The last few days have marked a series of events to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering the six million victims who were killed in the concentration camps of Nazi-occupied Europe during World War Two and victims of other conflicts.
They were eventually transported in cattle trains to a number of death camps as part of the “Final Solution”.
Some local Mosques in Dewsbury have also been helping their Maddrassah pupils look at an interesting story linked to Holocaust remembrance. The story is about a brave lady from Britain’s wartime ‘secret army’ of intelligence agents.
Princess Noor-Un-Nisa Inayat Khan’s wealthy family was originally from British India but had moved to London in 1914. She went to a nursery and school in Notting Hill.
Her family then moved to France in 1920 to be closer to their Sufi-Muslim relatives who lived in Suresnes outside Paris. But the family was forced to flee back to England after the outbreak of the Second World War when France was overrun by German troops.
As a Sufi-Muslim lady, although Noor Inayat Khan was deeply pacifist and against violence, she still decided to “do her bit” for the war effort by first joining the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1940, and later volunteering to join the Special Operations Executive (France Section) in June 1941.
Noor Inayat Khan was given special training as a wireless operator to work from inside enemy territory and became the first woman during World War Two to be sent over to Nazi-occupied France in such a role because of her fast and accurate wireless telegraphy skills.
The mission was hazardous and dangerous. Her job was to operate the wireless alone, moving from one location to another, in different French cities or towns where she would be a total stranger.
She would have to transmit information in Morse Code back to her instructors without getting detected by the Gestapo.
Besides the role as an operator, Noor Inayat Khan also spent a large amount of her time giving refuge to fleeing elderly Jewish couples and French-Algerian Muslim families whom she would allow to hide in her attic or barn.
A wireless operator was expected to survive in France for just six weeks before getting captured by the enemy. Yet, Noor Inayat Khan evaded arrest for nearly two years until she was caught in 1943 and taken to Dachau Concentration Camp.
Despite being severely tortured, having her finger and toe-nails pulled out, Noor Inayat Khan was shackled in chains and kept in a dark unlit cold single cell at Dachau for more than a year by the camp’s interrogators.
Despite this she refused to confess anything about her secret work.
The conditions she was kept in at Dachau were so appalling other prisoners used to hear her crying loudly at night.
She was executed by firing squad at dawn on 13 September 1944 to become another of the six million Holocaust victims.