because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Etta Shiber

Etta Shiber was a 62-year-old widow from Manhattan living with a woman friend of hers in Paris when she discovered -- as many women have -- that she had what it took to be an in-your-face woman. It was 1940. The Germans had occupied France. And British soldiers who had been separated from their units were hiding out in the woods by the hundreds.

Coming across one such soldier in a cafe, Shiber and her roommate immediately stashed the man in their trunk and started through the streets of Paris stopping at one Nazi checkpoint after another. And in almost no time, they had crafted an entire system to move young Englishmen through and back out of France -- usually several at a time.

The system lasted about six months before Shiber, her roommate, and a Catholic priest who was also part of their underground railroad were all arrested. Both of the others were sentenced to death, but the priest escaped. Shiber, on the other hand, being a U.S. citizen, was treated differently, especially since the United States hadn't entered the war, as yet.

Sentenced to three years in prison, Shiber -- quite ill and malnourished -- was traded for a German spy after a year and a half. Her memoir about the adventure is entitled Paris Underground, but Shiber never did understand why some folks saw what she did as heroic. "The Nazi invasion did it, not I," she explained casually to a reporter after she had recuperated. "I was looking forward to a quiet old age. I still am." Or was that said with a wink?

No comments:

Post a Comment