The short story of Odette Sansom


This was her codename. Her real name – Odette Sansom.

Odette was born in France, but moved to Britain after marrying an Englishman. There they had three daughters.

But soon World War II broke out. Her husband joined the army.

The idea of not being part of the war effort troubled Odette. She struggled to accept that others were suffering, dying, to fight for freedom for her children.

So she decided to join as well.

Odette Sansom portrait in military uniform
Odette Sansom

She left the children in a convent school. And she became a Special Operations Executive (SOE) for the British in France. Her evaluation noted “her patriotism and keenness to do something for France.”

Six months after landing in France, she was captured by the Gestapo. The Gestapo tortured her. They scorched her back with a red-hot poker. They pulled all her toenails out. They interrogated her fourteen times.

But the Gestapo probably didn’t know she had recovered from a serious illness which blinded her for three and a half years. Or that she was bedridden from polio. Both when she was a child. Both of which she overcame. Or that her grandfather raised her with the mindset that he “did not accept weakness very easily.”

She didn’t disclose any information.

The Gestapo sentenced her to death. “Then you will have to make up your mind on what count I am to be executed, because I can only die once,” she responded.

She was sent to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp. Where she was placed in solitary confinement. Where she was starved.

But Odette fought on. And she survived.


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“The short story of Odette Sansom” sources: “Hallowes, Odette Marie Céline (Oral history).” / Imperial War Museums, / “Odette Sansom.” Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation,