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Camouflaged as French woman in the Résistance

In 1942, a young woman named Renée Fabre worked for various German authorities in occupied France. There, she had access to information about the Wehrmacht’s troop movements, which she passed on to the French resistance. She also used her contacts with German soldiers to distribute writings and leaflets against National Socialism.


Renée Fabre was a fake name and the supposed Frenchwoman was actually the German Dora Davidsohn. Born in Berlin on September 21, 1913, she attended a commercial school and then worked in an office. Her family was Jewish, but religion played a subordinate role in her parents’ home.


After the Nazis took power in 1933, Dora Davidsohn lost her job due to her Jewish background. She then went alone into exile in Amsterdam, where she ekes out a living doing temporary jobs. In Amsterdam, Dora Davidsohn crossed paths with the communist trade unionist Alfred Benjamin, who had also fled from the National Socialists. The two became a couple and moved to France together in 1934. Because they had no valid papers, Dora Davidsohn and Alfred Benjamin were arrested in Paris in the fall of 1939. She was sent to the Rieucros camp and later to the Brens camp, in Southern France. The couple were able to marry in February 1941 while they were still interned.


Dora Davidsohn and Alfred Benjamin were both able to escape from internment in 1942, but Alfred Benjamin had an accident while trying to reach Switzerland. Left on her own again, Dora Davidsohn joined the Résistance in Lyon. She was given false papers that passed her off as French. Disguised in this way, she was able to pass on vital information about the German war effort to the Resistance.


She lived through the end of the war in France, where her son Peter was born in 1945. Dora Davidsohn’s parents, her sister and her brother-in-law did not survive National Socialism; they were deported to the Majdanek extermination camp in 1942 and murdered there.


She returned to Germany in 1945 with her partner Heinz Priess, whom Dora Davidsohn had met in the French resistance. In the GDR, she worked as a publicist and researcher and also published books on the Resistance. In 1951, Dora Davidsohn married Hans Schaul, who was also active in the resistance against the National Socialists. She died in Berlin on August 8, 1999. Today there is a memorial plaque at her former home in Berlin-Plänterwald. A street in Brens near Toulouse was named after her in 2006.


Dagmar Lieske

Sources /Further reading

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