“I Give You Back Your Sabbath”

The Incredible Tale Of Master Spy Eve Gordon

Eve Gordon was the most compelling public speaker I have ever heard. A small-statured elderly woman with a pronounced limp and an impeccably gorgeous English accent, Eve was the entertainment one Thursday evening at the Fort Rucker O-Club back when I was in flight school in the early ’90s. Her discussion of her wartime exploits during World War II held me enraptured.

The Patient

Eve was midway through medical school when war broke out between Germany and England in late 1939. One of her patients was a visiting exchange student from Germany who had contracted pneumonia. Back in the days before antibiotics, pneumonia was called “The Old Man’s Friend” because it killed you quickly and didn’t hurt much. Even for young healthy people, a bad case of pneumonia was often a death sentence.

This young man did not much want to die. He was lucid and fully aware of his sordid circumstances. Stuck as he was in a foreign land without family, the kid’s sole connection to humanity was the attractive young English medical student at his bedside.

The young man crashed on a Saturday. As the evening stretched out and things got more dire, Eve tried mightily to give him hope. She explained as she listened to his horribly labored breathing that soon, the church bells of London would ring in the dawn. She encouraged him to hang on. If only he could last until the Sabbath, he might yet survive.

Against all odds, the young man pulled through. Once the tide turned, he recovered quickly and was discharged. Eve said she lost touch with him immediately and honestly gave him little further thought. Regardless, her world was soon to get very busy.

There was a shadow war that went on for years in occupied Europe
while the Allies collected sufficient combat power and tactical acumen
for a proper invasion. Source: Public domain

An Introduction to War

At the outset of the war, all female medical students with two years under their belts were summarily christened nurses and farmed out to the Army. Male students got to stick around and complete their studies. Eve soon found herself one of 12 nurses assigned to the British Expeditionary Forces on the continent.

Following the world’s rude introduction to Blitzkrieg, Eve was one of only three BEF nurses to survive and reach the beaches at Dunkirk. She was the only one to make the crossing back to England successfully. She had two boats shot out from under her and survived drowning by only the thinnest of margins.

The Nurse Becomes an Operator

Eve spoke French, Norwegian and German, and had traveled extensively in Holland and Norway before the war. This brought her an invitation to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), who taught her to be a spy.

Eve trained to fly a glider and to kill a man with a garotte without getting blood on her clothes. She eventually logged 112 parachute jumps, many of them into occupied Europe and all of those at night. After years of organizing Resistance cells, she found herself in France undercover three months prior to D-Day.

To have been captured by the Germans meant a horrible
gory death for members of the Resistance. Source: German
Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv)

The Darkness That Lurks Within the Hearts of Men

The Germans had a curious habit of cordoning off French towns a block at a time with armored vehicles and then clearing out the buildings looking for collaborators. In the small village north of Paris where Eve was operating, the SS man responsible for security had a reputation for ruthlessness. He declared that the even-numbered houses were to be emptied while the odd ones were left alone. Such randomness was intentionally designed to spark terror in the hearts of the populace. Eve was hiding in an even-numbered house.

The military-age men were dragged outside and summarily shot. The young women were loaded into trucks to be violated. The children were bludgeoned to death on the street. Eve actually had a component of her wireless set concealed on her person. She knew she was dead.

A German soldier struck her in the face with a rifle butt during her arrest, leaving her badly bloodied. He then dragged her to the feet of the SS officer responsible for the carnage. Eve said his jackboots were the shiniest she had ever seen. As she looked up at the monster, who seemed ten feet tall, she was shocked to see the eyes of the young German exchange student with pneumonia whom she had attended five long years before. He immediately recognized her for who and what she was — a spy.

The SS man looked her from top to bottom, his expression both neutral and horrifying. He then retrieved a snow-white handkerchief and used it to blot the blood off of her face. In a soft voice, he said, “Go, I give you back your Sabbath.” His men then escorted her to the edge of the cordon and set her free.

Deep Magic

Eve Gordon eventually married an American and immigrated to the United States. She spent the rest of her life as a pioneer in the hospice movement. Her mandate was to help those with terminal illnesses die with dignity.

She closed her speech with this, “Each life is like a pebble thrown into a pond. It makes ripples that touch part of the shore we don’t even know about … Our lives may touch those of people we shall never meet. I think it is up to each one of us to walk through this life in such a way that no person is diminished because our lives touched his … What I wish for each of you is that every one of you will have something in your life worth dying for.” Indeed.

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