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Spaak was born into a prosperous Belgian banking family in 1905. She married Brussels-born dramatist Claude Spaak (1904-1990), brother of both Charles Spaak, a screenwriter, and Paul-Henri Spaak, a Belgian statesmen. Living in Paris with her husband and two children, she enjoyed a life of luxury and prestige as one of the city's leading socialites. Her husband had acquired paintings by their fellow Belgian, René Magritte, and in 1936, Magritte painted her portrait. Her lifestyle changed drastically with the onslaught of World War II and the subsequent occupation of France by Germany.
With time and growing atrocities by the Nazis, Spaak devoted herself to ridding France and her native Belgium of its oppressors. She joined the Red Orchestra intelligence network, a Soviet-sponsored organization founded by a Polish Jew, Leopold Trepper.
This group conducted very effective intelligence gathering in Germany, France, the Netherlands and in neutral Switzerland with members known as the "Lucy Ring". The network became so successful, even infiltrating the German military intelligence service Abwehr, that the Nazis set up the "Red Orchestra Special Detachment" ("Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle") to destroy it.
A mother of two, Spaak worked doggedly to save the lives of Jewish children who were facing deportation to the German death camps. In early 1943, she was part of a group that saved a hundred sixty three Jewish children who were about to be deported from the Union Generale des Israelites de France (UGIF) centers. At enormous risk to herself and her family, she hid some of the children in her own home, helping to provide the children with clothing and ration cards and arranging for them be moved to the safety of homes of people in various parts of France willing to risk hiding them.
In Belgium, in the spring of 1942, the Germans traced and monitored Red Orchestra operative's radio transmitters and made their first arrests of Red Orchestra agents. Captured members were brutally tortured and several broke, divulging network secrets that, over the ensuing eighteen months, allowed for more than six hundred people to be arrested, including Suzanne Spaak in Paris. Sent by the Gestapo to the prison in Fresnes in October 1943, she was kept in horrific conditions and subjected to torture.
On 12 August 1944, just thirteen days before the liberation of Paris, Spaak was executed by the Gestapo. She was 39 years old. On 21 April 1985, Yad Vashem recognized Suzanne Spaak as Righteous Among the Nations.
- Chris Pauly Suzanne Spaak profile at The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation online
- Chris Pauly Suzanne Spaak profile at The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation online, raoulwallenberg.net; accessed 6 December 2016.
- Suzanne Spaak profile, yadvashem.org; accessed 6 December 2016.