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A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah HelmA Life 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

[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.]


The Remember the Women Institute welcomes reviews of books pertaining to women and history for our on-line library. Please contact Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel with your inquiries.

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