|Vera Maria Atkins|
16 June 1908|
|Died||24 June 2000
Hastings, England, UK
|Occupation||British intelligence officer|
Atkins was born Vera-May Rosenberg to a German Jewish father, and a British Jewish mother, in Galați, Romania. Her family emigrated to England in 1933 but after a couple of years moved to France. She enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris to study modern languages before attending finishing school at Lausanne. The surname 'Atkins' was her South African-born mother's maiden name, which she adopted as her own. She was a cousin of Rudolf Vrba.
World War II
In May 1940, Atkins returned to England, and in February 1941, she joined the French section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She remained a civilian until August 1944, when she was commissioned a flight officer in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She was officially the section's intelligence officer while serving as assistant to section head Maurice Buckmaster.
Atkins was given one of SOE's most sensitive jobs - recruiting and deploying female agents. Recently controversy has arisen as to why clues that one of F section's main spy networks had been penetrated by the Germans - F section being the section of the SOE in charge of operations in France - were not picked up, and Buckmaster and Atkins failed to pull out agents at risk. "Instead they sent in several more. A radio operator, Gilbert Norman, had sent a message omitting his security check - a deliberate mistake. So why did she not challenge Buckmaster when other signals from captured radios came in without checks?" Atkins let Buckmaster, " repeat his errors at the expense of agents lives." Her biographer Sarah Helm believes that Atkins, who still had relatives in Nazi occupied Europe, may have helped them escape by bribing Abwehr officials.
After World War II
When the allied victory in Europe was accomplished, she went to Germany. Her self-appointed mission was to investigate the fate of the 118 F section agents who had disappeared in enemy territory. She succeeded in every case except one.
In 1987, Atkins was appointed Commandeur of the Légion d'Honneur. She retired to Winchelsea, Sussex, and died in a nursing home in Hastings on 24 June 2000, aged 92. Her gravestone is in Zennor churchyard in Cornwall, with the inscription "Vera May Atkins, Légion d'honneur Croix de Guerre".
In popular culture
- Recorded interviews with Vera Atkins are used in Into the Dark, a short film directed by Genevieve Simms.
- Atkins is the subject of the "Fatal Femmes" episode of the Secret War documentary series, aired in the United States on the Military Channel.
- She was played by Avice Landone in the 1958 film Carve Her Name with Pride.
- The 2012 play The Secret Reunion by Adrian Davis is five SOE women holding a London reunion in 1975: Vera Atkins, Nancy Wake, Odette Churchill, Virginia Hall and Didi Hearne.
"Fatal Femmes" (in English). Secret War. Season 1. Episode 9. February 28, 2012. Military Channel.
- Helm, Sarah (May 2005). A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-72497-1.
- Stevenson, William (November 2006). Spymistress: The Life of Vera Atkins, the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II. Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-55970-763-3.