Noor Inayat Khan's achievements
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- Noor was a very talented woman excelling at music and literature. - She took a degree at the Sorbonne in child psychology, spoke several languages and, as a harpist, she was heard at the Salle Erard. She also became a children's writer and poet. She was a frequent contributor of articles and stories to newspapers and magazines such as ‘Le Figaro’. Her children's fairy tales were broadcast by Radiodiffusion Francaise. A London publisher bought her ‘Twenty Jataka Tales’, which were published in the UK, USA and France. There are still modern editions of this book. In 1941, a fairy tale she had written was broadcast on the Children's Hour of the BBC.
- She was an excellent wireless operator working well under pressure. - She proved to be an excellent and efficient wireless operator, fast and accurate. In London, code-master Leo Marks noted that “her transmissions were flawless, with all their security checks intact”. It was estimated that in towns it took the Germans around 30 minutes to discover where a transceiver was being used. Where possible, operators worked in isolated areas. They were also under strict instructions to transmit briefly, at irregular intervals, at various wavelengths and from various places. The equipment was quite bulky and hard to hide. All this meant it was a highly dangerous job with a life expectancy of just six weeks.
- She refused to leave her post despite great danger, allowing the network time to rebuild. - The man who greeted Noor in the Loire – Henri Dericourt – was a double agent working for the Gestapo. Within a few months of her arrival, almost all the members of ‘Prosper’ (the network she worked for) were arrested in the most devastating coup the Gestapo made in occupied France. Noor found herself virtually in charge of Resistance communications in the Paris area, as the Gestapo arrested cell after cell around her. Noor dodged from safe house to safe house in Paris, outwitting the Gestapo and transmitting messages with immense speed and accuracy in hostile conditions. She refused to leave her duties and return to England when offered. She knew she was in great danger but was also aware she was the ONLY wireless operator left at that time in the Paris area. By doing this she gave the time for the network to be rebuilt. General Sir Colin Gubbins, the head of SOE, said that she occupied “the principal and most dangerous post in France”.
- She maintained her silence and dignity, despite being interrogated . - SOE agents were taught that, once captured, they must try to stay silent for 48 hours when interrogated by the Gestapo, to give agents with whom they were associated time to cover their tracks. The Gestapo caught Noor just 200 metres from their headquarters at 84, Avenue Foch in Paris. Kieffer, the head of the Gestapo in Paris, testified that unlike other captured SOE agents, Noor had revealed nothing at her interrogation (even after the 48 hour period had passed), not one piece of useful information. She would only say that her name was Nora Baker and that her place of birth was London.
- She never gave in and twice tried to escape. - Within an hour of capture, in October 1943, Noor tried to escape. Placed in a top floor room and demanding a bath, Noor attempted to use this privacy to get out of a window. She was seen and brought back in. In November, Noor and two other agents again tried to escape. They got onto the roof of their building, and climbed across the other roofs and down to street level. This also failed when a British air raid and subsequent roll-call alerted the Germans to the fact they were not present. Noor refused to sign an agreement that she would not try to escape again. The Gestapo finally ordered that she should be taken out of Paris and imprisoned in Nazi Germany.
- She survived a long imprisoment in solitary confinment without breaking down. - As a spy, Noor had no rights or protection under the Geneva Convention. She was classified under a "Night and Fog" decree. On December 7, 1941, Heinrich Himmler, head of Nazi Germany’s SS, had issued a decree. It said that those arrested in their own countries for resisting the Third Reich would be deported so that they would disappear, without a trace, into the “night and fog.” As a Nacht und Nebel (“Night and Fog”) inmate, she was earmarked only for oblivion and death. Shackled and starved and held in solitary confinment in Pforzheim prison for nearly 10 months, she never talked. For most of the time, the chains meant she could not move properly or wash herself.
- She died bravely and is one of only three women to be awarded a George Cross. - According to official records, Noor was shot along with three other women at Dachau Concentration Camp on 12th or 13th September. A Dutch prisoner later reported that that she died bravely and the last word she shouted out was "Liberty". In 1949 she was posthumously awarded the George Cross. She was also a recipient of the Croix de Guerre, Gold Star.