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Liberation: The Bitter Road to Freedom, Europe 1944-1945 Hardcover – 22 Jan 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (22 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571227724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571227723
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 820,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"A powerful and important new work of history.... A thorough, passionate corrective to any simple telling of the terrible last year of this war." -- Financial Times

"An eloquent presentation of what are too often called war's `collateral effects.' Chaos, destruction and suffering are not collateral. They are fundamental."
-- History Book Club

"Remarkable . . . Underlines that the liberation of Europe was both a major military triumph and a human tragedy of epic proportions." -- Irish Times

"The first book I have read that explicitly addresses the plight of civilians during the `crusade for Europe.' ... This tale vividly demonstrates that there was no cause for triumphalism in the condition of Europe following the defeat of Hitler." -- Max Hastings, Sunday Times

Review

"Remarkable . . . Underlines that the liberation of Europe was both a major military triumph and a human tragedy of epic proportions."

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
William Hitchcock's study of the liberation of Europe in the Second World War is actually four interrelated books in one. The first book looks at the experience of civilians in northwestern Europe amidst the fighting during the final months of the war. Theirs is a story of painful, often overlooked hardship, as they were subjected to bombs and shells that did not discriminate between them and the German occupiers. For many Belgians, the Battle of the Bulge meant living through the thick of the fighting, while the Dutch, though spared much direct combat, suffered starvation from the disruption of food supplies.

The second book shifts to an examination of the fighting in the east. Here Hitchcock provides a broader account, one that begins with the German invasion in 1941. This allows him to recount the atrocities committed by Nazi forces, something that allows him to put the conduct of Soviet troops into context. Civilians are much less central to Hitchcock's analysis here, as he also discusses postwar planning for Germany's fate. It is only when Germany itself becomes the battleground that the civilians reemerge as the central focus of the narrative, where again they are presented as victims of the savagery of war.

The final two sections concentrate on the development and administration of relief efforts for those who survived the fighting. The third book addresses the problem posed by 'displaced persons', the millions of refugees created by the war. Here he examines the efforts not just of the Allied forces but of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), a newly-formed agency that sought to improve on the private relief efforts that characterized the last war.
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Format: Paperback
Mr. Hitchcock writes in a high dudgeon of righteous indignation and admittedy it is outrageous stuff. There have been many world catastrophes but none so well documented as this one and so we get an orgy of excess, almost perverse in it's detail. It maybe that the bare facts elicit an extreme response and we can, therefore, take this into account when balancing the veracity of this high-pitched scream. What is less laudable is that he still seems to employ the same high-pitched rant in some of his judgements, especially about the British treatment of the DP's in Belsen. Looking at the bare facts as he lays them out you can see that Rosensaft, a left-wing Zionist, has only one agenda and that is to stir trouble remorselessly to agitate for a Zionist homeland, and yet Mr. Hitchcock seems to go along with this as if the remarkable transformation of Belsen in the summer of 45 hadn't happened and that the British had only supplanted the Nazis as sadistic overlords. (I wonder how long Rosensaft would have lasted if he had protested to Kramer?Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
It is very difficult to write originally about a subject (1939-45) where the bibliography is already tens of thousands of titles long.
Hitchcock writes in a scholarly and engaging way, has done a great deal of research, and approaches his subject from very many angles--yet the book is in my view not the masterpiece some suggest.
1) It is not original to write about rape by Allied troops. We have been hearing about this for about 40 years.
2) Nor was I amazed to read that the liberators did not on the whole see themselves as saving the Jews.
3) The inconsistency between chapters irritated me. In one chapter the Americans like the Germans, wish to forgive them, and find them friendly, attractive and well-fed. In another they hate them and hope the Russians will punish them. In one chapter Belgium is spared the full horror of war (compared to Holland), in another it is used as the example of German cruelty to civilian resisters.
4) Imbalance and omissions are also troubling. How curious to say the SS shot a handful of Belgians while retreating in 1944, yet not deal with what they did to Jews and Poles in Warsaw, and to describe the humiliation of 12 German soldiers' girlfriends by the French Resistance at Cherbourg yet omit the killing of between 4,000 and 15,000 Vichyites and collaborationists over the coming months.
Similarly, why cite 130 air raid deaths in central Normandy in the weeks leading up to D-Day, and mention Fromentin as a source, then not mention the massive death toll (3,000+) caused by the RAF at Le Havre 3 months later--quite the worst Allied raid on a "friendly population" of the whole war?
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