The Unlikely Spy

There were other reasons, too. Seventy-five percent of Jews survived in France. And so many non-Jews risked their lives to save ours. Wasn’t that our duty to defend our country too? It was our duty, absolutely – Marthe Cohn

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Image from The Portland Press Herald

Born a French Jew in Metz, France on 13 April 1920, Marthe Hoffnung never once imagined that she would one day become a spy in Nazi Germany.  She was one of seven children of an Orthodox Jewish.  They lived near the German border in France when Hitler rose to power. As the Nazi occupation expanded, her sister was sent to Auschwitz while her family fled to the south of France.

In the year 1944 after France was liberated, Marthe  enlisted and became a member of the Intelligence Service of the French 1st Army.  Following 14 unsuccessful attempts to cross the front in Alsace, she crossed the border into Germany near Schaffhausen in Switzerland.  She assumed the identity of a German nurse because of her Aryan appearance (blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin) and her ability to speak and read German fluently and claimed that she was searching for her missing fiancée. She provided critical information for the Allied commanders.

For her bravery, Marthe was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Médaille Militaire.  At the age of 80, she received France’s highest military honor, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour).  Her children didn’t know that this woman faced death daily to defeat the Nazi Empire.  Under extraordinary circumstances, this ordinary woman became the heroine for her country.  She helped to defeat the enemies of freedom.

After the war Marthe returned to France and pursued a career as a nurse.  In1956, while studying in Geneva, she met an American medical student, Major L. Cohn, who was a friend’s roommate.  Within three years, they got married and settled down in the United States. They worked together for years, he as an anesthesiologist and she as a nurse before they retired.

In 2002, Marthe co-authored with Wendy Holden a book about her experiences entitled, Behind Enemy Lines: the True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany.  She is now 99 years old and is currently living with her husband husband in Palos Verdes, California.  She continues to tell her story because “human beings have very short memories and it’s extremely important to remind them of what happened.”  In particular, the extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

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Today, on Remembrance Day, Notes to Women wishes to acknowledge and salute this brave woman who risked her life to help to put an end to an evil regime. She did her duty.

Let us remember all of the brave men and women who risked their lives for our freedom.

Sources: The Portland Press Herald; Wikipedia; TCU Place; Maine Public

Matt’s Story

large-1531167473-1c546e4b85f6c127d98bd3212423c485A couple of years ago, my world as I knew it was turned upside down.  I was 17 and at my cousin, Rose’s wedding.  At the reception, a relative who had way too much to drink, put his arm around me and said, “I don’t know about the rest of the family but I’m sure glad that your Mama didn’t abort you ’cause you turned out to be a fine lad.  Yes, a fine lad.  You’re not at all like your Daddy.”

I stared at him, shocked and shaken.  What was he talking about?  Why would my mother have considered aborting me and what about my father?  Did he know who my father was?  Was he for real or was it the liquor.

I politely removed his arm from around my shoulders and excused myself.  I went out on the terrace to get a breath of fresh air.  My mind was spinning and my heart was pounding.  A feeling of dread came over me.  My mother died a year ago from pneumonia.  She never told me who my father was and whenever I asked about him, she would say, “the only father you have is God Almighty.  He takes care of you better than any earthly father can.”  After a while, I stopped asking her.   On my birth certificate it said “unknown” where my father’s name should have been.  I hoped that one day I would find out who and where he was.

My mother never married.  She was a single, hardworking mother who raised me as best as she could.  I know she loved me and that she wanted me to have a good life.  At night after she read to me, she got down on her knees and prayed.  She was always praying for me.  I loved my mother very much and I was devastated when she died.  After she died, I moved in with my grandmother.

After what the relative told me I couldn’t enjoy the wedding.  I kept playing his words over and over in my mind.  I couldn’t wait for the morning to come when I would talk to my grandmother about it.  I know that if anyone could give me answers, it would be her.  So, when we were sitting around the table having breakfast, I asked her, “Grandma, did Mama want to abort me?”  I knew I should have broached this in a more delicate way but I was desperate for answers.

Her face went pale and she dropped her fork.  “Where did you hear that?” she asked.

“Some distant relative, I don’t remember his name, said that he was glad that Mama didn’t abort me.”

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Is it true, Grandma?  Was Mama going to abort me?”

“No!  Your Mama was a godly woman.  She would never have agreed to an abortion even though her father and other people were trying to talk her into it.”

“Grandpa wanted her to have an abortion?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I adored my grandfather.  He was like a father to me.  His death five years ago really hit me hard.

“Yes.  He thought it would have been thing for her.”

“But why?”

“Matt, what does it matter?  You’re here, aren’t you?  Why don’t we forget about the past and move on?”

“Grandma, I need to know.  Please!”

My grandmother buried her face in her hands which were trembling slightly.  “Oh, Matt, I wish you didn’t have to know the truth.”

I was getting scared now.  Part of me was afraid to hear the truth and the other part had to.  “Please tell me, Grandma.  Was it to do with my father?”

She dropped her hands and I saw the anger and rage on her face.  “Your father was a monster!” she cried.

“Who was he?  Is he still alive?”

“Yes, he’s still alive and still rotting in prison.”

“Prison!  Why is he in prison?”

“Matt…”

“Grandma, I need to know.”

“He’s serving 30 years in prison for…rape and incest.”

“I–I don’t understand

“Matt, your mother got pregnant when she was raped by her brother.”

The color drained from my face.  I felt sick.  I got up from the table and dashed into the washroom where I threw up.  When I was done, I flushed the toilet, rinsed my mouth and washed my face with cold water.  My hands were shaking.  My grandmother was standing behind me.  I turned to face her and she put her arms around me and hugged me tightly.  We were both crying.

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you,” she said after a while.  “It’s a shameful thing that this family has had to deal with and that is why some of us, excluding me, wanted your mother to have an abortion.  They were thinking about her well-being but once your mother insisted that she was going to have you, we all tried to protect you from the truth.  It was your grandfather’s idea that she put “unknown” for the father’s name.”

“Why did she keep me? Wasn’t I a painful reminder of what happened to her?”

“She kept you because she loved you and she didn’t see a painful reminder of what your father did to her.  She saw a beautiful and precious gift from God.”

The rest of that day was a blur.  I was so overcome with pain and guilt that I became withdrawn and depressed.  My grandmother was very concerned about me and she tried to get me counseling.  It helped–somewhat.  And after I graduated from high-school, she sent me away to South Africa to study and live at the university there.  She would take care of my tuition and anything else I needed.  “It would do you good to get far away from here,” she said.  “You’ll be in a new country and meet new people.  Forget about the ugly past.  Live your life the best you know how for your mother’s sake.  Write me.  Don’t come back here.  When I can, I will come and visit you.”

So, at her insistence, I left Virginia and moved to South Africa.  I asked my grandmother why she choice South Africa of all countries to send me and she told me it was where she met my grandfather.   When I arrived in Cape Town, I knew that I was going to love living there.  Life on campus was a great experience for me.  I met diverse students and forged several life-long friendships.  I enjoyed my studies and had a relatively active social life.  There were lots of pretty girls but I wasn’t interested in dating at that time.  I wanted to focus on my studies.

Then, in my third year at the university, I met Joycelin, a girl from Namibia and a 765full-sydney-nelsonfreshman.   I remember the first time she smiled at me, I felt as if my heart had stopped.  A mutual friend introduced us when a group of us went on a Saturday morning to visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach.  Joycelin and I immediately hit it off and we spent most of the time together, getting to know each other.  By the time we were on our way back to campus, I knew that I wanted to date this girl.  And I did.  Our friends, especially the one who introduced us, were thrilled.

I wrote my grandmother about Joycelin and sent her photos of us.  She was happy for me.  I was relieved that she didn’t have a problem with me dating an African girl.  I know that other members of my family would, however, including the relative who made that careless remark about my mother at my cousin’s wedding.

Things were going well for me and after I graduated from university, I moved into a waterfront apartment which wasn’t far from where I worked.  Joycelin was still living on campus but we phoned each other during the week and saw each other on the weekends.  I was getting pretty serious about her but always at the back of my mind I asked myself how she would feel about me if she were to find out about my father.  I found out one day.

Joycelin and I were in De Waal Park on a Saturday afternoon when the subject of abortion came up.  “How do you feel about abortion?” she asked me.

Her question startled me.  “I don’t know.”

“I’m against it,” she said.

“Even–even in cases of rape and incest?” I asked, my heart pounding.

She nodded.  “Yes.  The life of a child born of rape or incest is just as valuable as a child born under normal circumstances.  Ending the life of the child of a person who has committed rape or incest isn’t the solution. The law should punish the criminal, not kill his child.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.  And the Bible says that ‘a child won’t bear a parent’s guilt, and a parent won’t bear a child’s guilt.'”  She looked at me closely, frowning and there was concerned expression on her sweet face.  “Matt, are you okay?  You look pale.”

“Joycelin, I have something to tell you.”

She slipped her hand in mind.  “What is it?” she asked.  “You can tell me anything.”

I closed my eyes and told her the awful truth about my birth.  I didn’t realize that I was crying until I felt her fingers brush against my cheeks.  I opened my eyes and found myself staring into her tearful face.  “That’s why I said I didn’t know how I feel about abortion.  There were times when I felt it might have been better if my mother had aborted me because I was a reminder of what happened to her.”

“Matt, you’re not to blame for what happened.  Your mother chose to keep you because she loved you.  She saw you as a beautiful and precious gift not a horrible and painful reminder of what happened to her.  She chose to give you life and the best way to honor that choice, is to live your life to the fullest.”

I held her face between my hands and whispered brokenly, “I love you.”

She smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I wish my mother could have met you,”

“I wish I could have met her.  She sounds like a remarkable woman.  I believe you are the way you are because of her.  She was a godly woman.  God heard her prayers for you and He answered them.  She would be extremely proud of how you’ve turned out.”

“That’s what my grandmother said.  Her, you will get to meet when she visits me in December.  She’s coming for Christmas.”

“That’s great.  Speaking of Christmas, my family are flying over too.  I can’t wait for them to meet you.”

“Good.  It will give me a chance to ask your father permission to marry you.”

She stared at me, her eyes and mouth wide open.  “Are you serious?”

I nodded and replied,  “Yes, I’m very serious”  before I lowered my head and kissed her.

Ten years have passed since I learned the truth about my the circumstances of my birth.  The guilt and shame I felt all these years are gone now.  I have accepted that I have done nothing deserving of death and I will live the life I have been given to its fullest.    Joycelin and I are engaged.  The wedding is next year Spring.  She’s teaching me about God and like my mother, she prays for me regularly.   I’m thankful that God blessed me with three phenomenal women–my mother, Joycelin and my grandmother.  The life He has given me I will live worthily for Him and for them.

A child conceived in violence is himself innocent and created in the image of God. He has done nothing to deserve the death sentence, any more than a child conceived in a loving marriage – Human Life International

The solution to incest is not abortion, but prosecution of the criminal so he does not commit more crimes, and loving care for his victims so that they experience true physical and emotional healing – Human Life International

Matt is a fictional character, but there are real men and women out there who were conceived in rape.  Read their stories.

It takes courage for a woman who chooses to go through with an unplanned pregnancy but it takes far greater courage for the one whose child was conceived by rape or incest.

Sources:   University of Cape TownWikipediaStudent World Online;

Go Back…

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“I had a bad experience today,” Carlos told his wife, Candis.

“What happened?”

“I was in a convenience store, getting bottled water when a white woman walked up to me and told me to go back to where I came from.  After I recovered from my shock, I informed her that I was born in this country and I have as much right to be here as she does.  Then, I got my water and walked away.”

“Good for you.”

“They judge us and treat us like we’re criminals.”

“And we’re Americans just like them.”

 

95 Words

This was written for the Weekend Writing Prompt by Sammi Cox. For instructions, click Here.

A Simple Peasant Girl/Honour #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

Far hath I come to be at thy side,

my heart my sole and trusted guide

To place upon thy breast this red rose, plucked this morn, a token of my love

Beside the note that praises thee for thy services to king, country and God above.

I stand here, gazing upon thy countenance, me a simple peasant girl who won thy heart

While thou wert alive, we swore that nothing but the death could keep us apart.

Rest now, my brave knight. Yes, close thine eyes,

For when next thou awakeneth, with me, thou shalt be in Paradise.

 

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

Change/Renewal #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

I stare out of the window at the sky which looks like it is on fire.  I have never seen anything like it before and I linger for a little while, forgetting for a brief moment my daily struggle to feed three young children and my sick husband.  I push all thoughts of my brothers and their families who are currently enjoying themselves in Tunisia’s Mediterranean coast.  I suppress the bitterness and anger that struggle to rise to the surface as I try not to think about them using my inheritance money for their vacation.

My brothers pressured me to give up my small inheritance entirely.  I could do with that money right now.  They’re spending it on travel while I’m stuck here, taking care of my family.  I should be relaxing on a beach somewhere.  Everyday, I get up, cook, clean, and whatever needs to be done in this house, no matter how tired I am.  My brothers don’t care about me.

Until things change in this country, women like me are going to continue to feel helpless and bitter because of gender inequality in inheritance.  Whereas daughters inherit half of the estate, sons inherit twice as much.   I inherited half because I’m a sole daughter.  Had I sisters, collectively, we would each inherit two thirds.  That hardly seems fair.  When are things going to change?  When is there going to be gender equality in inheritance?

I hear the baby crying.  I wish I could spend a longer time watching the sunrise but duty calls.  I turn and after going over to the bed to check on my husband, I leave the room to tend to our daughter.  I hope that by the time she becomes an adult that there will finally be a change where she will be granted equal inheritance rights.

This story was inspired by an article I read.  In Tunisia, there is a law which limits daughters’ inheritance rights and provides that sons inherit twice as much as daughters.  Equality Now is taking action to change this.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

Source:  Equality Now

 

Direction

A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps – Proverbs 16:9

Have you ever made plans without consulting God first? You decide that you are going to go into missionary work because you saw a program on TV or know someone who is in the mission field but have you asked yourself if that is what God wants you to do? He might want you to be a missionary where you work or where you live instead of you going off to another country.

You might be planning to quit your job and move to another city or country but is that what God wants? What if He wants you to stay put because He has plans for you? You may be planning to get married but what if God wants you to wait? What if the timing is not right? OR what if the person you want to marry is not the right person? How many people could have avoided heartache, unhappiness, failed marriages if they had only waited on the Lord.

Let the Lord direct your steps. If you have plans, share them with Him. You may or may not have His blessing but either way you will be much better off than if you were to go ahead and follow your own plans instead of waiting on Him to give you direction.

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An International Disgrace

Image result for the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial

I couldn’t believe it when I heard that President Donald Trump cancelled his trip to a cemetery for “Americans killed in World War I, the White House citing bad weather that grounded his helicopter.”  He had been scheduled to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, located adjacent to Belleau Wood and about 100 kilometres northeast of Paris.  It is a site of great importance to the US military.

The cancelled trip drew sharp criticisms from those who felt that the president should have found a way to get to Aisne-Marne, regardless of the weather.  Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security adviser for President Barack Obama, accused Trump of “blowing off honouring American servicemen who died for us”

I agree with Mr. Rhodes.  Those soldiers braved snow, heat, rain and all sorts of conditions while they were fighting for freedom and serving their country.  Weren’t they worth the trip?

President Justin Trudeau visited the Vimy Ridge War Memorial in France and laid a wreath in honour for those who have served.  According to Global News, “Young, fresh-faced Canada sent 424,000 men overseas to fight in the First World War and nearly 61,000 of them were killed on foreign soil, far, far, far away from their homes in their 50-year-old country.  Those Canadians rest now in cemeteries all over Europe and their sacrifice helped forge a nation.”

This Remembrance Day marks the 100th anniversary of World War I and leaders like Trudeau, British Prime Minister Teresa May, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and U.S. President Donald Trump were invited by French President Emmanuel Macron to join him and more than 70 other world leaders in Paris for a special Armistice Day service Sunday, followed by a Peace Forum, where the leaders will discuss issues of international security.

For Trump not to go to the cemetery because of the weather is not only international embarrassment but a disgrace to the men who sacrificed their lives.  They deserve better.  They deserve a leader who would not allow anything to prevent him from visiting their memorial and laying down a wreath in their honor.  This was an international disgrace that may not soon be forgotten.

Sources:   The GuardianCTV News; Global News