Noor Inayat Khan: An Indian spy princess who preferred to be shot by Nazis in Dachau Camp than betraying her cause


Noor Inayat Khan, dubbed as the ‘Spy Princess’, is known for her bravado and her beauty. The reason why this World War II spy agent interests us is because Inayat’s father was an Indian. Importantly, she was a royal descendant, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Tipu Sultan. A celebrated secret agent in Britain, Inayat worked for England during the WWII against the Nazis.

Noor Inayat Khan
Noor Inayat Khan learned to play Indian music from her father.

Inayat was born in Russia on January 1, 1914 to an Indian father and American mother. She was raised in Britain and France and joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1942 to as a radio operator in Paris. The first woman to become such an operator, she was sent to France when WWII started.

Britain awarded her the George Cross posthumously. France honoured the spy with the Croix de Guerre. However, it was not the sense of patriotism as much as her love for liberty that fired up Inayat. Known for being a glamorous woman, she was also talked about for her fortitude.

Noor with her Indian father Hazrat Inayat Khan (L); with her American mother

When the War broke out in 1939, Noor Inayat Khan trained as a nurse with an aim to help the soldiers and joined the French Red Cross. As the War raged on, Germany started taking over France, Inayat fled to England with her mother and sister.

In Britain, Inayat joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) as a wireless operator. Assuming an English name Nora Baker, she joined the intelligence team in 1942, and moved to France again. She happily took up her secret service job, with the codename “Madeleine” in the network overlooked by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Noor Inayat Khan
Noor Inayat Khan (Extreme Left) with her family in Suresnes

A mistress of great bravado, she kept herself out of the Nazis reach for three months, before someone within her camp gave her away and she was caught and imprisoned. When tortures couldn’t extract any information more about the intelligence that she gathered, Inayat was eventually shot by the German Gestapo at the Dachau concentration camp.

Inayat was alarmed that she might be given away by a Nazi agent that worked within the network, but Inayat being the braveheart, turned down offers to return to Britain. While her companions started getting busted by the Gestapo, left right and centre, Inayat ran a cell of spies alone for three more months.

Noor Inayat Khan
Noor Inayat Khan was alarmed that she might be given away by a Nazi agent that worked within the network, but she turned down offers to return to Britain

She avoided getting caught by changing her appearance constantly. Eventually, Hitler’s army got her and she was sent to Pforzheim prison (Germany). The Nazis tried to break her spirit by keeping her in chains in an isolated cell. But no amount of beatings or starvation could open this spy’s mouth.

In September 1944, Inayat, along with three other women spies were sent to Dachau, the concentration camp that was notorious for killing and mistreating its prisoners. As the German firing squad readied their guns to shoot at Inayat, her last words were “Liberte”. They were shot dead on 13 September by the firing squad.

Source: BBC


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