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Behind the Lines: Wwi's Little-Known Story of German Occupation, Belgian Resistance, and the Band of Yanks Who Saved Millions from Starv
Behind the Lines: Wwi's Little-Known Story of German Occupation, Belgian Resistance, and the Band of Yanks Who Saved Millions from Starv
by Jeffrey Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.74

5.0 out of 5 stars How a humanitarian enterprise saved the lives of 9 million Belgians from starvation during World War One, 3 Jan. 2015
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To those who think World War One was a completely pointless loss of life should read Jeff Miller's book on the brutal treatment of the 95% of Belgium under German military occupation from August 1914. It documents in great detail from contemporary diaries and biographies, the consequences of the German invasion and its impact on 9 million Belgians, who were in weeks on the point of starvation. As a densely populated country which imported 70% of its food ,paid for by exports and a strong manufacturing base , this state of affairs came to an abrupt halt with the collapse of its economy and the blockade of its ports by the Royal Navy.
The Germans invaded Belgium in August 1914, in violation of the Treaty of London of 1839, which guaranteed Belgian neutrality by the Great Powers, blaming the French and Belgians. They had a mind set of punishing any perceived resistance or sabotage ruthlessly , which resulted in destroying villages and burning towns, executing 5,500 men , women and children , some as young as three months old in the first six weeks of the War. They then imposed martial law with strict curfews , tight controls on movement and civilian life in general.
Miller in great detail plots the rise of the Commission for the Relief of Belgium headed by the outstanding leadership of Herbert Hoover , a mining engineer with his group of American volunteers including some young Rhodes Scholar students from Oxford University who on their own initiative set up a link with the Belgian Comite National , to ensure that thousands of tons of food were transported every month to the starving millions in Belgium and German occupied northern France.
Miller shows by a series of brief chapters the progress of the CRB , travelling between London , Holland , Brussels and Antwerp as well a Hoover's fund raising in America. Here is outlined all the twists and turns with an Occupying power which had washed its hands of feeding its conquered population , blaming everything on the British Naval blockade and politicians in London reluctant to see food sent to Belgium which they felt should have been provided by the German authorities. There was also much disagreements between the leaders in Belgium , plus an a ruined infrastructure which made the supplies by barges through the Dutch and Belgian canal system challenging.
Miller writes from his own family history , his grandmother being a Belgian, who experienced the Occupation as well as being involved in the Resistance while his grandfather was an American volunteer who came to Belgium as part of the CRB.
This is the first of a three volume project , book two goes onto 1915.
It is a well researched and scholarly piece of work of over 400 pages, which does not make it a quick read.
My own interest in this subject is also tied up with family history as my maternal grandparents in 1914, lived less than 10 miles from the Bunce family , Miller's grandmother . They both experienced the impact of invasion and the siege of Antwerp which was shelled for days by heavy German artillery. My grandmother told me about the German atrocities and how they at times starved during the Occupation when conditions were so bad , that they had to eat rats!
Herbert Hoover is rightly praised for his humanitarian work in this period , he later went onto help feed 20 million Russians during their Civil War and became President of the USA in 1929. He then became a scapegoat for the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s with a tarnished reputation. However later he led national commissions of American governance under Presidents Trueman and Eisenhower.


Lenin: Rebel, Reformer, Revolutionary - Discovery Channel (3 Disc) [DVD]
Lenin: Rebel, Reformer, Revolutionary - Discovery Channel (3 Disc) [DVD]
Price: £8.70

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lenin - A view from Russian Television, 9 Nov. 2013
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The DVDs are taken from 3 television programmes shown on Russian T.V. between 2002 to 2004. Russian viewers would be more familiar with Lenin and his life and times that an audience in the UK. Insights were given to Lenin's childhood and marriage to his years as a professional revolutionary following the execution of his older brother in 1887. His part in the abortive revolution of 1905 and flight to Paris, London and Switzerland before World War One were covered. The part of the German government in 1917 allowing Lenin and his followers back to Russia from Switzerland , through Germany in a sealed train as well as the provision of money by the Kaiser to undermine the Provisional Government and the Allied War Effort was discussed at length. The take over of St Petersburg in October 1917 by the Bolsheviks was backed up by original film and biographies of Lenin as a Soviet hero.
The imposition of the Red Terror in August 1918 following the assassination attempt on Lenin, ruthlessly eliminating all opposition from the left and right, was explained in the DVD on Lenin's Assassination with possible conspiracy theories on the role of elements of the Checka( Secret Police) rather than the traditional view of the Social Revolutionaries furious with the Brest - Litovsk Treaty with Germany, when Lenin gave away a vast part of European Russia. The films mainly covered up to 1918 , with little on the Civil War , while the invasion of Russia by Western countries including the USA, Britain , Japan and the New Economic Policy were only briefly mentioned.( It was estimated that between 50,000 to one million people perished as a result of the Red Terror and countless others in the Civil War with its famine and hundreds of thousands refugees.)
The DVDs make more sense to viewers with some familiarity of Lenin's life as the presentations are quite disjointed and detailed at times by the Russian historians and commentators. Overall the DVDs are good value for money


The Boer War: 1899-1902 [DVD]
The Boer War: 1899-1902 [DVD]
Price: £7.86

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Boer War - The wider implications, 31 Oct. 2013
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DVD mainly consisted of still photos , maps , a limited amount of film shot at the time and commentary. The introduction as to the causes of the War was covered reasonably mentioning prominent politicians like Milner ,Joseph Chamberlain , Cecil John Rhodes . There was the late Victorian pressures of imperialism especially with the economic rise of the Transvaal and Orange Free State with the development of gold mines which changed the perception of the European powers to Africa at the end of the 19th Century.
Britain and the Empire eventually sent half a million men to South Africa overwhelming the better armed Boers with numbers and a ruthless policy of depriving them of support as farms were burnt down and livestock destroyed. Boer families were transported to internment / concentration camps where 28,000 died of disease and neglect- a sixth of the total Boer population. Even more Africans died in British run camps, which was not covered in the film. There was massive protests internationally about Britain's harsh policies from France, Germany , USA etc. and politicians like Lloyd George who opposed the War were attacked mobs in England. Half of Britain's dead in the War of 20,000 were as a result of diseases like typhoid rather than in military action . The economy of South Africa declined drastically as a result of the War - Rand down to 40% of pre War level. By 1902 politicians on all sides except for a few hard liners were desperate for peace and reconciliation after the misery of deprivations , disease and loss. The bitterness of the conflict especially with many Boers lasted for generations- in 1916 Kitchener's drowning in World War One was a cause for celebration amongst many in South Africa after his time as Commander in Chief and the neglect of those suffering in the concentration camps during the Boer War .


Discovery Channel - Stalin: Man of Steel (3 Disc) [DVD]
Discovery Channel - Stalin: Man of Steel (3 Disc) [DVD]
Offered by The Canny Store
Price: £15.73

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stalin - From a Russian Perspective, 19 Oct. 2013
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Stalin - Man of Steel is made up of three discs- the largest being on his private life featuring his daughter and two of his grandchildren. There was much material which would be new to viewers on his chronic health issues, his early upbringing and the views of his family on their memories and complicated inheritance. On his death crowds thronged Moscow in mourning and disbelief and some were killed in the crush. It was only subsequently years later that the truth of so much of what happened with the Purges, starvations , Gulags etc accounting for 32 million people became known to the Soviet nation and world in general. Like other dictatorships you didn't ask questions , or the feeling that if Stalin knew what was really going on he would have put it right, it was all the fault of others in the system.The second DVD looks at the assassination attempts on Stalin who was always well guarded with specially bomb proofed cars and security police always around.The Nazis used disaffected prisoners of war to carry out attempts on Stalin's life which came to naught.
The third DVD looks at how Stalin controlled the film industry where directors would have their plots changed , history re written , many in the industry arrested on set and either shot or sent to the Gulags on the slightest whim . For example a history of the Russian Revolution marginalised Trotsky who led the Red Army in 1917 and promoted Stalin , changing his relationship with Lenin and giving him a much enhanced role in the Revolution unsupported by historical evidence. The final part of the film on Ivan the Terrible was never completed as it was too close to so much of Stalin's life and resembled his rule of the Soviet Union. Creativity , imagination and enthusiasm were all crushed by political control and interference , so that in the end only third rate propaganda was left.
To get the best out of the films , a reasonable knowledge of Soviet history is helpful as much of the material was produced for Russian T.V.


No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of Russian and Tsarist History., 8 Oct. 2013
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Comprehensive overview of the origins of Russia going back to the Vikings and the introduction of the Orthodox Church in the tenth century. Such a huge country , 80 times the size of the UK-even more when Russia included Alaska, its almost impossible to fully describe. The struggles between the modernisers and reactionaries are a major theme . The ruthless way some Tsars were disposed of , plus the many missed opportunities from 1825 to adapt the Russian state to come into line with the rest of Europe was outlined. An absolutist repressive monarchy was then replaced with a dictatorship for 70 years with no space for the moderates in the middle. Having studied Russian 19th and 20th century history and visited the old Soviet Union in the early 1970s , this was well worth purchasing.


No Title Available

2.0 out of 5 stars Mike Hill, 9 Feb. 2012
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Belgian Resistance Members is one of the few works in English about the opposition to the Nazis by Belgians. The format is based on Wikipedia articles rather than an in depth research project. There are articles on only 19 members of the Resistance are included in this work. At 44 pages it is a short work and for many of the members of the Resistance there are only brief articles. However it does cover contributors from most of the Resistance organisations at the time : the Comet Line, the Pat Line , Communist groups , those helping Jews to escape capture by the Nazis but little on Group G ( which had around 4,000 members involved in sabotage , intelligence gathering and running escape lines for Allied aircrew.)
The autobiography by Yvonne de Riddler Files - The Quest for Freedom gives an account of what it was like to work for Group G , should have been included in this publication.There are entries written in French of the role of the Belgian Resistance movements, which given the nature of this work could have used to add further depth to this book.
It would have helpful to have lengthier biographies and a fuller account of this work which involved thousands of people who helped numerous escapees from death or imprisonment. Resistance groups were responsible for blowing up German troop trains , attacking military convoys , bringing down power lines and providing one of the major sources of intelligence for the British authorities.

Given that the slimness of this book , buyers should aim at cheaper priced versions.

( On a personal note , I have a particular interest in finding out more about the Belgian Resistance as my great uncle Louis Lucas was decorated for his work in the Belgian Resistance between 1940 and 1944)


My War in the Gestapo
My War in the Gestapo
by Helene. Moszkiewiez
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Mike Hill, 9 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: My War in the Gestapo (Hardcover)
My War in the Gestapo reads like a war time triller, but is a real life story of an incredible account of how a young lady managed to work in the Gestapo Headquarters in Brussels on behalf of the Belgian Resistance . Her autobiography describes two years working at Gestapo Headquarters where the slightest mistake ,betrayal and being denounced by double agents would have led to torture and immediate execution. As a Jewish Belgian, Helene lost her parents and first husband to the Holocaust. However she was able to save countless lives by passing onto the Resistance the names of people the Gestapo were going to arrest and send to concentration camps.She had to manage for years with the deprivations of war time occupation, work with duplicitous colleagues and keep her real loyalties quiet. This almost led to her being lynched by an angry crowd outside Gestapo Headquarters when Brussels was liberated in 1944, being saved by the intervention of a British officer who was working with the Resistance. Not only did Helene put her life at risk on a daily basis inside Gestapo Headquarters but she was involved in sabotage missions with the Resistance and helping out with the escape routes for those being sought by the Nazis .
The Gestapo Headquarters in the Avenue Louise , Brussels was based in a block of flats where the basements had the torture chambers and many of those arrested were sent onto concentration camps or local military barracks where they were shot by firing squad.
My only criticism of the book is that the print is quite small and could be a problem for some readers.

( The fearful reputation of Gestapo Headquarters can be verified by my own family history when my uncle who was working in Brussels at the time, said he walked past the building and made a derogatory comment under his breath about the Nazis or Gestapo. He was immediately apprehended and taken into the Gestapo Headquarters and questioned for about 20 minutes about his comments. There were members of the secret police outside the building monitoring what passers buy were saying in the street!)
There are few books published in English on the work of the Belgian Resistance . The autobiography of Yvonne de Ridder Files ' The Quest for Freedom ' also gives a dramatic first hand account of some one who worked in Group G or the Groupe General de Sabotage de Belgigue' Resistance movement.


The Quest for Freedom: Belgian Resistance in World War II
The Quest for Freedom: Belgian Resistance in World War II
by Yvonne de Ridder Files
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.27

4.0 out of 5 stars Mike Hill, 6 Feb. 2012
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The Quest for Freedom by Yvonne de Ridder Files is one of the few books written on the Belgian Resistance Movement in the English language . Yvonne describes her experiences as a member of the Belgian Resistance between 1940 and 1944 as a member of Group G ( Groupe General de Sabotage de Belgigue) which was involved in gathering intelligence which was sent to England and SOE (Special Operations Executive ) sabotage work and the hiding of Allied flyers trying to get back to England through the escape routes operating in Belgium , Holland and France. Group G was one of the major Resistance organisations in Belgium together with the Comet Line and Pat Line . Membership of these groups was extremely hazardous and at any time you could be denounced , betrayed and arrested . Belgian post war records show that of the 4046 members of Group G , 20% were killed on missions or died in Nazi prisons or in concentration camps.( The Belgian Resistance in the autumn of 1944 played a crucial part in preventing the Germans destroying the port of Antwerp, which they had done to the other ports in northern France and Belgium.The port of Antwerp was to be central to the Allies as their lines of supply had become dangerously overstretched from relying on the Mulberry harbour in Normandy.)
Yvonne de Ridder gives a sense of what it was like to flee the German invasion in 1940 , going to France as a refugee, then working in the Resistance at intense personal risk and finally being betrayed and tortured before being released when Belgium was liberated by British and Canadian troops in 1944. Even then life was still hazardous as Antwerp as the Allies major port, was under intense attack by V1 and V2 rockets for many months after the Liberation.This very much a personal account of a Resistance worker with her reflections on these years of deprivation and an increasingly brutal occupation.
( Her accounts of fleeing Antwerp in the summer of 1940 and the V1, V2 attacks on the city have a particular interest for me as my mother also fled Antwerp in 1940 and travelled 400 miles into France as a refugee. She experienced the V1 and V2 attacks in 1944, after meeting my father , an officer in the British Army which liberated Belgium . One of my great uncles was decorated for his work in the Belgian Resistance, however source material available in England on their work apart from the Quest for Freedom and the book My War in the Gestapo by Helene Moszkiewiez is very limited.)


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