3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Through Hitler's Back Door: SOE Operations in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 1939-45 (Hardcover)This is a quality production in terms of both production and content. The author examines both the big picture of SOE operations in four countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia) and also tells certain individual stories of missions undertaken etc.
My interest was all the greater because of the fact that, in 2001, I spent nearly five months driving through and staying in all of those countries except Slovakia (three months of the trip was, however, spent in Turkey) and so encountered at first hand a lot of the places mentioned in the text (too many to list, though including Alexandroupoli, Kavala, Sofia, Vidin, Ternu Severin, Arad, Timisoara, Szeged) as they are now or recently. One of the fallen SOE men (killed during a robbery, not by enemy action though) is noted in the text particularly and is buried near the town of Ternu Severin in the Danubian area of Romania where that country, Serbia and Bulgaria meet with the Danube itself. I well recall how even today that area is very rural: the floating raft/ferry on whhich I crossed the river from Vidin had as company two trucks only.
The author gives some interesting statistics, such as that at end 1943, the Bulgarian (mostly Communist) partisans had only 2,000 men and about 900 weapons, mainly pistols and rifles, but by early Summer 1944 had 4,000 men and about 3,000 weapons including heavy machine-guns etc and by September were able to help the invading Soviet forces by seizing (by speed and stealth) Sofia itself. That has to be set against a Bulgarian Army strength in early 1944 of 800,000, plus large and well-equipped units of Gendarmerie and Police.
I have to say that I cannot share the author's belief that SOE made any sort of significant contribution to Axis defeat in this region, even supposing that one were to think that defeat overall a good thing, which I certainly do not.
The author did supply one fact that surprized me: that American bombers (101 Flying Fortresses) made a huge raid on the almost undefended civilian population of Sofia in 1944, with the object of frightening them into supporting the USA. In fact it had the opposite result. When the German forces left, they surrendered to Soviet forces.
There are a few obvious errors in the book: those that caught my attention particularly were:
# "Flossburg" for Flossenburg [concentration camp];
# "Kommandobeheehl" for Kommando Befehl [Commando Order], which is not only wrongly spelled but should be two words, though it would be correct to say that this well-known order (harsh measures for partisans captured by Reich forces; inapplicability of Geneva Convention to such persons) was a "Fuhrerbefehl" (i.e. one word), which is OK because it is a general type of order rather than one specific one;
""Security Agency" as translation for Sicherheitsdienst [SD], which would be better and is conventionally translated as "Security Service".
The author insists on referring, en passant, to the situation in France in 1940 as the "Petain-Laval treason", which seems too me to be a narrow viewpoint.
Overall, an erudite and interesting book in an area not much covered by Anglo-American publishers.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Feb 2011 23:48:35 GMT
Mr. A. G. Becker says:
How much this book deals specificly with Hungary?
In reply to an earlier post on 26 May 2011 15:06:25 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 6 Jul 2011 08:18:00 BDT]
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