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Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-44 [Paperback]

Charles Glass
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Feb 2010

An elegantly written and highly informative account of a group of Americans living in Paris when the city fell to the Nazis in June 1940.

In the early hours of 14 June 1940, Nazi troops paraded through the streets of Paris, marking the beginning of the city’s four-year occupation. French troops withdrew in order to avoid a battle and the potential destruction of their capital. It wasn't long before German tanks rumbled past the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs Elysees to the Place de la Concorde.

The American community in Paris was the largest in Continental Europe, totalling approximately 30,000 before the Second World War. Although Ambassodor Bullitt advised those without vital business in the city to leave in 1939, over half of the Americans in Paris chose to stay. Many had professional and family ties to the city; the majority, though, had a peculiarly American love for the city, rooted in the bravery of the Marquis de la Fayette and the 17,000 Frenchmen who volunteered to fight for American independence in 1776.

An eclectic group, they included black soldiers from the Harlem Hellfighters, who were determined not to return to the racial segregation that they faced at home, rich socialites like Peggy Guggenheim and Florence Jay Gould, as well as painters, musicians, bankers and businessmen. There were those whose lives went on as if the Germans were ephemera, those who collaborated and those, like Dr Sumner Jackson and Etta Shiber, who worked underground for the resistance movement.

This is a book about adventure, intrigue, passion and deceit, and one which follows its characters into the Maquis, the concentration camps and overseas. Filled with a huge amount of new analysis on the Second World War, ‘Americans in Paris’ is a fascinating, revealing and moving read.

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Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-44 + The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 000722852X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007228522
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Glass is the author of 'Americans in Paris', 'Tribes with Flags', 'The Tribes Triumphant', 'Money for Old Rope' and 'The Northern Front: An Iraq War Diary'. A world-famous journalist and broadcaster, he was Chief Middle East Correspondent for ABC News from 1983 to 1993, and has covered wars and political upheaval throughout the world. His writing appears in the Independent and the Spectator. He divides his time between Paris, Tuscany and London.
Visit his website at

Product Description


‘[A] fascinating and absorbing account…he makes us think again about the nature of life in occupied Paris and refreshes what many would consider something of a tired and overworked period of contemporary history…Glass writes with great fluency and verve and evident scholarship and has unearthed facts and figures that both illuminate and perturb.’ William Boyd, Sunday Times

‘Charles Glass’s highly impressive new book tells us of an assortment of US citizens who remained in Paris during the war. Glass describes the various realities with just the right combination of objectivity and compassion; this is a moving and deeply thought-provoking book.’ Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

‘An account of the 2,000 Americans who remained in Paris during the Second World War is rich in intrigue and heroism…for anyone interested in France during this period it is a fascinating treat.’ Antony Beevor, Daily Telegraph

‘Wartime France comes alive in Glass’s new book…a fine piece of historical research, and powerful insight into one of the darkest periods of modern European history.’ Evening Standard


Book of the Week -- 5 stars; 'most of the detail is fascinating and Glass does possess a journalist's ability to tamp an enormous amount of info into a very small space.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Full of fascinating detail, but uneven 23 Feb 2011
This is, as many reviewers have said, an extremely well-researched book, telling the story of the Americans caught in Paris at the outbreak of world war two, while the country was still officially neutral though very much on the side of the free French and the British and against the Nazis and Vichy. The author has chosen to tell the story through the experience of a myriad of individuals, ranging from those who are unequivocally heroes - in particular Dr Sumner Jackson, chief surgeon of the American Hospital, who refused to admit German army patients and ran an escape network for allied airmen throughout the occupation - to some more dubious characters.

The closeness to power of many of these individuals also at times provides fascinating insights into the war. But it also becomes annoying - I felt at times I was reading a kind of Harpers-&-Queen-goes-to-war, where the experiences of posh people are foregrounded over the real suffering that was going on. An example of the extraneous, gossipy detail about minor characters: "A Pan Am employee handed Rene an urgent message from Marguerite Leland, FDR's longtime private secretary and, unknown to Rene, sometime mistress of Ambassador Bullitt."

Much less boring is the fascinating insight the book gives into the bond between France and the US stemming from the American revolution, when the French were the first to send troops to help them fight the British. And FDR's covert or (perhaps not so covert) support for the British before the US was actually at war. And the racism of the US armed forces - Leclerc's 2nd armoured division was given a key role in the allied invasion of France because it was the whitest French unit.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 23 Jun 2009
Several times in this book and in publicity material, the author stresses that thousands of Americans, black and white, lived in Paris during the war, and it is a terrible disappointment that he ignores all but four of them. These four are a motley, if interesting, group which give little shape to the whole picture of either Americans in Paris or Paris by itself during the occupation, for that matter, as the book breezes all over the map following these figures chronologically wherever they go. The book is definitely mislabeled. It would have been far better to call it Four Americans in France During the Occupation, but perhaps that would have limited sales.

It's not so bad that it has the wrong title, but my real frustration comes from the fact that the author has two weaknesses as a writer: he doesn't know how to shape his material in anything but the loosest configuration and he is compulsive about throwing in information just because he has it. For example, in one passage when extremely minor character #1 writes to extremely minor character #2, the author points out that it just happened to be--how fascinating!--extremely minor character #1's 47th birthday when he wrote this letter. Or he lets himself off extremely easily by dishing up an easy serving of material that he hasn't bothered to put in the book. There's a hoary paragraph about a black American watching the American army of liberation marching through the city--a man who is never mentioned anywhere else in the book but this paragraph--and noticing that there are no black faces in the parade. This segregation is no news to anybody, but how that man lived in Paris, how he got there, what his name was, how he survived the occupation--that would have been truly new information and fascinating beyond measure.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Veteran Journalist Glass produces a polished and intriguing account of the lives and choices made by an odd assortment of Americans in Paris during the second world war. He shows that easy choices could not be made and the ingenuity needed in the ever changing clouds of these years. entertaining and informative.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars americans in paris 29 Oct 2010
This the story of some of the 5000 Americans who stayed in Paris duri9ng the German occupation from June 1940 to August 1944. Many stayed for business or family ties,lo0ve vof Paris or disenchantment with America.
Life remained reasonably quiet until America entered the war when many were interned and most blacks (except Josephine Bailey- the singer) were sent to cocentration camps.
The book in 7 parts traces the history of the Americans on a chronlogical basis.
Very well written and researched with an excellent notes section and bibliography.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history 27 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For amateurs of the history of France during WW2, the story of the Americans who stayed in France during the Nazi occupation is an eye-opener
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting aspect of World War 2 History. 11 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This account was not easy to get into, the first chapters introduced lots of names, all totally unfamiliar to me, and as a non-American not easy to place in context. Gradually it became clear that there would be several threads to the book revolving around some main individuals with varying degrees of interconnection. The history is told from an American viewpoint. The theory and practicality of "neutrality" during the Nazi era is explored. The roles of the Vichy or collaborationist French and the Free or resistant French are also examined. Ambivalence about trust between the Allies comes through. References to the English or British are not always complimentary or reassuring, I persevered to the end of the book. I am glad I read it, it filled in a large gap in my knowledge about this period, but as the title indicates it covers a small and quite specific subject.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read
Excellent detail. Must-read for those interested in this period. Really gets to the heart of American society in Paris; the artists, writers and charity workers that fell in love... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Emmy88
4.0 out of 5 stars Different lives, different paths, different choices, but some...
This book follows the lives of a number of American citizens - some natural-born, some the French-born children of Americans parents, other naturalised citizens - who chose to... Read more
Published 21 months ago by C. Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A wonderful atmospheric story of the 5000 Americans who chose to remain in Paris under Nazi occupation. Read more
Published on 3 Nov 2011 by Mr. Leong Wai Hong
5.0 out of 5 stars Nazi Germans
An excellent book. It tells much about Americans and abouy the German occupation of Paris
Published on 28 Oct 2010 by Derek J. Bowden
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing story, characters you care about...
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. I found I really cared about all the varied characters the author had chosen to follow through the complex time of the Nazi... Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2010 by F Homan
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight
We Brits see the war not unnaturally through our own lens. This is a slant on the action - or lack of it - that we don't get to hear much of. Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2010 by Guy Cornwall
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account
Charles Glass has written an excellent book. By focusing predominantly on a handful of people he really brings to life the realities of living in occupied Paris during WW2. Read more
Published on 1 May 2010 by D. P. Mankin
4.0 out of 5 stars Good treatment of a neglected time
athis fine treatment covers a time period neglected by many historians. Well written for students of WWII and casual readers. Read more
Published on 5 Jun 2009 by Carl E. Abramson
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