Audrey Hepburn Footsteps in Arnhem

Award Netherlands Blog

Audrey Hepburn Footsteps in Arnhem

If you look up ‘Audrey Hepburn’ online, what you might have done, you’ll find a ton of information. About, for example, her acting career, starring in movies like Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), The Nun’s Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964) and Wait Until Dark (1967). Earning acting prizes throughout her career, she remains one of only 15 people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.

Audrey also worked as an ambassador to the United Nations UNICEF. Her connection to UNICEF started in the 50’s when she narrated two radio shows, re-telling children’s stories of war. She might have recognized those stories because as a child, Audrey also lived in a war zone, in a city called Arnhem (the Netherlands).

Audrey in Arnhem

This Audrey Hepburn walking route is about that time, when Audrey lived in Arnhem between 1939 and 1945.

As a young girl, aged 10 years old, Audrey’s mother Baroness Ella van Heemstra moved the family to Arnhem. She hoped the Netherlands would remain neutral and be spared a German attack. Unfortunately this was not the case.

She could not have picket a worst place to stay since Arnhem was the scene of heavy fighting during WW2.

AUDREY’S HOMES IN ARNHEM

Audrey’s grandfather Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra, who served as Mayor of Arnhem from 1910 to 1920, lived at the beautiful ‘Huis Zypendaal’. When the family moved to Arnhem in September of 1937, this is where they first stayed.

The next home was less of an eye catcher. The family, Audrey, her mother and two half brothers moved into the small home near Sonsbeek Park, to the Sickeszlaan. Now, it is a beautiful home (it was for sale not too long ago for €439.000. Can you imagine living where Audrey used to live?!) but it used to be a simple, small home, not really fit for a Baroness.

The family lived at this location for 3 months.

In December of 1939 Audrey and her family moved to the Jansbinnensingel. The location now is beautiful, looking out on the fountains and Roman statues. I’m sure is was nice back then too, but the people had other things on their mind. For example: in August 1939, 230 thousand Dutch men (18 y/o and up) were mobilized to join the army as an German invasion was upcoming.

The Start Of Audrey’s Career

A place Audrey visited often was the theater in Arnhem. On May 9, 1940, Audrey attended a ballet performance of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet in the theater. The star of the show is world-famous Margot Fonteyn. Audrey’s mother Ella had contributed to the company so they would visit Arnhem on her tour through the Netherlands.

After the performance, the Baroness said a word of praise. Audrey then handed over a bouquet of flowers to the company director, Ninette de Valois. A day after the show, the German army invaded the Netherlands.

She is the most talented student of her group and from 1943 on may help with the ballet instruction. As the food shortage increases, Audrey weakens and has to stop taking lessons and instruction at the school. Later, she picked up ballet again and on January 8, 1944, Audrey herself performed in the Arnhem theater and danced as the star of the dance school to music by Debussy and Grieg. She participates in the illegal cultural evenings in Arnhem, the “Black Evenings” and also tries to raise money for the resistance with small performances.

Because an “English-sounding” name was considered dangerous during the German occupation the family used the name Edda van Heemstra after the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940. In 1942, Audrey’s uncle, Otto van Limburg Stirum (husband of her mother’s older sister, Miesje), was executed in retaliation for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement. He was not involved in the act, but he was targeted due to his family’s prominence in Dutch society.

Audrey Hepburn And The Battle Of Arnhem

Before the Battle of Arnhem Audrey and her family moved to nearby town Velp. This battle was the largest battle in the Netherlands during WW2. It was fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze, Driel, and the surrounding countryside from 17 till 26 September 1944.

English troops came to the Arnhem area by gliders, they had to hold the Rhinebridge from the Germans, but it turned out to be a disaster (read more about the Battle of Arnhem here).

This lead to the destruction of Arnhem, and evacuation of 90 thousand Arnhem inhabitants.

In March 1945 the Germans recruited young women to work in the soldier’s kitchens. Audrey is forced to hide in ter home for a month.

In April 1945 the allied forces liberated Arnhem. One day after her sixteenth birthday, on May 5th, the German surrender is a fact. To her delight, her half-brothers also return from the German labor camps.

After the war, mother Ella decided that Audrey should further develop her ballet talent.

Ella and Audrey decide to go to Amsterdam so that Audrey could take lessons with the absolute ballet top: Sonia Gaskell. With the move to Amsterdam, the Arnhem period of Audrey Hepburn comes to an end.

Audrey Hepburn Downloadable walking route

Are you interested in visiting the locations of where Audrey stayed as a child, where she found her love for dancing and where the Battle of Arnhem took place?

We offer a downloadable  walking route: Click here for the Audrey Hepburn walking route.

Contact us for details and tour prizes at info@ArnhemLife.nl if you are interested in doing other group tours, with a guide, too. 

We look forward to hearing what your favorite Audrey Hepburn film is!

Jan Veerman
Jan Veerman
2023-12-05
Super leuke middag met Odette Jansen in de wijk Klarendal, onze geboortegrond. Lunch in Casper, drankje in SugerHill en diner in Goed Proeven. Volgende keer slapen in Hotel Modez. https://www.modekwartier.nl
Blue Nation
Blue Nation
2023-11-21
It was extremely fun walking in the footsteps of our English soldiers. Rudi was an amazing guide with a tome of knowledge. Bringing to life the whole experience. We cannot recommend this tour and company enough. Thank you so much.
Ed Harding
Ed Harding
2023-10-19
Fantastic tour with our guide Rudy. We met up at Ebe railway station and then proceeded to Ginkel Heath. Over 6 hours we worked in towards the bridge covering the landing and drop zones, the initial advanced on Leopard and Lion routes, the Cemetery, the Oosterbeek perimeter and the bridge. Rudy made the locations come to life with his detailed explanations, use of maps and period photos. Highly recommended.
Ulrich Hadding
Ulrich Hadding
2023-10-17
David, a native English speaker, who lives in Arnhem, gave our group a fantastic tour through Osterbeek, along important places of the battle of Arnhem. His profound knowledge and personal connections to a lot of witnesses of the battle impressed even the most knowledgeable members of our group. David was also flexible and very empathetic and thereby guaranteed a wonderful learning experience for all of us. He is a real asset for seriously interested parties.
Marco Geerligs
Marco Geerligs
2023-10-09
Met 10 personen een fiets tour (op maat) met gids gedaan door Arnhem. Vooraf met gids gebeld over mijn wensen. Daar is kundig op in gegaan. Gids wist zeer veel te vertellen op een goede manier. Zeer tevreden! De organisatie doet ook veel moeite om vragen goed te beantwoorden.
Michael Holmes
Michael Holmes
2023-10-05
My friends and I took recently the Arnhem tour by minivan. our guide David is a very knowledgeable historian and was able to tell us (in perfect english) about higher strategy and minor tactics, illustrated by many photos. Having interviewed many survivors of the battle he could talk about the personal experiences of individual soldiers, which was a great bonus for a bunch of old soldiers. The tour should have taken 6 hours but eventually ran to something over 7, as David really wanted to share his knowledge, AND he dropped us back to the railway station afterwards. A wonderful experience, highly recommended
Eddie Morren
Eddie Morren
2023-10-04
Met ruim 80 collega, s van het Kröller-Müller Museum was deze rondleiding een erg leuk middagprogramma van het uitje in Arnhem. Verdeeld over drie groepen . Street Art/Hoogtepunten/Slag om Arnhem/ stadswandelingen met tussendoor naar de Eusebiuskerk met zijn glazen balkons en Drankje in een bar wat allemaal via Arnhem live geregeld kon worden.we werden opgehaald in het restaurant waar wij geluncht hebben. Zelfs voor collega, s uit Arnhem is het verrassend leuk. Zijn erg tevreden, helemaal top
Mariella de Boek
Mariella de Boek
2023-09-28
Super leuke tour gemaakt. Helaas was het regenachtig weer, maar dat mocht de pret niet drukken. Petra is super enthousiast en weet veel van de muurschilderingen en volgt de graffitikunstenaars op de voet.
John O'Connell
John O'Connell
2023-09-27
Battle of Arnhem tour 6 hours. We contacted Arnhem Life and had an immediate and helpful response from Petra. Over the next couple of days Petra worked carefully with me to facilitate our tour. She asked if we had any special connections or expectations and also told us our tour could be specifically tailored to our own requirements, I thought this was great. A couple of days before the tour I was contacted by Rudy who gave me his number and photo and told me where and when we would meet. He also asked if we would like him to book a lunch reservation in the former Hartenstein Hotel. True to his word Rudy was waiting for us when we arrived 10 minutes early. Rudy is full of energy and worked hard all day to provide us with as much relevant knowledge as possible whilst taking us around all the important sites. He also brought photographic evidence and artifacts from the battle. We had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed the tour. It was a very special experience for us all. Well done Arnhem Life in every way!
laura geerlings
laura geerlings
2023-09-18
Erg leuke en enthousiaste gids, de tour was afgestemd op onze behoeftes en flexibel! Zeker een aanrader om de stad en zijn verhaal te leren kennen (:

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