Twenty-five years after her passing, Audrey Hepburn remains the most beloved of all Hollywood stars, known as much for her role as UNICEF ambassador as for films like Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Several biographies have chronicled her stardom, but none has covered her intense experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. According to her son, Luca Dotti, "The war made my mother who she was." Audrey Hepburn's war included participation in the Dutch Resistance, working as a doctor's assistant during the "Bridge Too Far" battle of Arnhem, the brutal execution of her uncle, and the ordeal of the Hunger Winter of 1944. She also had to contend with the fact that her father was a Nazi agent and her mother was pro-Nazi for the first two years of the occupation. But the war years also brought triumphs as Audrey became Arnhem's most famous young ballerina. Audrey's own reminiscences, new interviews with people who knew her in the war, wartime diaries, and research in classified Dutch archives shed light on the riveting, untold story of Audrey Hepburn under fire in World War II. Also included is a section of color and black-and-white photos. Many of these images are from Audrey's personal collection and are published here for the first time.
Matzen (Mission: Jimmy Stewart) completes his trilogy of books about Hollywood figures during WWII with this exciting volume about Audrey Hepburn's childhood and adolescence under the Nazi occupation of Holland. At first, Hepburn is largely a supporting player, having been only 11 when the Nazis invaded (she later said, "A child is a child is a child; I just went to school"). Instead, Matzen focuses on Hepburn's mother (by then divorced from Hepburn's father), a socialite and longtime Nazi sympathizer, and other family members, including her uncle, who was held by the Nazis and eventually shot in retaliation for Dutch resistance activity. Nevertheless, Matzen shows how war shaped Hepburn's resilient and fiercely private personality and informed her work as a UNICEF ambassador later in life. And all is not gloom and doom, as he explores Hepburn's fascination with dance, and her dreams of becoming a ballerina. More dominant, however, is the wartime background. Visceral details of intense privation ("I went as long as three days without food" Hepburn recalled), constant bombings, and also acts of resistance evoke the period. Matzen has created a vivid portrait of a civilian population under siege one of who just happened to become a Hollywood star.