Yolande BeekmanYolande Beekman (1911–September 11, 1944) is a heroine of World War II.
Born as Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer to an educated family in Paris, Beekman moved as a child to London, England and grew up fluent in the English, German, and French languages. When World War II broke out, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force where she trained as a wireless operator. Because of her language skills and wireless expertise, she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for work in occupied France.
In 1943, Yolande Unternahrer married Sergeant Jaap Beekman of the Dutch army, but a short time after her marriage she said goodbye to her husband and was flown behind enemy lines in France. According to official government records, her mother, who referred to her as someone who was gentle and quiet but made with a core of steel, stated that Yolande Beekman was already pregnant at the time she was sent on her mission.
In France, Yolande Beekman operated the wireless for Gustave Biéler, the Canadian in charge of the "Musician" Network at St. Quentin in the northern Aisne département. She became an efficient and valued agent who, in addition to her all-important radio transmissions to London, took charge of the distribution of materials dropped by Allied planes. However, in January of 1944, she and Gustave Biéler were arrested by the Gestapo while meeting at a café. At the Gestapo headquarters in Saint-Quentin the two were tortured repeatedly but never broke. Separated from Biéler (he was later executed), she was transported to Fresnes prison in Paris. Again she was interrogated and brutalized repeatedly until May when she was moved with several other captured SOE agents to the civilian prison for women at Karlsruhe in Germany. She was confined there under horrific conditions until September when she was abruptly transferred to Dachau concentration camp with fellow agents Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan, and Elaine Plewman.
At dawn on September 11th, the day after their arrival in Dachau, the four young women were taken to a small courtyard next to the crematorium and forced to kneel on the ground. They were then executed by a shot through the back of the head and their bodies cremated.
At the end of the War, Yolande Beekman's heroic actions were recognized by the government of France with the posthumous awarding of the Croix de Guerre. In addition, she is recorded on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England and as one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, she is listed on the "Roll of Honor" on the Valençay SOE Memorial in the town of Valençay, in the Indre département of France.