Jannetje Johanna Schaft was born on September 16, 1920 in the city of Haarlem, the Netherlands, about 12 miles west of the capital Amsterdam. Jannetje’s nickname was Jo or Jopie. Hannie was the name she used in the resistance, and the name by which she became famous.
Hannie was a shy and withdrawn girl, with beautiful red hair. She loved school and was an excellent student at the top of her class. She grew up in a family that was very socially committed but lived a relatively secluded life with overprotective parents.
Initially she wanted to become a Dutch language teacher, however she decided against teaching because she dreaded keeping order in the classroom. Instead, because principles such as justice and equality were instilled in her, she decided to study law at the University of Amsterdam. She specialized in international law and her dream was to go to Geneva after graduating to join the League of Nations (the forerunner of the United Nations).