Class Notes: 2004
Historian and award-winning author of three nonfiction books, Buzzy Jackson brings to life the incredible true story of World War II hero Hannie Schaft in her debut novel, TO DIE BEAUTIFUL (Dutton: 2023). Following Hannie’s harrowing journey as a member of the Dutch Resistance from 1940-1945, the novel is a riveting tale of love, loyalty, and the limits we confront when our deepest values are tested. TO DIE BEAUTIFUL is dedicated to Buzzy’s doctoral dissertation advisor and friend, the late UC Berkeley History professor Leon F. Litwack (1929-2021) and his wife Rhoda Litwack.
Prof. Litwack’s lifelong support for social justice and civil rights inspired this book. When the Nazi occupation in Holland endangers Hannie Schaft’s two Jewish best friends, shy law student Hannie is moved to fight against the insidious rise of fascism. Soon, she’s an active armed member, bombing munitions factories and luring in powerful Nazis with her beauty to assassinate them at point-blank range. Word of her threatening prowess even makes its way to Adolf Hitler, who dubs her the “Girl with Red Hair.” Her greatest weapon is her determination to “stay human” (blijf menselijk), a promise increasingly difficult to keep amidst the devastation that surrounds her.
Although Hannie is renowned in the Netherlands, her inspirational resistance work is little-known in the U.S.A, but Jackson is working to change that. Hannie Schaft was recently featured in the New York Times’ “Overlooked” obituary section and a TV series about her life is in development.