The Princess Spy:
Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan

Summary: The value of espionage during World War II
Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan
1914 - 1944

A.  The value of a spy during World War II

There are no easy answers to the questions posed in the introduction of this web site.  No magic formulas exist, and no standards may be used to gauge whether or not someone is successful as a spy.  Noor volunteered for the SOE; she knew the dangers and the risks involved by volunteering to go back into occupied France and work as an undercover agent for the SOE.  The decision was hers, and she was courageous and brave enough to accept the challenge.  If Noor's noble birth meant anything to her, it meant she was a leader and was expected to take greater risks to protect not just herself, or her family, but also the rest of her people--her friends, her acquaintances, her colleagues.  In many ways, Noor put the values taught in her religion into practice.  She acted as if she was fighting evil and not just the Germans.  Rather than honoring national lines which separate countries, Noor tried to stand up for good in the fight against evil.  It just so happens that evil, in Noor's case, happened to be in the form of the Nazis.

Some may say that the British spies and saboteurs of World War II did not accomplish enough.  True, at best they simply helped end the war a little quicker.  They accomplished very little in terms of bringing down the Nazis.  The Germans, especially the Gestapo, did not take the Resistance as a serious threat.  Nazis squelched any serious attempt at creating a Resistance force from inside the occupied territories.  In this case, the efforts of the SOE agents amounted to very little.   Had Churchill left the war to his 'secret armies' of spies and saboteurs, the Germans would have won easily.  It took an invasion of Europe and the armies of several countries to overthrow Hitler, but that simplified view of the value of spying undermines the value of these SOE agents.  Someone had to go do the jobs these individuals did.  Perhaps without the SOE and other branches of the French Resistance, the French people would not have the will to fight the Nazis.  Someone had to go into France, and give their life if need to be, to help spark widespread French resistance to the Nazis.  By their bravery and enthusiasm, the SOE agents helped inspire the French people to fight on against Germany.

Even today--perhaps especially today, countries need to be involved in intelligence gathering.  It is not something most countries, or most people, want to do.  Most of the time, the secretly discovered information is of little value.  Sometimes the information is wrong.  Very rarely does a spy prove to be successful in a way the general public would find acceptable, yet if these countries did not engage in espionage and even the occasional act of sabotage, then this world would be a much more unstable place.  So what is the value of a spy?  Their sacriface, no matter how great or small, helps insure to us our freedom. 

B.  Immortality

Prehaps the greatest value of all is the impact a spy has on a population of people.  Noor greatly impacted many individuals, not with the information she stole from the Germans and gave to the British.  She impacted the world in a much more worthwhile way.  The number of memorials and monuments attest to that fact.  The work of Jean Overton Fuller and other writers show Noor still impacts the thinking of people today.  Perhaps Noor was not as successful as a spy as she could have been, but she touched the lives of people who knew her and she continues to touch the lives of people who come in contact her story.  We end this examination of Princess Noor with a passage written by Jean Overton Fuller based on conversations she had with Ernst Vogt otherwise known as 'Ernest.'  In this passage Ernst talks about the impact Noor had on his life.  If this Indian princess turned British spy can impact her German captor in such a way, then Noor's life and sacriface were not in vain.   

Enrst Vogt, aka Ernest

We had climbed to a wooden seat above the town.
"Do you believe Madeleine is dead?" he asked.

"Oh yes, Wassmer took her to Dachau . . ."

"It's not what I meant," he said. "I wondered
If you thought she was here now?  She was so full
Of life.  I still see her face and her eyes as she faced
Me.  Her small clenched hands.  I think she would join
Us, hearing us speak of her.  You
Were a friend of hers, and I
Admired her in such a way that I would have liked
To have been her friend, if she had not been
My prisoner . . .
Why did she do it?" he burst out
Suddenly.  "Why did she throw her beautiful
Life away?  Why did she let herself be parachuted*
Where we were?  I could be angry with her,
That she put herself where I had to arrest her . . . If I
Had let her escape me, she might not be dead.  You knew her.  Why
Did she do it?"
"To help liberate France from the Germans."
"To help liberate France from the Germans! I under-
Stand . . . Her sacrifice was for nothing.  We played her radio
Back to London, and used it to lure new English and Frenchmen
Into out hands.  I never told her this.  They died
In Buchenwald.  Do you believe

In immortality?"

He said that when he was young
He had almost been religious.  But the Church said animals
Had no souls.  This seemed to him unfair.  He felt if they
Could have no afterlife, then we had none.
They, too, survive", I said.
He drew a breath:
"It's all of us or none of us!" he said.  "She was so alive
I cannot believe she is no more.  Because of her,
I believe in immortality . . ."

- Jean Overton Fuller quoting, in poem form, the words of
'Ernest'--the man who arrested Noor.

*Ernest did not know Noor did not parachute into France.


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