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Fall of Paris: June 1940 [Hardcover]

Herbert R. Lottman

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Hardcover, 9 Nov 1992 --  

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sinclair-Stevenson Ltd; UNKNOWN edition (9 Nov 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856191753
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856191753
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 4.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,056,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A dramatic chronicle of the fall of one of the world's great cities covers th five weeks leading up to the German capture of Paris in 1940. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete and Well Written History of Paris, May-June 1940 12 Dec 2001
By John P. Rooney - Published on
"The Fall of Paris, June 1940", by Herbert R. Lottman, sub-titled, "A Dramatic Narrative of the Final Weeks in Paris Before Its Capture by the German Army". HarperCollins, 1992.
This is a lengthy, (410 pages), well written book, describing the last five weeks or so of Paris as a free city before occupation by the German Army. The author, Herbert Lottman, a Native New Yorker, has written on other French subjects, including Marshall Petain, Albert Camus and Flaubert so Lottman is well prepared for this book. Each day from May 9, 1940 to June 23, 1940 is covered in a single chapter. The author did exhaustive research for each chapter. The book is exceedingly complete. After some reading, the reader can be so overwhelmed by the wealth of information that Lottman provides, that the temptation is to sneak ahead to the June 14th Chapter. June 14, 1940, is the day that German troops actually entered Paris.
Lottman brings to life the main actors in the French government, including Premier Paul Reynaud, his ever-interfering mistress, the old general Philippe Petain, and newly promoted general, Charles De Gaulle. By referencing their writings, the author also tells the tales of famous people, such as Jena-Paul Sarte, the philosopher, Maurice Chevalier, the actor, and many different journalists, including William Shirer and Clare Booth Luce. He does not, however, limit the personal reminiscences to the rich and famous, but includes recollections of the common people, including the French sergeant ordered to blow up the Eiffel Tower. Interestingly, one of the more memorable individuals in the book is the American Ambassador to France, William C. Bullitt, a friend of President Franklin Roosevelt. I wonder if H. Lottman chose some of the statements and actions of Ambassador Bullitt to provide a form of comic relief for the serious subject in this serious book.
Even in such a scholarly work, errors creep in. On page 341, he writes, "There were policemen here and their along their way." Clearly, too many possesive "theirs" are present. He wanted, "There were policemen here and there along their way". On page 394, in describing the visit of Adolf Hitler to a conquered Paris, Lottman terms Hitler, "Reichsfuehrer". Hitler was just simply "Der Fuehrer" and it was Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945) who had the title of "Reichsfuehrer". Overall, though, the book is well written and complete to the point of exhaustion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Enlightening 23 Jun 2009
By R. Ashley - Published on
Incredibly thorough, well researched, and nicely written. Contains countless stories about individuals who lived through these events. This book contains more personal accounts than battle details, which was refreshing. However, it was a tad too sparce on covering the battlefront, which made it sometimes seem disconnected from the big picture. A worthy read for anyone interested in the subject. Bravo!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quite Possibly The Worst History - of Anything - Ever Written 15 Oct 2011
By Don Reed - Published on
The Fall of Paris, June 1940, Herbert Lottman; HarperCollinsPublishers (401 pages; hardcover, 1992)

"The essence of good history is well-directed research that knows what to do & [what to] leave out, & also [written] extraordinarily well - & it involves people in their books."

- An unidentified historian, paying a compliment to historian Martin Gilbert at the Politics & Prose Bookstore (WDC, 10/16/05; aired on CPAN3 on 01/27/08).

After finishing The Fall of Paris, initially, I was just going to quote the above as the reasons why - Lottman having failed on all counts save his extensive research - two stars would be a more than generous appraisal. End of review.

Then... as the various margin notes were assembled, came the gradual, staggering realization that I had just finished reading one of the worst history books ever written.

The writing: Tiresome, inert, paceless, tedious & verbose. We're all familiar with the mysterious process whereby after about the first 100 pages, an author finds his "voice" & the book finally becomes worth reading. With this in mind, on or about page 254 of The Fall of Paris is where I suggest you begin.

Despite this purportedly being a serious academic work, footnotes were not used.

Worse, the "Sources" at the end of the book:

A) Do not provide The Fall's respective page numbers that should correspond to the pages of the published books listed as sources.

B) If you want to check a source, you possibly may have to read the entire book that is listed as a source.

The page numbers of the histories & memoirs used in the preparation & writing of The Fall are also not provided (what is listed: The names of the authors, book titles, where published, publishers, & years of publication. Hypothetical example: "André Lemoine, Adieu, Paris: Gallimard, 1972").

(How to competently/conscientiously footnote: See Gordon Brooke-Shepard's "November 1918," Little, Brown and Company, 1981, in which footnotes read, for example: "p. 117. l. [line] 4. Balkan battle strengths in 1915. Luigi Villari, "The Macedonian Campaign, p. 23.")

C) There is no separate, alphabetically-arranged bibliography of sources (books, magazines, newspapers, archive files of unpublished materials, personal interviews, etc.).

Was André Lemoine's "Adieu" used as a source? Start checking, on page 405. Persevere, if necessary, for the next eighteen pages.

D) "Index" Issues (related to & overlapping with "Unclear references, clumsy introductions," etc., see below) arose with the following individuals & entities:

Clare Booth Luce (American journalist, later congresswoman, & since 1935, wife of publisher Henry Luce); Alfred Duff Cooper (English prime minister Winston Churchill's minister of information in 1940 & later, British ambassador to France, 1944-48);

Hans Thilo Schmidt (German civilian; traitor); a "General Schmidt" (brother of Hans); General Rudolf Schmidt (name found in the index & yet, not mentioned on the page provided; possibly but not necessarily the same person as "General Schmidt");

"Rex" (French émigré from Germany, aka, "Stallman," first name unknown & "Rodolphe Lemoine"; French spymaster "handler" of H.T. Schmidt); Paris-Soir (Parisian newspaper); & a residential section of Paris, Belleville.

E) The book's wonderful map of Paris - executed perfectly with clarity, symmetry & grace - lacks a compass, with which the reader could instantly comprehend the main routes of the tens of thousands of war refugees fleeing Belgium & Northern France who were flowing into & out of the French capital in 1940.

Other features of a book that HCP should be forever ashamed of having published (some representative examples are provided):

F) Amateurish expositions; bad writing; cheap shots; factually dubious, contradictory or incorrect assertions; & illogical chronology;

- Cheap Shots: In the tragic context of an overwhelming national (& international) catastrophe, was it really necessary for Lottman to cattily remark that French PM Paul Reynaud looked like "Mickey Mouse"? (p. 10);

- Factually Dubious: "Leopold's [Belgium's] surrender had been an act unprecedented in history" (p. 134; this overlaps into "Wrong Words" - see below - with "unprecedented" being ignorantly employed to describe circumstances that were probably "very unusual");

- Factually Incorrect: "In the end, all of the [British, French, & Belgian] troops [initially stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk] got out of the trap [by naval evacuation]. Not a single soldier remained at Dunkirk to fall into German hands" (p. 170).

G) Is for "Gibberish":

- "On February 26, after dark, enemy reconnaissance plans flew over the Paris region... that [same] night there were sirens - but no planes" (p. 6).

- The only way you can resolve this is that the planes were actually UFOs, which means that they were there - but couldn't exist.

H) Is for historical "Fop Speak":

- Lottman's pretentious narrative interruptions "of course," indeed," "certainly"; &, above all - usually surfacing when the point he is laboring to make is already perfectly obvious - the gratuitous & irritating "indeed" (all of this possibly taking a cue from the preposterously quasi-italicized corporate title of the book's publisher, "HarperCollinsPublishers");

I) Is for inane remarks; inept, confusing, or ridiculous analogies & comparisons; incorrect or tortured verb tenses (with one dual qualifier, see "Not English"); the incompetent use of the word "but" (seriously!); & missing reflexive pronouns & run-on or incomplete sentences (not intentionally written as such for "stylistic effect");

- "YOU ARE BITTER, DEFEATED... YOU SEE EVERYTHING IN BLACK! The remedy was Carter's Little Liver Pills" (p. 186) - read a stock newspaper advertisement, with text left unchanged after May 10, 1940 & with Paris by June 4th reeling from the impending German attack on the French capital.

- "Untoppable. END the paragraph right there. You've made your point, brilliantly." Not Lottman, who couldn't resist adding an inane & incomprehensible comment about another advertisement that had appeared on the same day.

- Also up for an Inanity Award is the phrase, "surrounded on three sides" (p. 252). Gee, what could be wrong with that description?

J) "Not English" (with one dual qualifier, see "incorrect or tortured verb tenses"); serial comma typing & other punctuation errors;

- "N.E." is shorthand for "not written in English" (p. 335):

- "The three officers held their pistols in outstretched arms, ready to expend their twenty-four bullets, but targets lacked" (s/be, "but enemy soldiers did not appear").

K) Verbosity: Dozens of examples noted & possibly dozens more exist, the combined effect of which tells us that the editing of The Fall was -at the very least - performed in a perfunctory & unprofessional manner;

L) Unclear references, clumsy introductions & the inept introduction of full, formal names; words/phrases misplaced in sentences; & "Wrong Words."

- "Wrong Words." Has anyone else ever seen the word "prejudicial" so incompetently (& comically) employed? (p. 123):

- "An editorialist in the same [French newspaper,] `Le Figaro'... was aware of the frightful exodus [of civilian refugees & soldiers from defeated French divisions] from the north, resulting in traffic bottlenecks prejudicial to the military."


I shudder to think that Herbert Lottman - in 1992 (& possibly still today) a history professor at, of all places, Harvard University - actually had anything to do with the appraisal & grading of the writing of the students enrolled in his classes.


The anecdote for "The Fall of Paris - June 1940"?

It is - conveniently enough but not ironically - "Is Paris Burning?," the superb history of the retaking of the city by the Allied military forces in August 1944 (written by Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre; Simon & Schuster, 1965).

And reading IBP will pay an auxiliary dividend - the rude but necessary reminder of how the general standards of American publishers were adulterated in the decades following the publication of "Is Paris Burning?"
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book 23 April 2010
By Nicholas Surak - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book arrived very quickly and in the condition advertised. Would definitely use this seller again, as this was not an easy find.

As for the book itself, it is great. As another reviewer notes, there is so much information that at times the reader could feel like they need to come up for air, but at the same time I could not put this book down. The book captures the mood and events in France's greatest city as it becomes increasingly clear that the German advance through Europe will not be stopped. Given the iconic images of the liberation of Paris more than four years later that so many are familiar with, anyone with an interest in this period of history would do well to pick up this book and deepen their understanding of some of the most pivotal years in Western civilization's history. I would also recommend reading Churchill's memoirs of this time period, since it adds additional perspective to the strategic position of British and French forces in the spring of 1940.
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