An Amazing Life
Posted on August 22, 2009
An Amazing Life
I am not one to peruse to obituaries (I’m a little young for that) but I ran across one about an amazing woman who played a fascinating role in winning the Second World War. Buried in the middle of the Washington Post was a obit about Barbara Lauwers Podoski.
Podowski died at the age of 95. According to the Post, she “launched one of the most successful psychological operations campaigns of World War II, which resulted in the surrender of more than 600 Czechoslovakian soldiers fighting for the Germans…One of the few females operatives in the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime predecessor to the CIA, she found creative ways to undermine German morale. Much of her work remained secret until last year, when her OSS personnel records were declassified.”
The Post goes on, “A multilingual native of Czechoslovakia, Barbara Lauwers, as she was then known, primarily interrogated prisoners from her base in Rome. An antagonistic Nazi sergeant under her questioning in 1944 mentioned that Czechs and Slovaks were used to the Germans’ dirty work along the Italian front….Mrs. Lauwers, a private, realized there was an opportunity to flip her countrymen. She quickly borrowed the Vatican’s Czech and Slovak typewriters and prepared leaflets in both Czech and Slovak languages that urged the conscripts to change sides, telling them that they were being used. “Shed this German yoke of shame, cross over to the partisans.”
Which at least 600 hundred of them apparently did.
The Post had a couple of other neat anecdotes about her time in the war. Apparently, she grew so angry when she was interrogating another German prisoner that she punched him in the nose. Not very ladylike, especially in those days.
And she also wrote a propaganda piece which implied that German soldiers could have sex with any German women they ran across, which I am certain caused all kinds of problems behind enemy lines, if you get what I mean.
She did all of this as a private in the Office of Strategic Services. She did it all, even though few women served in the OSS.
Of all the stupid movies coming out of Hollywood, some enterprising script-writer should take a look at the life and times of Barbara Podoski. It was because of heroes like her that we beat the Nazis. She had an amazing life, and because of the silliness of our nation’s secrecy laws, we only started learning about it after she died.