August 8, 2011
WWII resistance heroine Nancy Wake dies
Nancy Wake, a New Zealand-born World War II heroine codenamed “The White Mouse” because of her ability to elude the Nazis, has died.
Wake died in London on Aug. 7. She was 98.
The resistance fighter, who grew up in Sydney, was Australia’s most decorated World War II servicewoman, and was awarded France’s highest military honor, the Legion d’Honneur, as well as three Croix de Guerre and a French Resistance Medal.
She also received Britain’s George Medal and the U.S. Medal of Freedom and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2004.
Wake, who left Australia for Europe at a young age, once described a visit to Austria in 1933: “In Vienna they had a big wheel and they had the Jews tied to it, and the storm troopers were there, whipping them. When we were going out of Vienna they took our photos. That was my experience of Hitler,” Wake said.
After joining the resistance, she was parachuted into France in 1944, where she battled the Nazis. She was quoted some 60 years later as saying: “The only good German was a dead one and the deader the better. I rejoice in the fact I killed them, I only regret I couldn’t kill more.”
She was reportedly briefly at the top of the Gestapo’s most-wanted list, with a bounty of 5 million francs, dead or alive.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Wake was “a woman of exceptional courage” who “helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end.”
New Zealand’s Veterans’ Affairs Minister Judith Collins said Wake “cast aside all regard for her own safety and put the cause of freedom first.”