I hope to go down in history as the woman who turned down 7,000 sex-starved Frenchmen. ~ Nancy Wake.
When I plan out Star's curriculum I try & go for things that are a little left of centre, a little unusual, or just downright odd. This term it was all about the Resistance movement of WWII. Let's face it, my ditzy daughter was never going to be interested in how many bren guns were used, or points of military strategy [as the Irish lads, who are, will testify], or what the different planes looked like. She liked Hitler strutting round like a little rooster. He was a vegetarian & built the autobahns which are still the best roads in Europe. Sorry. Digressing.
That being so we looked at the war from a slightly different angle. I don't know that Star was all that impressed but I was. The Dutch implemented a series of strikes while under German occupation, the only occupied country to so blatantly offer passive resistance to the Germans. It also gave us a chance to read about one of the greatest heros of the French Resistance, a N.Z/Australian who became the most wanted agent of the Gestapo & nick~named the white mouse for her ability to avoid capture. Nancy Wake.
I first learnt about Nancy Wake when I read her biography in high school & I have never forgotten it, perhaps because I am not at all war~like myself & a woman doing what Nancy did, in the way she did it in the best larrikin tradition, really caught my imagination. She was as cool as a cucumber, even when interrogated by the Gestapo, & years later, when asked by an interviewer, declared she had never been frightened in her life! Never? Really?
The youngest of 6 children, her father abandoned his family shortly after they arrived in Australia, returning to N.Z to make a film & just disappearing from their lives. Nancy's mother was strict in her religion; Nancy was independent & rebellious. By 16 she'd had enough & fled, becoming a nurse before heading overseas to New York & finally London. She became a reporter & travelled Europe & even interviewed Hitler himself but it was while in Germany she saw first hand the inhumanity the NAZIs dished out to the Jews & swore that if she was ever in a position to be able to do something, then she would. I'd say she kept that promise.
In 1939 she married the love of her life, French industrialist Henry Fiocca. Six month later The Germans invaded France & Nancy became a courier for the embryonic French resistance movement. She probably helped over 1 000 escaped prisoners & downed airmen escape down one of the many underground railways. Beautiful & privileged she was able to move about the country in ways that few others could but eventually she came under suspicion & fled the country. Her husband stayed & was eventually captured, tortured & killed in the Gestapos efforts to locate his wife.
It took Nancy 6 attempts to cross into Spain & then into England & she was caught & interrogated for 4 days by the French milice on one of those attempts. She became one of 39 women in the French section of the British SOE & was parachuted back into France in April 1944 to help organise the resistance for D~Day. She led 7 000 resistance fighters in acts of sabotage & guerrilla warfare ~ which explains the opening quote. She was one feisty woman, who led the men she commanded & was quite capable of slitting a guard's throat to ensure he did not give the alarm. Nancy's section, the Auvergne , gave the Reich more headaches than any other & eventually the Germans massed 22 000 troops to obliterate the 7000 maquis. They escaped, damaging Germany for a cost of 1 400 lives for just 100 of their own.
At one point the Germans were so desperate to catch the irrepressible Nancy they put a reward of 5 million francs on her head. Despite this Nancy survived & is the most decorated woman of the war. When she dies, yep, she's still alive & kicking, she wishes to be cremated & her ashes spread over the hills she fought to free & where so many of her comrades perished. She is an amazing woman.