2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Liberation: The Bitter Road to Freedom, Europe 1944-1945 (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?
Extensive though the research must have been, the author has not done quite enough to convince me of some of his arguments--even on his favourite subjects of rape, bombing, Belsen, and feeding the refugees. His account of liberation politics is, I'd say, quite thin. The book is really a patchwork--as another reviewer comments, 4 or 5 separate and somewhat incompatible studies stuck together.
Obviously the labour of love of a busy researcher but not as original, or as strong in grasp, as the "blurb" claims.
Having said all this, it is worth reading and it does no harm to stress that liberation was a violent, disruptive, desttructive and traumatic process, and not a party.