Acts of HEROISM have always fascinated me since I was a child, sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table, and listening to stories about heroic individuals told to me by Uncle Tony. Over the years I have come up with a very simple definition of heroism: It is an individual or group of individuals, putting their lives on the line, coming to the aid of the helpless and badly abused, when they could simply had turned their backs and walked away. Very little infuriates me more than when I hear people call a person like the former, 45th President of the United States, a hero. In fact, he is the definition of a coward.
“A Woman of No Importance,” is the story Virginia Hall. Despite a prosthetic leg, she helped light the flame of what would be called The French Resistance, which at the very start wasn’t much of a resistance on the part of the French people. In fact, The Vichy government that was comprised of French political puppets, used by the Nazis to enforce their idea of a perfect state, had very little problems rounding up suspected French citizens of espionage and putting them in prison, shooting them, or sending them off to German concentration camps.
It was the British government, at first and throughout, who dropped spies into occupied France and the free zone of Lyon, who built up groups of resistance to cause havoc against the occupying Nazis, and it was Ms. Hall, an American, working for the British, whose courage, spy craft, organizational skills and the ability to recruit that the Gestapo transmitted was “the most dangerous of all allied spies. We must find her and destroy her.” Well, they never found her and her every day heroics for over four years helped win the war and was in many ways responsible for the successful Allied invasion at Normandy.
The author, Sonia Purnell, has done a masterful job of not only telling the story of this extraordinary and courageous woman, but also in giving the reader a great history lesson of what it was like in occupied France during the war.
Sadly, the post French government of Charles de Gaulle, like Stalin, never gave the British and the allies the credit they deserved for liberating their country. In fact, Mr. de Gaulle looked down upon the British and Americans, and it would take over 50th years for the French government to truly recognize the heroism of Virginia Hall.