A Woman of No Importance

by Sonia Purnell

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What was one of the biggest dangers she encountered?

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One of the most dangerous situations that Virginia encountered was breaking out the Mauzac prisoners from Perigueux. There were twelve agents imprisoned there who weren't being released, so she made a daring plan that would help them escape. One aspect of this required the dark nights during the new moon in July. If the escape took longer to pull off, it would be too bright at night to help the men get away.

Messages were being sneaked into the prison in tube-shaped aspirin containers. At one point, a contact put the tube into the mass sergeant's jacket instead of the one belonging to a friendly guard. This meant that their entire plan was exposed. Virginia had to come up with fifty thousand francs to pay him off and keep the entire plan from failing.

Once the men were ferried out of the prison, they came to Virginia, who helped get them out of France and into Spain.

The real danger of this plan was how the Nazis reacted to the escape of the prisoners. They were angry and looking for someone to blame. This put Virginia even more obviously in their crosshairs even as they cracked down on the resistance in France. They were desperately trying to track down the people who engineered the Mauzac escape. They were even surveilling the American consulate in Lyon where Virginia spent time.

Her role in the breakout caused Hauptsturmführer Klaus Barbie, a brutal Nazi, to be especially interested in finding Virginia. He was extremely dangerous and she wasn't aware—at first—that he was dedicated to seeking her out. He was known for things like waterboarding, sexual torture, and disfiguring his prisoners.

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