Women Heroes of World War II
Women Heroes of World War II
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Reading Level:8 - 10
Women Heroes of World War II
Who were the heroes of World War II? Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, who refused to surrender while the mighty German air force tried to bomb Great Britain into submission? Jean Moulin, a man who worked tirelessly to unify the French Resistance and died under torture rather than betray his fellow resisters? Or were the heroes of World War II the thousands of Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, and helped put an end to the Nazi occupation of Europe? All these men were heroes. Without their courageous acts, Nazi Germany certainly would not have been defeated.
But there were other heroes in World War II, many whose names are not as familiar as those of U.S. generals Patton and Eisenhower but whose courageous actions helped win the war. These are the women heroes of World War II. A few of them were already quite famous before the war, and some of them became so afterward, but many more were simply ordinary. They were hairdressers and watchmakers, social workers and university students, teenagers and housewives, all of them very different women who had one thing in common: they were outraged at Hitler’s actions.
Hitler’s troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, which officially began World War II. Shortly after Hitler invaded Poland, France and Great Britain—technically allies of Poland—declared war on Germany, and Hitler in turn declared war on both of them. But France and Great Britain did not come to Poland’s aid, and for eight months after the Polish invasion nothing happened between Great Britain, France, and Germany during this peaceful but tense period called the Drôle de Guerre (French for “strange” or “funny” war).
Then, on April 9, 1940, German troops invaded Denmark and Norway, claiming to be protecting them from a possible Allied invasion (but in fact using them as buffers against a possible British attack on Germany). On May 10, 1940, German troops simultaneously invaded France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium.
Although there was some initial defensive fighting from each of these countries, by the end of June 1940 the Germans had conquered most of Western Europe. Hitler could now attempt to implement the ideas he had written about years earlier in his rambling memoir, Mein kampf (My Struggle). In the book he described his desire to make Germany the dominant culture in Europe. Hitler planned to eventually “Germanize” those he had conquered from “Aryan” countries (whose populations had Germanic features; very generally, blue-eyed blonds), forcing them to forsake their own culture for that of Germany. As for the Slavic peoples (whom he considered to be inferior to the Aryans) such as the Soviets and the Poles, he planned to destroy or enslave them and then take their lands and goods for Germans and Germanized Aryans.
Hitler seized the occupied countries’ farmlands, oil fields, mines, and factories. Then, depending on their owners’ race, he either murdered them, shipped them off to forced labor camps, or left them behind to keep the country running and survive on what they could manage through strict ration cards.
About the Author-
- Kathryn J. Atwood is an educator and writer. She has contributed to Midwest Book Review; PopMatters.com; War, Literature, and the Arts; and Women's Independent Press. She lives in Forest Park, Illinois.
- Kenneth Koskodan, author of No Greater Ally; The Untold Story of Poland’s Forces in World War II "These stories will restore your faith in the human spirit and encourage us all to remember to do what is right, because it is right. Women Heroes of World War II is a must read for anyone who has ever asked themselves: 'What can I do? Can one person really make a difference?'"
- Rabbi Malka Drucker and Gay Block, coauthors of Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust “Kathryn Atwood offers a new face to World War II heroes to include young women who left traditional feminine roles to carry guns, falsify papers, and shelter the hunted.”
- Rita Kramer, author of Flames in the Field: The Story of Four SOE Agents in Occupied France “Inspiring accounts of the lives of women--some of them still in their teens--whose courage made a difference in the dark days of World War II."
- Judith Pearson, author of The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy “Those in Women Heroes of World War II surely played a major role in turning the tide of the war in the Allies’ favor. Kathryn Atwood’s book will be a wonderful inspiration to girls and women.”
- Kirkus Reviews "Atwood's admiration and enthusiasm for her subjects is apparent in these engaging profiles, and readers will likely be inspired to investigate these fascinating women further."
- Bookloons.com "This eye-opening collection [is] one that readers of either sex and any age will find fascinating."
- The Children's War blog "Very moving account...well written, well researched...ideal as a teaching tool."
PublisherChicago Review Press
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