For Women’s History Month we want to present you another remarkable young woman of the past:
Born: August 17, 1914, in Brussels, Belgium
Gabrielle was the second of four children born to Dutch parents in Brussels. Her father was a minister in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. She grew up in Switzerland, close to the French border at Collonges-sous-Salève - a village in the French department of Haute-Savoie where her father, Johan Henry Weidner Sr. taught Latin and Greek at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She attended secondary school in London, England, and spoke several languages.
Gabrielle was baptized in the Seventh-Day Adventist faith at the age of 16. As a devoutly religious girl, she was living and doing church work for the Seventh-day Adventists in Paris at the outbreak of World War II. Gabrielle became increasingly active in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, eventually becoming a secretary at the French-Belgian Union of Seventh-Day Adventists headquarters in Paris. Her student travels in western Europe and her knowledge of foreign languages proved useful in her work. On September 3, 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland, France declared war on Germany.
With the ensuing German occupation of France in May 1940, she fled with her brother Jean Weidner and several others to Lyon, in the unoccupied part of France. Following the 22 June 1940 signing of the agreement with the Nazis to create Vichy France, she returned to Paris, while her brother went to Lyon where he established the "Dutch-Paris" underground.
In Paris, she resumed her work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, from which she secretly with the help of her brother and other volunteers coordinated escapes for Dutch-Paris. As a significant contributor to the French resistance she has been responsible for the rescue of at least 1,080 persons, including 800 Dutch Jews and more than 112 downed Allied airmen.
In February 1944, a young female courier was arrested by the French police and extradited to the Gestapo. Against all rules, she had a notebook with her containing names and addresses of Dutch-Paris members. She was brutally interrogated by a guard that held her head under cold water repeatedly. Under torture she revealed many names of key members of the underground network. As a result, a large number of Dutch-Paris members were arrested. The name of Jean's sister, Gabrielle, was among those in the notepad. On Saturday, February 26, 1944, the Gestapo arrested her during 10 a.m. church services. 140 other members of the "Dutch-Paris" network that helped Dutch Jews and political refugees were also arrested.
She was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Fresnes prison in Paris, as it was hoped that her comrades would try to free her. In Fresnes she was treated fairly good, but when this trap did not work, she was shipped by railway cattle car on August 24 to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp in Germany.
She entered Königsberg / Neumark, a women's subcamp of Ravensbrück. The camp was called Petit-Königsberg by the French prisoners to distinguish the village in Neumark from the city Königsberg in East Prussia. In this concentration camp, the conditions were inhumane, and she was subjected to hard labor and beatings by camp guards. On 17 February 1945, several days after the liberation by Soviet troops, Gabrielle died in Königsberg / Neumark from the effects of malnutrition.
On 24 May 1950, Gabrielle Weidner posthumously received the Dutch Cross of Resistance for her efforts in the war. On the Dutch Orry-la-Ville honorary cemetery (north of Paris), her name is recorded on a plaque dedicated to the Dutch resistors.