The power of one
It is real determination will succeed for good or evil but if good people do not stand against evil it will prevail and good always requires one to stand person to risk it all and mostly against all odds. What I want is a collidescope of the world and time as an illusion seeing things as if they were my time your time and all full of the essence of God. It takes one evil insane man to kill millions now do you believe in the devil.
While sometimes the things you do don’t seem to make a difference think again and look at the individuals who gave in so many ways and many who gave their lives willingly for the greater good, what wonders we are.
Muslim: Noor Inayat Khan, World War II Spy Heroine
Author Louisa Jen
World War one had destablised Europe and the Versaille Treaty had incurred such a debt upon Germany. The humiliation felt at what many Germans thought was an unfair treatment. The great depression followed and poverty along with unemployment set the scene for ww2. Racism was an easy Blame game and a man called Hitler exploited this avenue to gain power. To this end he created a propaganda war and soon all of Germany joined the cry of blame the Jews. It was in as early as 1923 that Hitler wrote his now infamous book. He becomes a political force after a small stint in jail for his violent activism. He takes time in his incarceration to write My struggle or as the world knows it Mein Kamp. In this book Hitler sets his agenda war and the extermination of the Jew. Sadly, an axis of evil joins him in this hope. The ottoman empire enjoys a resurgence and friendship with Hitler so slowly war becomes the reality of hate. Hitler is energetic a fireball and is liked for his stance on employment. After serving in the first world war, he has a reputation for service, He become a political figure through his activism. He rises through the National Socialist German workers Party. In 1933 Hitler becomes Chancellor and leads Germany one step closer to war. WW2 would ultimately kill between 50 and 60 million people. Of those 6 million are Jewish peoples in concentration camps. Hitler would name this as the final solution. Hitler had rearmed Germany signed strategic treaties and was ready to begin his domination of the world. He invades Poland in 1939 having already taken Austria in 1938. France declares war and so to Great Britain. Reluctantly war is upon them for a second time after only twenty years of Peace from ww1.Hitler is overjoyed at his domination and plans yet more war.
This is a tragic time for the world even my own father joins the war here in 1941 – to 1945 serving five years with the Australian forces. He ends up fighting in the islands of Borneo and many of my own family fought in the Pacific. This is the tragedy of war and the legacy of mental issues that follows into peace. My focus however is in this moment of war one Muslim girl Noor Inayat Khan. WW2 would end so many lives and one such life is that of Noor. Noor however is a woman trying to stay alive and trying to defeat evil. She was to become a spy working in enemy territory France. She is tough resilient resourful while in France she had escaped from Nazi capture several times only to be recaptured. She was in the end listed as highly dangerous. But no one wants to die and neither did Noor she did all she could do to succeed under the reign of terror which Nazi Germany brought to Europe. She was young and she set a fire in her heart which still burns bright. She saw injustice and she was determined to play her part for humanity. To show people cared and that evil cannot prosper. Noor is beyond brave, she is intelligent and while her father may have believed in pacifism both she and her brother Vilayat decided to join the allies and fight the war against Hitler and fascism.
Let’s step back to the beginning and here we find ourselves in Moscow. Winter and it’s a happy day its New Year’s Day. There was probably snow outside in Moscow Russia. A beautiful Muslim baby girl arrives in the world. Her father is of Indian descent and he is a Sufi master Hazrat Inayat khan. Her mother is Pirani Ameena Begum Hindustani born Ora ray Baker America. She had 4 children including Noor. They are Muslim in their beliefs and proud of their heritage. I make this point of religion because every Muslim should be proud of Noor and should recognize her selflessness in a time of bitterness and racism, she believed in loving thy fellow man. It is not necessary to name all Noor’s siblings except to say Noor is the first child therefore the oldest child with only a few years between each child. Noor was a direct descendent of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century muslin ruler of Mysore. Her father was a musician as well as teacher of Sufi. Just as ww1 broke out the family moved to London; This marks the year their first child was born. After six years they set sail to France moving to Paris. Noor’s father was a pacifist as his religion dictated.
Hazrat Inayat khan moved into a large house which he called the house of Fazal Manzil-house of blessings. It was an idyllic home for the family full of music meditation and Sufis visiting all year round. The children (4) played in the garden and loved the high steps they could sit each evening and see all the city lights of Paris. They dressed in their Indian clothes and gave concerts to their guests,In 1927 Hazrat went back to India he had not been well and wanted to see his homeland again. A few months went by and the family received the terrible news hazrat had died. Noor’s mother went into seclusion and at the tender age of 13 Noor had to become a support for her mother taking on caring roles. Being the eldest she helped her mother and her three siblings. She attended Sorbonne to study child psychology. She was a student of music Ecole Normale with a famed instructor Nadia Boulanger. Noor composed music and wrote poetry. At the fall of France the family were back in London. Noor worked for a bit writing children’s stories and in 1939 ‘Twenty Jakata tales’ was published in London. She later joined the women’s auxiliary Air Force. She would learn to be a Radio operator and be taken as an operative by the special operations Executive in 1942. Noor wrote while she was doing her training the joy of sacrifice.
She attempted to rationalize spiritual discipline associated with religion and the work ahead of her. She tries to relate shooting a pistol as meditative she wrote these ideas in 1943. She was prepared to give her life to combat the evil of fascism. Within this concept of her pacisivism she rationalises her journey. In June 1943 she was flown into France to become a radio operator for the resistance network in Paris. Her code name would be Madeleine. There is nothing to say that Noor was not a happy child. She was a person of great strength of character and is later tested beyond endurance.
Germany has thrown the world into conflict and in 1941 the axis of evil attacks from all directions. Pearl harbour where the American fleet lie is attacked by Japan an ally of Hitler. On December 7th just before 8am 353 Japanese bombers destroy 19 ships aircraft carriers battle ships, 188 air craft and killing 2000 people. The united states quickly declared war on japan and Germany. Nazism was rampant concentration camps were burning bodies Jewish peoples were being rounded up and exterminated. In the assault upon Russia there are indications spy reports but nothing is conclusive for Russia to predict the german invasion of course there is no trust despite the signing of treaties. A german plane is shot down over Russia weeks prior to any attack. The pilots are questioned but still nothing is foreseeable but high altitude photographs are being taken in preparation for the ‘Barbarossa’ attack. 1941 June Barbarossa is launched despite the 1940 treaty of non-aggression. A pact between Russia and Germany. There had been a build up of troops on the Russian border and Hitler would claim he had to attack because he feared a surprise attack from Russia was imminent. This was nonsense but he was trying to allay the fears of other nation who had of similar treaties with Germany. There had also been conflict over the ukrain and the Balkins where Russia refused Germany oil supplies. Hitler wanted what he called lebensaum as referred to in 1938 living space. Put simply he wanted to dominate Europe. Stalin doesn’t believe Hitler will attack but he is suspicious. Germany attacked Russia totally by surprise to the soviet peoples. Early the attack comes in 4 panza divisions supporting 3 army divisions one group towards Leningrad one towards Moscow and the third towards Kiev in all 29 armed divisions. The thrust of the attack is to advance rapidly as they had when invading Poland France ect. Minsk and ukrain is taken quickly. The red army failing in the early stages of the attacks. The Russians held at Leningrad and slowed the german advance in the south. Poor weather held up the german attack giving time for Russia to regroup. The rain made the way muddy and boggy slowing any advance. The supply train to the forward troops became difficult and Hitler gave orders to slow the attack so he could supply the german front. Russian weather had turned in their favour and cybyrian troops were brought in. They counter attacked pushing Germany back 160 miles. Germany had come within 22 miles of Moscow. They had after bitter fighting crossed the Vulgar but were held back by the reinforced Russian troops. In Freezing condition in 1942 german hopes of a successful invasion failed. Russia had defended with as much vigor as a lion who is starving. Hitler still dominated Europe and so in 1943 Noor joins the efforts to defeat Germany. Germany had occupied the Ukraine Baltic states and white Russia. The end result of the invasion was horrific 3 million Russians are captured and die in prison camps. Hitler destroys everything shooting communist officers. This is called the Commissar order by General Keitel. Man, hunts are begun on the Jewish peoples who are to be murdered. Gas vans on the eastern front to accommodate this effort. Shootings of Russians is totally by orders from Hitler. Stalin had red square camoflaged and all domes and buildings painted in dark colour to disguise Moscow from lufwaffer attacks. The front of the attack was 1600 kilometres long with 3 ½ million German and allies soldiers. They were supported by artillery, tanks and the accoutrements of war. Allies to Germany included Denmark,France, turkey and Italy. It is a war of destruction. Losses are huge on the Russian front. Inside Germany optimism is high German’s in general are happy. Berlin is listening to the popular music and employment is up. Japan has pushed into china and the Malaysian peninsula spreading across the Pacific. Australia and New Zealand are fighting with England and in 1942 Singapore has fallen to the Empire of the Sun. 5000 are dead and 8000 captured as POW. The Burma rail line is underway and japan hopes to resupply troops with a continuous link through thailand. From 1940- 1941 Germany is bombing London in what is called the blitz. The Luftwaffe had targeted RAF airfields radar instillations in preparation for an invasion. The blitz stopped when Hitler turned his attentions on to Russian invasion. 30,000 Londoner’s had been killed 50,000 seriously injured and hundreds of thousands were homeless. Children were moved to country areas. The western front at this point is in Kaos Stalin orders a burnt earth policy as the roads clog with refugees from the attacks women, children, old and infirmed flee the onward attack. Russians had been poorly armed and Hitler thought he would over power Russia within days but it was not to be. There were the desert campaigns of Tobrook with Romel the great german general who along with co-conspirators tried to assassinate Hitler. Crete, Norway north Africa all had come under the cruel hammer of Hitler and lives mean nothing to him or his SS operations.
Noor’s words I believe are so inspiring. ‘The light of the universe has risen in my heart like the sun over the horizon and it will never set’. This describes a feeling of love of your fellow man and a trust in Allah and god. Noor is a beautiful spirit with a beautiful heart. Noor “A most brave and touchingly keen girl who is the light in a dark place and she was determined to do her bit and to hit the german’s. I would tell you a story that is sadly true and equal to many others who sacrificed themselves for the greater good. Noor was a willing and lovely person who did exactly that gave of herself. She had a choice and she chose to give herself to destiny. I cannot describe the feeling I have when reading about Noor. I feel her goodness her willingness her empathy for others. Life is certainly cruel never more so than when war is upon us. Mans inhumanity to man knows no bounds and so wishing to find goodness in others is oft times a waste of time. Noor saw good but it would be wrong to say she didn’t know evil existed. Though being an empathetic person I think she could not imagine that she would be ultimately betrayed by the people she was working with. Noor is the first woman to be sent to France as a wireless operater spy but she would not be the last. Mostly all women had been sent as couriers but noor had excellent wireless telegraphy training. She had excelled at her training she was fast and accurate. From Aylesbury she went to Beaulieu where security training was capped with a practice mission. A test of relaying a message from a new area while evading detection. A practice mission then a mock Gestapo interrogation. Agents would be given a taste of what may come if captured.They practiced their cover stories in memory game. Noor apparently was fearful terrified shaking so overwhelmed she lost her voice. The report from the examiner officer was unfavourable to her. It stated ‘not overburdened with brains but has worked hard and shown keenness, apart from her dislike of the security side of the course. She is unstable temperamental personality and it is doubtful whether she is really suited to work in the field. Maurice Buckmaster , head of F section wrote in margin ‘nonscence’”we don’t want them over burdened with brains’. Noor’s superiors held mixed opinions. Training was cut short as field operatives were in great need. One instructor noted she was very eager to please very feminine in character. She is small in stature kind hearted she admits she will not like being two faced. This worried her instructors greatly. She is emotional forms strong attachments ,adaptable, imaginative and childlike. Scared of weapons she is not athletic in fact she was rather clumsy plus she gives away too much information. She didn’t quite seem to understand what her training was for entirely. But her training as a w/t operator was very good and her speed was improving. She was a natural signaller. Vera Atkins ( Intelligence officer for F section ) insisted Noor’s commitment was unquestionable. Noor felt she wanted a challenge and felt her time in WAAF had come to an end. Vera felt Noor was capable and ready. Noor was to be a wireless operator sending information from the field to London an entirely dangerous pursuit. Not only did she have to change addresses she had to carry the case containing the radio and this was increasingly difficult.
The detection rate was becoming better and better so agents were in very vunerable positions. She would be sending information about planned sabotage and weapons for resistance and field operatives. Hiding aerials in attics or cloth lines to tap out morse code on transmitters replies would take hours and so agents such as noor would sit alone waiting and fearful of capture. If stopped while moving the transmitter in a suitcase their was no possible explanation and capture was a certainty. An agent would have a life expectancy of six weeks in the field such was the apprehention rate. Noor was staying in Buckinghamshire a place of rest for agents and time for them to acquire the background of their new identities. A time to consider the missions they had been given. Noor had brought attention to herself. Information by her conducting officer had brought about a formal report which was sent to her superior officer Vera atkins. She had been said to be gloomy and was deeply troubled as to the mission at hand. Clearly she was nervous and I personaly think anyone would be.
The conducting officer had contacted vera and apparently two other agents had also written letters to Vera providing similar stories as to reasons why Noor should not go to France. Troubled by these events Vera called Noor to London for a meeting and a discussion. For clearly this was an abnormal event at this final stage of the mission. Noor’s brother Vilayat felt that he was unable with much regret to stop Noor from proceeding with her intention to go behind enemy lines. They meet in a restaurant Vera and Noor and vera offers that Noor doesn’t have to go and that to save any embarrassment to Noor she will place her in another situation. I think after being told about the conducting officers concerns and the two companions letters I think Noor felt a little compelled to go. But having said that she did say to vera she was happy with what she was doing. I also think having lived in Paris when younger I think she didn’t have a sense of great danger. It was familiar territory but she may have underestimated the Nazi machine.
Maybe she equally over estimating her own capabilities not realizing that the signals were being more skilfully found by the German forces. Yet there again she didn’t comprehend the hostilities of people close to her. She trusted those she was working with and this was her eventual undoing. Vera though felt that she had offered Noor a way out in any case Noor went forward. Vera also had noted she should not go if she was to let people down. Noor apparently also specified she found leaving her family very difficult and she told only half truths to her mother for fear of upsetting her. She said she was going abroad to Africa and she greatly disliked lying to her widowed mother. But again stipulated she wanted to go. Noor also must have known she may not return. Because she asked vera to send a newsletter periodically to her family stating she was in good health. Noor further ventured that if she should go missing and if it were confirmed the news should be given to her mother in the nicest possible way. Noor seemed settled and awaited her mission and vera felt equally relaxed.
Noor had been promoted to assistant section officer she was to fly in a Lysander aircraft to a field near angers.
The westland Lysander is a British army co-operation and liason aircraft. It was used for highly classified missions from England over axis territory. Many missions remain tightly locked in official secrecy. The Lysander was designed to land and take off from places normally unrecognizable as airfields. The aircraft operated from pastures fields and clearings in the forest giving access to secret agents into enemy territory. From Angers noor was to meet Francis Suttill prosper circuit organiser and make her way to Paris and meet with leader of prosper sub circuit organiser named Emile Garry ,cinema his alias. Noor was to become a childrens nurse named Jean-marie Renier. However to other colleagues she would be known as Madelein. She had her identity papers and false passport a few franks her pistol and a set of 4 cyannide pills she was also fluent in French. She travelled in the Lysander with two other agents operation code name Teacher/Nurse/chaplain/monk,along with Diane Rowden code name paulette/ chaplain. Cecily Lefort code name Alice/teacher they met with Henri Dericourt. It was a moonlit night June 16 1943 they crossed the channel and into danger. She began her work she had learnt to kill silently attend dead letter boxes and live letter boxes .she was taught to shoot. Within weeks of Noors arrival the Paris circuit was discovered. Almost all her fellow agents were swept up by the gestapo making Noor the only operator in the region.She was offered to be pulled out of the field but she insisted on staying.
The next 4 months was a game of cat and mouse,between London and other agents. It was dangerous to say the least. Noor at one stage, single handedly carried all the messages between London and other agents. Constantly tired from evading capture. She aided allied landings suppling the resistance with guns and Drop zones. Vienot resistance code name ‘Louis Deux’ worked for an electronic company stealing german seals to authenticate fake papers. He used a double bottem brief case to hide blue prints of equipments the Nazi were using to jam radio signals. Deux had met her at a café but she was so exhausted she could hardly sit up. He took her to a hotel room so to allow her some sleep. She laid on the bed and immediately slept while he rested in a chair. They messed the bed up when she woke after 2 hours and washed her face. They both went there separate ways. For 4 months she was on the run. She was using every technique she could to evade the gestapo. She disguised herself changing cloths, hair colours,addresses, hats, papers but one thing she chose too often was the colour blue she was eventually stopped because of the blue.
The nazi had a general description of her and they were told she had a preference for blue. She was managing what would normally take a team to do the work. She was ultimately betrayed and that is what caught her. Betrayal is a horrible thing and one can only hope the people involved suffered guilt.
Noor was located as I have said by the betrayal of a friend. Ultimately there were two possibilities Henri Dericourt who was eventually revealed to be a double agent. But this may have been on the orders from London British Intelligence M16. The second possibilities Renee Garry sister to Kahn’s supervising agent. She may have been jealous of Noor. There was a a reward of 100,000 francs placed on noors head. Renee was paid the money and her attitude vengeful for a supposed affection of agent France Antelme.
This jealousy between the two women was never confirmed. No evidence exists to say Noor had any relation with France. After the war Renee Garry was tried but escaped by one vote. In any case Noor was arrested in October 1943. She was taken to 84 Avenue Foch Gestapo headquarters. She immediately escaped but was re-captured. The nazi’s found her note book and began impersonated her to transmit to unsuspecting London Headquarters. This resulted in the captures and deaths of many special operatives . London did not realize the transmissions were not from Noor Khan. Rather it took some time to discover the german forces were working the radio. A few weeks later she made another attempt to escape clambering out onto a roof. She was apprehended and now labelled as highly dangerous. She was taken to Pforzheim Prison on the edge of the Black Forest. She spent 10 long months here in isolation wearing heavy chains on her ankles ,foot irons. She could not feed herself or clean herself. She was treated like an animal beaten regularly.
Tortured and interrogated but to her credit and to her bravery she revealed nothing.On the night of the 11th of September she was ordered out of her cell. She was driven to the train station handcuffed and accompanied by Gestapo officer Max Wassmer. Christian ott another gestapo officer would visit his family in Stuttgart after the transportation to Dachau. He and wassmer were in charge of prisoner transports to Dachau. Once at the station of Karlsruhe she met 3 other captives other colleagues yolande Beekman, madeleine Damerment and Elaine Plewman and together they were made to board the train.They reached Dachau at midnight and were led to the concentration camp. They were taken into the yard and Wassmer pronounced the death sentence. Only Lagerkommandant and the two SS officers were present at the execution. Noor was beaten viciously kicked and after several hours in a state of frailty she slumped to the ground . An officer asked wether a protest could be made the commandant declared no protest can be made . All girls were then forced to kneel and were shot point blank through the back of the head. Another Dutch prisoner said in 1958 that Noor was beaten by Wilhelm Ruppert and when she was to be shot she called out ‘liberte’.
The executioner was a SS guard wassmen and one girl had to be shot twice since life still prevailed. After the deaths jewelly was taken from the bodies and confiscated by the SS officers. Noor Inayat khan was posthumously awarded the George cross 1949 and the Croix de gurre with silver star as she was still considered missing but it was given in 1946. She was 30 years of age as so many were younger it does not lessen the sacrifice. I just make comment on the total loss of life through the horror of war.
After Noors death her mother and brother would relate a spiritual experience. They were unaware of Noor’s situation and on the night Noor was murdered both woke and each had the same dream. Noor appeared to them in a blue light and said “I am Free’ Weeks later they received the sad news that their loved one was dead. My feeling on reading of noor is such a strength and love of righteous behaviour.
She was a true believer in goodness prevailing. Yet the worst of humanity treated her with contemptuous brutality. My heart cries out for all the young soldiers and innocents who prevailed or passed in such ferocity as war. In 2011 a campaign was launched to raise money 100000 pound to create a bronze bust of Noor in central London near her former home. This is the first memorial to a Muslim or Asian woman. Noor had already been commemorated on the fany memorial in St Pauls Church wilton Place, Knightsbridge London. The unveiling of the Bronze bust took place 8th November in Gordon square Bloomsbury London by princess royal Anne. Noor was commemorated in a set of stamps about remarkable lives in 2018. Noor deserves all adulation as her triumphant stance against fascism and violence. This is my salute to Noor Inayat khan a truly wondrous spirit who shone bright in the blackest moments imaginable. She did not die needlessly but rather triumphantly as she stood for freedom.
These are the facts of Noor’s life and its ending Assistant Section Officer INAYAT-KHAN was sent to Karlsruhe in November 1943, and then to Pforzheim where her cell was apart from the main prison. She was considered to be a particularly dangerous and unco-operative prisoner. The Director of the prison has also been interrogated and has confirmed that Assistant Section Officer INAYAT-KHAN, when interrogated by the Karlsruhe Gestapo, refused to give any information whatsoever, either as to her work or her colleagues.
She was taken with three others to Dachau Camp on the 12 September 1944. On arrival, she was taken to the crematorium and shot.
Assistant Section Officer INAYAT-KHAN displayed the most conspicuous courage, both moral and physical over a period of more than
World War two took so many beautiful people from this world. The sheer sadness and cruelty of man to man or in this case woman. Noor was awarded the George cross for bravery she died in Dachau Concentration camp. A British spy and first muslim woman to stand for liberty against the German SS and its barbaric invasive actions in the world. She had such fortitude Noor should be seen and remembered with great pride as a muslin Indian English girl who saw wrong and tried to right it or at the very least to do her bit. With complete bravery she like millions of others joined the war to stem the tide of fascism which swept across Europe dictators and in general greedy racist doctrines who took peoples worst qualities and espoused them.
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- Basu, Shrabani. Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan. Sutton Publishing, 2006.
- Porath, Jason. Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics. Dey Street Books, 2016.
- Tsang, Annie. “Overlooked No More: Noor Inayat Khan, Indian Princess and British Spy.” The New York Times, 28 Nov. 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/obituaries/noor-inayat-khan-