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Glamorous WWII heroine’s medals fetch record price

Violette Szabo volunteered for service as an undercover agent; at age 23, she was caught, tortured and killed by the Nazis

Portrait photo of the French World War II secret agent Violette Szabo, taken prior to her capture by German forces in June 1944. (Imperial War Museum record HU 16541/Wikimedia/public domain)
Portrait photo of the French World War II secret agent Violette Szabo, taken prior to her capture by German forces in June 1944. (Imperial War Museum record HU 16541/Wikimedia/public domain)

LONDON (AP) — Medals awarded to a glamorous World War II heroine fetched a record price at auction on Wednesday, reviving memories of the spy whose exploits earned her one of Britain’s most prestigious honors.

Violette Szabo’s George Cross and other medals sold for 312,000 pounds ($446,691) including commission. That’s far above the previous record of 93,000 pounds for a George Cross, a decoration awarded to civilians and service personnel for courage, auctioneers Dix Noonan Web said.

The medals were purchased by a representative of a collector and will be displayed at the Imperial War Museum.

Szabo, an Anglo-French undercover agent, was tortured and killed by the Nazis after being captured after the D-Day landings when she was 23.

The daughter of a British World War I veteran and his French wife, she spent time in both countries and went to school in south London. In 1940, she married a French Foreign Legionnaire, Etienne Szabo, and had a daughter, Tania.

When he died at El Alamein in Egypt, she sought to avenge his death by joining the Special Operations Executive, which carried out sabotage and espionage during the war.

Szabo’s story became well known in Britain in part because of a film which includes a scene of Tania, then a child, receiving the George Cross from King George VI after her mother’s death.

“I curtsied as I knew so well how to do,” she would say later. “And he (the King) leant forward and pinned the George Cross onto my right hand side, saying that as my mother’s representative I must always wear it on my right-hand side.”

Now 73, Tania, who has no children, said she wanted to sell the medals to make sure they would be seen and that her mother’s memory would be recalled for generations to come.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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