Born in 1908 in Rumania, Vera Rosenberg was to play an important role in World War II. As the Third Reich began its pogrom against Jews, she changed her name to Atkins to hide her own heritage. It was Vera who recruited, devised legends (cover stories) for, trained and supervised over 400 British agents who parachuted into France to sabotage the Nazis.
Although she held no rank, she has been described as a “sledgehammer” who worked 18-hour days briefing the agents in minute detail on life in occupied France and was totally devoted to the agents she trained, standing on the runway to watch as each plane took off for its mission to France, some say sending the agents off with a single expletive.
After the war, she demanded the assignment of investigating the 118, including 13 women, who did not return. She traced 117 of them (the 118th was an inveterate gambler who disappeared near Monte Carlo along with 3 million francs of secret service money), all dead, and made sure that justice was served by bringing their surviving killers to trial in the war crimes’ courts. Atkins relentlessly questioned Nazi officers of the concentration camps, including Rudolf Hess. The information she obtained from him was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials.
Although unconfirmed, many believe that James Bond author Ian Fleming patterned Miss Moneypenny on Vera. Vera lived to be 92 years old and worked most of that long life to keep memories of the Resistance alive. She settled in a cottage in Winchelsea, Sussex, from which on clear days she could see the coast of France.