Red lipstick and shiny eye shadow were unlikely but important weapons deployed by members of the Dutch resistance when taking on Nazi soldiers.

Freddie and Truus Oversteegen, two sisters, and their best friend Hannie Schaft would put on their best clothes and fastidiously apply their make-up before going into bars to seek out unsuspecting targets.

The young girls, who were active in the Dutch resistance during the Second World War, would then strike up conversations with Nazi soldiers or Dutch collaborators. They would giggle and bat their eyelashes as they cajoled them into disclosing classified information.

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Then they would lure them into the woods on the pretext of a “romantic walk” – and shoot them dead.

Freddie and Truus survived the war but Hannie, who is far more famous than the Oversteegen sisters, was caught and executed by the Nazis just three weeks before the war came to an end.

The last words she uttered are said to have been “I’m a better shot” after one of her executioners wounded her with the first attempt.

Sophie Poldermans was a close friend of Freddie and Truus, who both recently died at the age of 92, and intimately and regularly spoke to them about their memories of the war throughout their lives.

Ms Poldermans, a lawyer who specialises in women and war crimes, has now written about their harrowing experiences in a book titled Seducing and Killing Nazis – Hannie, Truus, and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of WWII.

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World news in pictures

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World news in pictures

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8/50 9 November 2019

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30/50 18 October 2019

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People run to take cover after mortars fired from Syria, in Akcakale, Turkey. An Associated Press journalist said at least two government buildings were hit by the mortars in Sanliurfa province’s border town of Akcakale and at least two people were wounded

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Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of a shooting where at least two people were killed at multiple locations in Germany, including near a synagogue in the city of Halle

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A gust of wind lifts the cassock of Pope Francis during the weekly general audience at St.Peter’s square in the Vatican

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An anti-government protester wearing a mask depicting U.S. President Donald Trump is pushed away by riot police during a demonstration at Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, China

50/50 28 September 2019

A Japan fan smiles before the Japan v Ireland Rugby World Cup match in Shizuoka, Japan

1/50 16 November 2019

A protester wearing a yellow jacket waves a French flag in a fountain during a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of the “yellow vests” movement in Nice, France

2/50 15 November 2019

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to return a tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces amid clashes following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum

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A patient suffering from dengue fever receives medical treatment at an isolation ward at a hospital in Larkana, Pakistan. According to local reports, 26 deaths have been reported out of a total of 10,013 confirmed cases of dengue infection. Dengue fever is reportedly caused by a specific type of mosquito, the Aedes mosquito, that bites only during daytime, especially during sunrise and sunset.

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A species of deer thought to be extinct, the chevrotain, has been spotted for the first time in 30 years in the wilds of Vietnam. The deer is around the size of a domestic cat

7/50 10 November 2019

The royal motorcade of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, under tight security, passes through a street in Tokyo. Thousands of people gathered for the rare open-top car parade featuring the newly enthroned Emperor

8/50 9 November 2019

People knock over a mock-up of the former Berlin Wall during a performance prior to the German first division Bundesliga football match Hertha BSC Berlin v RB Leipzig on the 30 anniversary of the fall off the wall

9/50 8 November 2019

Flames from an out of control bushfire from a nearby residential area in Harrington, northeast of Sydney. Australian firefighters warned they were in “uncharted territory” as they struggled to contain dozens of out-of-control bushfires across the east of the country

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Demonstrators shine lasers during a protest against Chile’s government in Santiago, the capital

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Activists from India’s main opposition Congress party shout slogans as they are stopped by police during a protest against what the activists say is economic slowdown in the country, in Guwahati, India

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Smoke rises from a fire in downtown Lagos, Nigeria. Firefighters worked hard to try and extinguish a fire at the Balogun market. Thick black smoke and flames shot from the five-story buildings as fire trucks attempted to get access

13/50 4 November 2019

Women run down a sand dune as they take part in the desert trek “Rose Trip Maroc” in the erg Chebbi near Merzouga. It is a female-oriented trek where teams of three must travel through the southern Moroccan Sahara desert with a compass, a map and a topographical reporter

14/50 3 November 2019

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15/50 2 November 2019

People participate in the celebration of the ‘muerteadas de Jalapa del Valle’, as part of the Day of the Dead in Mexico

16/50 1 November 2019

Firefighters work to control flames from a backfire during the Maria fire in Santa Paula, California

17/50 31 October 2019

Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, over the Vestrahorn mountain in the east of Iceland

18/50 30 October 2019

A model presents a creation at the show Heaven Gaia by Xiong Ying during the China Fashion Week in Beijing. The fashion event runs from 25 October to 2 November

19/50 29 October 2019

Hindu devotees collect rice as offerings on ‘Annakut’ or ‘Govardhan Puja’ festival at the Madan Mohan temple in Kolkata. People in large numbers gather at the temple to collect the rice offerings in the belief that it will keep them in good health and they’ll never face poverty or scarcity of food

20/50 28 October 2019

Authorities investigate after a Port Authority bus was caught in a sinkhole in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

21/50 27 October 2019

South Africa players celebrate after beating Wales in their Rugby World Cup semi-final match. The Springboks will face England in next Saturday’s final following fly-half Handre Pollard’s match-winning penalty four minutes from time. The match ended 19-16

22/50 26 October 2019

Participants from Thailand pose in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as they take part in the annual gay pride parade in Taipei. Some two hundred thousand revellers marched through Taipei in a riot of rainbow colours and celebration as Taiwan held its first pride parade since making history in Asia by legalising gay marriage

23/50 25 October 2019

A girl enjoys a ball bath as she is being photographed at the made-for-Instagram museum ‘Cali Dreams’ in Dusseldorf, Germany. No artworks are shown in this museum, rather each visitor himself becomes an artwork by staging himself in front of one of the 25 sceneries. Cali Dreams is initially open for three months. After this test phase, however, the museum is planned as a long-term project

24/50 24 October 2019

A fire lorry speeds towards a rampant wildfire near Geyserville, California

25/50 23 October 2019

Protesters facing Lebanese army soldiers wave national flags in the area of Jal al-Dib in the northern outskirts of Beirut. A week of unprecedented street protests against the political class showed no signs of abating, despite the army moving to reopen key roads. Protests were sparked on October 17 by a proposed tax on WhatsApp and other messaging apps

26/50 22 October 2019

Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves to supporters beside his wife Sophie after the federal election at the Palais des Congres in Montreal. He managed to hold on to power, albeit of a minority government, in one of the most divisive elections in the country’s history

27/50 21 October 2019

A convoy of US vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq

28/50 20 October 2019

Japan players go over to thank their fans after South Africa beat them in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup. Makazole Mapimpi double ended the hosts’ dreams in Tokyo 3-26. The Springboks will now face Wales in the semi-finals for a place in the final

29/50 19 October 2019

Archaeologists remove the cover of an ancient painted coffin discovered at Al-Asasif Necropolis in the Vally of Kings in Luxor, Egypt

30/50 18 October 2019

A protester throws a tire on a fire to block the highway north of Beirut, Lebanon. Protesters, mainly civil activists, started demonstrating in the downtown area on 17 October, condemning proposed taxes in the 2020 budget. An unexpected addition to impose a daily fee for using WhatsApp calls caused outrage. However, according to the Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Choucair, the charge will not make it through the government palace after the impact it has made on the streets

31/50 17 October 2019

Children watch as army tanks are transported on trucks in the outskirts of the town of Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border of Syria

32/50 16 October 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse amongst the first snow at Mouth Paektu

33/50 15 October 2019

Protesters create a burning barricade after the Supreme Court in Madrid handed lengthy prison sentences to nine of the detained Catalonian leaders for up to 13 years each

34/50 14 October 2019

Protestors light their torches during a peaceful rally in central Hong Kong’s business district. The protests that started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill have since snowballed into an anti-China campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy that was granted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997

35/50 13 October 2019

Japan players celebrate victory after beating Scotland 28-21 to reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first ever time. The hosts head coach Jamie Joseph paid tribute to those who lost their lives in Typhoon Hagibis

36/50 12 October 2019

Surging waves generated by typhoon Hagibis hit the seashore in Mihama, Mie Prefecture, Japan. Hagibis is the strongest storm to hit in six decades and battered the country’s main island with torrential rain and violent winds
Firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in Sylmar, California

38/50 10 October 2019

People run to take cover after mortars fired from Syria, in Akcakale, Turkey. An Associated Press journalist said at least two government buildings were hit by the mortars in Sanliurfa province’s border town of Akcakale and at least two people were wounded

39/50 9 October 2019

Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of a shooting where at least two people were killed at multiple locations in Germany, including near a synagogue in the city of Halle

40/50 8 October 2019

This multi-exposure picture shows USA’s Simone Biles performing on the beam during the women’s team final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart

41/50 7 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion activists block an intersection in Melbourne, Australia

42/50 6 October 2019

Protesters hold smoke grenades as they gather in central Kiev to demand broader autonomy for separatist territories, part of a plan to end a war with Russian-backed fighters

43/50 5 October 2019

Anti-government protesters rush to an injured man during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq

44/50 4 October 2019

Footage of a hugely rare polka dot zebra has been captured in Kenya. The foal was photographed in the Maasai Mara National Reserve

45/50 3 October 2019

A devotee dressed as the Hindu deity Maha Kali performs during Navratri festival celebrations in Ajmer in Rajasthan state, India

46/50 2 October 2019

A gust of wind lifts the cassock of Pope Francis during the weekly general audience at St.Peter’s square in the Vatican

47/50 1 October 2019

Protesters clash with an Iraqi riot police vehicle during a demonstration against state corruption and poor services in Baghdad

48/50 30 September 2019

A student protester throws a burning stick at riot police officers during a clash in Jakarta, Indonesia

49/50 29 September 2019

An anti-government protester wearing a mask depicting U.S. President Donald Trump is pushed away by riot police during a demonstration at Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, China

50/50 28 September 2019

A Japan fan smiles before the Japan v Ireland Rugby World Cup match in Shizuoka, Japan

“They were extremely brave women,” she told The Independent. “I would not want to have stood in their shoes. They started out small in the resistance – carrying illegal newspapers printed by the resistance news about Nazi troops. They would ride their bicycles and deliver them to specific addresses. They would also steal false identification papers for Jewish people in hiding.”

Freddie and Truus, who was two years older than her, were born and raised in Haarlem, a Dutch city close to Amsterdam, by a single mother.

The parents had divorced and their mother was a communist. She would get the young girls to make dolls for children who were victims of the Spanish Civil War.

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Truus Oversteegen with a Sten gun (Sophie Poldermans)

Ms Poldermans, who worked with the siblings for over a decade as a board member of the National Hannie Schaft Foundation but also knew them personally, said Truus and Hannie would help transport Jewish children to safe houses but Freddie,14 at the beginning of the war, had been too young to help.

“People also could have easily thought she was a Jewish child herself because of her appearance so it would have been too dangerous for her,” Ms Poldermans said. “But Truus and Hannie would take Jewish children from one safe house to another on their bikes if they knew there were traitors around. It was not suspicious for them to be carrying young children because they were women. They would sing songs to distract the children.”

But the three girls’ roles and tactics in the resistance grew increasingly dangerous as they got more heavily involved.

Freddie Oversteegen in 1945 (Sophie Poldermans)

“They would use explosives to blow up railway lines and trains to make sure Germans were not able to transport soldiers or weapons or Jewish people,” Ms Poldermans explains. “This was a heavier type of resistance. They wanted to make sure it was chaos on the railway line.”

It was not long before the teenage girls started seducing and shooting Nazis – with commanders assigning them particular targets.  

“These are the only three women we know of who seduced and killed Nazis in the Netherlands,” Ms Poldermans says. “That is what makes it such a unique story. They were teenagers and they were young and pretty. They would dress up very nicely and wear heavy make-up. They would pretend to be crowd girls who were local women who had relationships with German officers, Dutch traders and general members of the Nazi party. Of course, their main target was the high-ranking officers.”

She adds: “They would go into bars and then they would flirt with these soldiers and giggle and smile and be girly girls. They would say ‘We can go for a romantic walk in the forest’. They would lure these guys into the woods to try to extract all the information they needed and then they would shoot them right there on the spot. Freddie was about 16. Truus was 18 and Hannie was 21. They started in the summer of 1943 and carried on until the end of the war.”

Truus was a real tomboy who had never worn make-up before, whereas Hannie always powdered her face right before an assignment in order to “die beautifully” in case she was captured by the Nazis.

Ms Polderman, who notes the girls never slept with the Nazis, said they would have to relocate if their profile started to become known in the area to ensure they were not recognised. The girls kept their actions a secret from everyone – even friends and family – for security purposes.

The sisters always refused to reveal how many Nazis they had killed when asked about it after the war – with Freddie telling Ms Polderman: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”

“They did what they did because it had to be done,” Ms Polderman says. “They believed in justice. They did not believe there was another way. At the same time, they tried to remain human. They suffered from depression and had nightmares and what we would now call PTSD.”

The lecturer says it took a long time after the end of the war before the sisters got the recognition they deserved – explaining many people wanted to look forwards rather than backwards, and stories of the resistance were dominated by men.

Ms Poldermans adds: “They had to fight for recognition. Truus was very outspoken. She would always tell her story but Freddie was very traumatised. She couldn’t talk about the war and it was only in the last few years of her life that she could. Freddie got all the recognition for her work after she died. It is too bad she doesn’t know. 

“War affected everything in their lives. Truus became a well-known sculptor but the war was present in all of her artwork. The trauma never went away for them. Every day around liberation day in May, they would wake up screaming, having nightmares about the war. All the memories came back to them. It was so bad that Freddie would have to leave the country for a couple of months during that time of year.”