travel around the country to share her story with others. ?It?s important that people know that Jews fought,? she said. ?We were not just waiting to be arrested.?

Read more »