In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm
Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII (Random
House, 2006) documents the story of Vera Atkins, who headed the Special
Operations Executive, or SOE, Britain’s secret service created to
help build up, organize, and arm the resistance in the Nazi-occupied countries.
Throughout the war, Atkins recruited, trained, and mentored the agents
for the SOE’s French Section, which sent more than four hundred
young men and women into occupied France—at least one hundred of
whom never returned and were reported “Missing Presumed Dead”
after the war. Several of the women were murdered in Ravensbrück.
Twelve of them were among Atkins’s most cherished spies. When the
war ended in 1945, she made it her personal mission to find out what happened
to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines, tracing their final
journeys. As we follow Atkins through the devastation of postwar Germany,
we learn that she covered her own life in mystery so that even her closest
family knew almost nothing of her past. In A Life in Secrets Sarah Helm
has stripped away Vera Atkins’s many veils. Drawing on recently
released old government files, with access to the Atkins family private
papers, Helm vividly reconstructs a complex and extraordinary life.
For more information, see http://www.randomhouse.com/nanatalese/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780385508452.
[NOTE: Sarah Helm, a journalist in London for more than twenty years,
was a reporter and feature writer for the Sunday Times before
becoming a founding member of the Independent in 1986. I met
her in New York City in August 2007 when she interviewed me for her next
book, which will be about Ravensbrück. Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel.]
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