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on 16 September 2013
Storming the Eagle's Nest is a not just a fascinating and largely untold history of Hitler's war in the Alps, but a great read.

Unlike the dry history books of old, Jim Ring conveys the complex and riveting story of the role the Alps played in WWII in a compelling and accessible manner.

It is clear the author has full command of the many cold hard facts, but it is his ability to convey the human dimension as well as the political that makes it such a resounding success.

Before reading this, I had no idea of the ebb and flow of the war in and around the Alps. It is an aspect of the conflict that we, in Britain, have largely overlooked.

In great style, Jim Ring has now made ample amends for this discrepancy.
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on 13 September 2013
I have to say I was savouring the reading of this book but, sadly, once I finished, I ultimately came away feeling a little disappointed.

I approached this volume with enthusiasm as, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no other recent books telling the story of the Alps at war in such a holistic fashion - the region really does have a mystical and romantic feel about it (a point Mr. Ring labours) and at the same time I also have to admit that unlike the previous reviewer, my knowledge of the wartime history of the area was somewhat scanty; I for one was unclear how the history of the region might have all fitted together for example. This bigger picture scene setting was well done, especially when discussing the precarious positioning of Switzerland throughout the war.

So in the context of the above comment, I would have to say that my disappointment was twofold. First, I found the lack of depth frustrating; there simply was not enough of what looks tantalisingly like some really fascinating detail. This, to me at least, is the missed opportunity for this book - the wartime history of the region was characterised much less by the clash of the big battalions as seen on the Eastern Front or that of the logistics war with the West but much more about how individuals could and did influence events.... Guisan, Dansey, Dulles, Tito, as well as myriad of other lesser characters, are all worthy of greater exposition.

Despite the scrimping on the detail, Mr. Ring has certainly done enough to demonstrate that he knows his stuff well and so, personally, I would have happily read a much longer book encompassing much more of the story of the various resistance groups, spy rings, occupiers, invaders, refugees, locals, politicians both national and international, liberators, deserters, prisoners etc than this volume goes into.

My second issue with the book was really stylistic. Sometimes the writing style was good, but at other times it was bemusing or repetitive or flabby or simply confusing. The author / editors seem to have had the strange idea of mixing up various descriptive writing styles when in fact all that was required was for someone to apply some crispness and organisation to the prose. The other problem, as it is with most history books these days, was a lack of detailed maps.

To conclude, I would say this is an interesting book which is well worth reading (so I do recommend it), but the satisfaction derived from it was a little like eating sushi - your appetite is whetted at first, you feel satiated at the time of eating but unfortunately one is hungry for more a very short while later.
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on 18 November 2014
The Telegraph describes this book as reading like a 'crisp, well-written thriller.....' and I adopt those words. This is a superbly researched and written history of a neglected but crucial battleground of WW2. I compare Jim Ring with Beevor's style of narration - event driven, colourful characters striding across the landscape, pages alive with the spirit of battle and down to earth commentary and observation.

Ring is a historian. In 2000 he published How the English Made the Alps. Storming the Eagle's Nest shows his love and knowledge of the range of mountains that dominated the 1930s and which formed a literal and metaphorical crossroads in the Battle For Europe.

The author sets the scene with the English classical romantic attraction to the Alps. I was reminded of the Alpine scene in Goodbye Mr. Chips - the 1939 Donat version. The opening chapters quickly set the tone with Hitler's penchant for the Alps. He first visited Berchtesgaden in 1923. He bought and enlarged a chalet in 1928. When he became Chancellor in 1933 Bormann, Goring, Goebbels and Speer quickly bought residence within calling distance of Hitler's chalet. The Nazi party then established a sprawling military (organized by Bormann) and social presence in the high peaks.

In November 1937 Chamberlain sidelined Eden, his Foreign Secretary, and sent Lord Halifax to meet Hitler at Berchtesgaden. Halifax told Hitler that the British had no particular view of German designs on Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. In March 1930 Hitler marched into Austria. In September 1938 Chamberlain (described by Lloyd George as `looking at foreign policy through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe') met Hitler 3 times. On the 15th at Berchtesgaden, on the 23rd at Bad Gotesberg and, finally, on the 29th at Munich. Ring describes these events with an increasing sense of doom and inevitability. He posits the view that war became inevitable not at Munich but when Hitler gazed out of his panoramic window at Berchesgarten, dismissed Halifax as `the English parson', and concluded that the British would not oppose him. Gripping stuff.

The Alps became a focus of Hitler's war; he continually travelled to Berchesgarten and directed the war effort from there. As defeat loomed he and his generals planned a retreat and last ditch defence from a `Mountain Redoubt'. Goebbels mounted a sustained propaganda campaign that the German state would be impossible to dislodge from the Alps. This caused Eisenhower to divert Patton south and so delay his race to Berlin. German gold disappeared south into the Alps, accompanied by Goring, as the allies approached the Alps from all sides. The 8th Army (Montgomery) and the US 5th Army (the much maligned Mark Clark) drove north up Italy and pushed the Germans into the Alpine foothills. At the same time heroic French Marquisards pushed into the Alps from the west and Tito, with his enormous partisan army, pushed into the Alps from the East.

Ring describes how the Alps was the hub of espionage throughout the war - Allen Welsh Dulles developing the tradecraft skills that enabled him to set up the post war CIA. I learned that Italian partisans created some 37 republics in the mountains and foothills of the Alps, that Tito wanted to invade northern Italy and absorb Trieste and possibly Venice into a greater Yugoslavia. I read of the incredible Battle of Vercors. The massif du Vercors is a 3000' high 600 square mile plateau butting up against the western slopes of the Alps. In 1944 some 4000 Frenchmen declared the Free Republic of Vercors. Only one road led onto the plateau. The Germans dropped 10,000 German, Russian and Ukrainian (Eastern Legion) paratroops for one of the bloodiest battles of WW2. The Marquisards resisted fiercely but were annihilated. Villages were destroyed and the paratroops committed awful atrocities against captured men, women and children of the villages. I had known nothing of this battle and Ring's description and detail of the battle was alone worth the cost of the book.

Essential reading for students of WW2 and the general reader, particularly for those who have a jaundiced view of Vichy France and the activities of the French in resisting the Germans. An immersive and absorbing work about a little known but central part of the war in Europe. 368 pages. 22 pages of index. 9 pages of bibliography, 12 pages of footnotes..................5 stars.
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on 20 September 2013
Having read Jim Ring's first book about the Alps (How the English Made the Alps -- a title designed to annoy the Swiss, French, Austrians etc) and his biography of Erskine Childers, it is a delight to be in this author's company once again. He has a lively laconic style. Combine that with deep knowledge of the mountains -- he has trekked up and over many of them -- the result is a compelling, thrilling read. I was surprised to read about Switzerland's perilous position and the compromises needed to maintain it, and to be intrigued as Ring teased out that strand in tandem with the more obviously dramatic elements to the story, for example resistance in the mountains and the tragic plight of refugees, not to mention Hitler's own attachment to the region. Ski resorts that are today mere fleshpots become infinitely more sinister in the light of their wartime role as camps and factories. I like books about the Second World War and about mountains, so it is a treat to find both subjects in one volume.
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on 6 May 2015
A very well researched and informative account of the battle for Europe and in this case for The Alps throughout the 2nd World War. It makes one realize just what we all owe to those who had to sacrifice so much to realize eventual freedom............But What A Cost to so many!
A lot of facts and figures, but an amazing read, I could not put it down.
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on 5 February 2014
I chose this book because I was about to visit an alpine location - had never read any history of World War II before and expectations were not high. Was amazed at how compelling this account was - could not wait to read on - interesting - startling at times - incredibly detailed and even sometimes funny.
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on 26 February 2015
Given the number of books around on WW2, this was a fascinating fresh take on the subject, namely that a mountain range could have played such a part in a war, and in more different ways than I could imagine. Totally absorbing and thoroughly well written.
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Jim Ring the author of Storming the Eagle's Nest is an intelligent well qualified person with degrees in Biochemistry and English, a qualified historian he is not, maybe I am being snobbish but the book is well written. As someone with a history degree who has read and researched the war years extensively I was hoping for a new view, something different that will be added to the vast pantheon of books on the Second World War.

I would have hoped his editor would have acted like any historian would with the writing of this book, what is its purpose, what are you trying to say and explain. If this had been presented as a dissertation to an academic historian by an undergraduate, he would have been handed it back and asked to remove most of the padding and waffle. A historical book needs to forensically work through the evidence, rather like a lawyer presenting evidence in court rather this is like a politician giving telling a story without really presenting anything new. One really does have to ask the editor what were you thinking? Clearly an English graduate not a historical one as none of the usual who what why when was answered in the book, but the grammar and flow is what you would expect from a well written edited book.

The only really new story that is in the book is the story of a boy, Matteus Guidon, at the time was 7 years old used to lead Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. Which is an important story that needed to be told and known only to a few in the village of Samedan near St Moritz.

One of the questions Jim Ring did not answer is one many people have asked, why after the fall of France in June 1940, did the Germans not take Switzerland, when they had the very clear opportunity. As Ring does note that Switzerland was the only place along the Alps which cover a large part of Europe not have a swastika fly over it at any point in the war. He just fails to answer the question why.

Hitler as an Austrian from Linz clearly loved the Alps and showed this by using the Berghof and Berchtesgaden as not just his Bavarian base, but his main base outside of Berlin. This is conveyed well throughout the book.

Switzerland and how it was spy central throughout the war as well as being the Nazi banker is covered in the book, but again does not add anything new. Yugoslavia and how Tito became the favoured resistance leader is also covered well, as are some of the actions that they took. Other than those stories there is nothing new at all, and there is certainly no storming of nests in this book.

Jim Ring wrote an excellent book How the English Made the Alps (2000), Faber and Faber wanted a follow up to that excellent book unfortunately this book is not a great follow up. It will go with the other books on Second World War History easy to read for a general reader with reassuring stories in the main that are already very well known. For anyone who has a history degree this would be a failure to hit the target
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on 23 April 2014
This was an area I knew nothing of....I had visited the Eagles Nest many years ago and was fascinated by just how much of the war was conducted from this Alpine stronhold
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on 3 April 2016
Very well written and in depth. Learnt a lot despite already studying the history of the second world war for some time
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