Memorial held for WWII hero Nancy Wake

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – The Jewish community of Wellington, New Zealand, held a memorial ceremony for Nancy Wake, Australia’s most decorated World War II servicewoman.

Wake, who was codenamed “The White Mouse” because of her ability to elude the Nazis, died in London on Aug. 7. She was 98. 

Flowers were laid Tuesday at the memorial to Wake on Wellington’s Oriental Bay, about a hundred yards from where she was born in 1912. Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur joined members of the Wellington Jewish community at the memorial.

The previous day, the mayor of Wellington laid flowers at the same memorial.

“After seeing the persecution of Jews in Vienna in 1938, Nancy Wake acted with immense bravery against the Nazi German occupation of France,” said Inge Woolf, director of the Wellington Holocaust Research and Education Centre.

Wake, a New Zealand native who grew up in Sydney, 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.

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 that “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 reportedly was 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.”

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," she recalled. "When we were going out of Vienna they took our photos. That was my experience of Hitler."

 

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