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Kate Bonnefous' escape line
From a bourgeois life in Paris to a prison cell
She was a Briton who had married a Frenchman and so became a French citizen. Her British background was probably the main reason why in summer 1940, at the age of 54, Kate Bonnefous decided to help British soldiers hiding in France to escape the country, in order to save them from being arrested and taken to prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. She was helped by her American friend Etta Shiber.
But just a few months later the German occupying forces discovered her escape network. What happened next was bad enough, but could have been worse. Charged with aiding and abetting the enemy, the court presided over by the military governor of Paris condemned her to death.
The sentence was suspended in April 1941, but no decision on her plea for clemency was taken until 1945. In the intervening years Kate Bonnefous was shifted from one German prison to the next, always fearing that she could be executed at any time. Her ordeal only came to an end in 1945, when Soviet troops liberated the prison at Jauer, in what is now Poland.
Etta Shiber had better luck. She was swapped for the German spy Johanna Hoffmann at the Franco-Spanish border in May 1942.