Resistance girl Hortense Daman awarded with honorary citizenship and book, also as a permanent ideal model

Today we were invited to the posthumous honorary citizenship of resistance girl Hortense Daman in Leuven. Her story is breathtaking. She was no older than 13 when on 10 May 1940 the Stuka fighter-bombers in Leuven started the war by scaring the neighborhood where she lives in Leuven, where Philips factories are located, with bombs. Shortly afterwards, her older brother, who is with the Resistance, reluctantly accepts her cooperation as a postman for messages, and soon also as a smuggler of radio equipment, weapons, explosives… Dozens of times the girl was able to pass strict German checks by the SS, Gestapo and Wehrmacht. thanks to a combination of her entrepreneurial spirit, courage, ingenuity, intelligence and girlish charm. At one point, like the well-known scene in Paul Verhoeven’s film Zwartboek, she flees through a train for checks, only to end up in the company of an SD officer charged with fighting the resistance in her city! Even then she can remain cool-blooded and get away.

After her brother was betrayed, Hortense is finally arrested and the whole family is sent to German penal camps. Mother and daughter end up in the infamous Ravensbrük, hell for women. Medical tests are being carried out on her young body, which make her almost infertile, and the moment the Red Cross can take her to Sweden to escape execution, the girl will weigh only thirty kilograms.

As in the best war movies, Daman has a lot of luck, maybe a guardian angel, and she recovers and marries a soldier with whom she goes to live in England, and for a while in America, her son told me. Hortense did indeed have two children. Her brother, François, was worn out after the most intense period of the war in the Resistance, her cousin, Michel, told me, and he died a few years after the Liberation.

More information can be found on the Facebook group that bears the heroine’s name and on the site, both built with a lot of support from the Pleinstraat neighborhood in Leuven, which also sowed the seeds for the high recognition by the city council of Leuven, which is therefore on 4 September culminates in the city’s Honorary Citizenship, exactly on the date Leuven was liberated in 1944, incidentally; the wonders are not yet out of the world.

The heroic Daman’s biography has just been reissued, her story saved from obscurity by Mark Bles, a former British Special Forces officer.

Ideal model for all times

During the laudation, various authorities, including Mayor Ridouani, emphasize that Mrs. Daman remains an example, especially for us, the current generation, almost eighty years after the war. I also believe that we are all called to be ‘resistance fighters’ in our own time and context. A monstrosity like Fox News asks to be fought, for those who are well placed to do so, for example. Misgrowth in our Belgian media (see my recent critique of the TV news format) or among conspiracy theorists or in response to the sometimes dramatic thoughts of the ignorant, I also think the fight is more than worth it. Negation of the risk of climate disruption ditto. Out of passion for truth and freedom and good business, I think that anyone who knows that vocation can fight a little bit for our common salvation, so to speak.

In the photo, son Christopher is signing my copy of the inspiring story of this exceptionally strong lady. For the occasion, he is wearing the various medals of honor that his mother received from the Belgian State. (Due to circumstances, the man told me, recognition for the phenomenal resistance work did not come about in her second homeland, England).

More biographical stories and anecdotes can be found in a nutshell on the site http://www.hortensedaman.be and of course in the renewed book, published by Standaard Uitgeverij/Manteau. Now for sale soon in all major bookstores. Via the Facebook webpage you can join explanatory walks in the living environment of the person concerned, schools can request nominations.

For a broader understanding, see also the films, novels, studies and comics about the Resistance, such as the film Defiance, which I recently reviewed on this site (click on the orange words at the top of this blog post to see the overview ).

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Cover Hortense Daman, girl in the resistance. SHS

The article is in Dutch

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