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The White Mouse

While it’s not hard researching the Nazi occupation of Paris, sometimes it can be difficult reading about it. There are so many stories of the Nazis’ brutality, viciousness, and policies that you sit back and wonder how human beings could turn into such monsters (and for many, taking pride and pleasure in their actions). Yet just when you don’t want to continue that line of research, you run across stories of people who, despite knowing death awaited them if caught, acted with kindness, bravery, and unselfishness.

This is one of those stories.

 

Nancy Wake wearing British Army uniform. Photo by anonymous (c. 1945). Australian War Memorial. PD-Copyright Expiration. Wikimedia Commons.
Nancy Wake wearing British Army uniform. Photo by anonymous (c. 1945). Australian War Memorial. PD-Copyright Expiration. Wikimedia Commons.

Nancy Wake (1912–2011) was one of the most remarkable women during World War II. The French Resistance primarily used women as couriers or perhaps radio operators but not Nancy Wake. She wanted and demanded a role beyond those duties. Nancy would eventually become the leader of more than 7,000 maquisards (Le Maquis) and that was during her second phase of resistance activities (more on that later). Her reputation was built during the early years of the occupation based on her exploits, which earned her a Gestapo code name and a sizeable bounty on her head.

Watch her story here.

The White Mouse

Nancy and Henri Fiocci. Photo by anonymous (c. late 1930s). Source unknown. Wikimedia.
Nancy and Henri Fiocci. Photo by anonymous (c. late 1930s). Source unknown. Wikimedia.

Nancy began her resistance activities almost immediately after the Germans began their occupation of France. She had moved to Paris from New Zealand (via New York and London) during the 1930s. By 1937, she had met and would eventually marry Henri Fiocca (1893–1943), a wealthy French industrialist living in Marseille, France. Read More The White Mouse

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The Monuments Woman

Cover of Rose Valland: Resistance at the Museum. Author: Corinne Bouchoux. England: Laurel Publishing, 2013.
Cover of Rose Valland: Resistance at the Museum. Author: Corinne Bouchoux. England: Laurel Publishing, 2013.

Almost sixty years after the end of World War II, the French government formally recognized Rose Valland (1898–1980) for her efforts as a Résistant during the Nazi Occupation of Paris between 1940 and 1944. A plaque was placed on the south wall of the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume (the Jeu de Paume museum) commemorating Rose’s role in saving precious art stolen by the Germans.

Rose and her boss, Jacques Jaujard (1895–1967), were responsible for ensuring 100% of the Louvre artwork was returned to the museum. Jaujard convinced the Germans to keep their hands off of public or state owned art. Rose was responsible for directing the Americans and British to the various sites in Germany where the Germans had stored the tens of thousands of pieces of artwork stolen from French private collections and other occupied countries.

The Monuments Men

Many of us are familiar with the story of a small group of men who, in the latter stages of World War II, were given the responsibility for identifying cultural works of art, protecting these priceless items from destruction by advancing armies, and tracking down the art stolen by the Nazis. These men were called The Monuments Men.

The movie The Monuments Men was based on Robert Edsel’s best seller The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. It is a fascinating story of the efforts of these men and one woman.

One of the real heroes of this monumental task was a French art historian, art curator, and member of the French Resistance. Rose Valland was also a spy operating right under the noses of the Nazis.

Rose Valland was The Monuments Woman. Read More The Monuments Woman