War is always an interesting time for the world. The World Wars were major turning points in history, culture and technology and there are some people who stand out above the crowd in terms of their contributions. With that in mind I want to introduce you to some female warriors from World War II that you may not have heard of.
Nancy Wake was called The White Mouse by the Germans and was a guerilla fighter and allied spy. Quite the world traveller she was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, lived in London and New York as a journalist and was living in Marseille when the Germans invaded France. She worked with the French Resistance, also called The Maquis, smuggling out men, moving contraband supplies and even was quite skilled at falsifying documents. She was so effective at she did that in 1943 she had a several million franc bounty on her head. War demands certain things from people and it appears that Wake had no difficulty in killing Germans, with reports of her even strangling one SS officer with her bare hands. She led combat missions with the Maquis and was almost surprisingly successful despite being vastly outnumbered. After the war she was awarded the George Medal, the US Medal of Freedom, the Medaille de la Resistance and the Croix de Guerre.
Virginia Hall was an allied spy involved in the war effort even before the USA had entered the war. She worked with the British Special Operatives Executive. She spoke English, French, Italian and German, born in Maryland and moving to France, Germany and Austria to study. She is especially notable because of her missing leg. In 1932 she accidentally shot herself and half of her left leg was amputated. This made her easily recognizable, but somehow she managed to elude capture despite the Gestapo hunting her in France. She was actively involved in the resistance, assisting safe houses, organizing supply drops and trained allied troops in guerrilla warfare. She even escaped France via the Pyrenees on foot, well, one real foot at least.
Sophie Scholl is incredible. There’s not really another way to describe a young German woman living in the heart of Nazi power who looked death in the face without flinching. Sophie was a dissenter, doing her best to stir up the German people to stand against the Nazi regime. She, along with her friend and brother, wrote pamphlets denouncing the regime as part of the White Rose Resistance. She became a teacher in 1940 when she was only 19 and for the early years of the war she was not much affected, attending the University of Munich to study biology and philosophy. It wasn’t until 1942 that she learned of the crimes the regime had committed. In under a year she was arrested for her role in the pamphlet distribution. Her last words are an inspiration and I don’t know many who could meet their fate with such conviction and grace. “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
Could you imagine being in the thick of a war like that? Imagine being hunted and standing up against a monstrous power like the Third Reich. These women are three among many, brave souls who fought to make a difference in the world, some at the cost of their own lives. Tomorrow is Remembrance Day and I wanted to share at least a small part of the stories of these women. Stories about individual people are a more intimate way of experience world altering events, a connecting point between then and now.
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