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Customer reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 stars

on 30 May 2007
This is an extremely interesting book, though I didn't think so when reading the first pages. The initial section lists a number of myths about the 1940 campaign in France, and tries to dispell them. But in doing so Mr. Frieser made me feel he blamed the German commanders for being reckless, and praised the French for their thorough and systematical approach. It almost made me feel he blamed the Germans for winning. But the winner is always right and this initial part therefor made me feel doubts about the remainder of the book. Fortunately I persisted and continued to read the rest.

The main part of this title deals with the critical developmens in the campaign. It begins with an investigation into the German plan for the campaign, and Mr. Frieser describes the principles at work here very clearly. This later allows him to point out mistakes being made and their consequences for the plan.

The author has gone to great lengths to give both the German and the Allied points of view of the critical moments, and this is what makes the book so special. The key moments are investigated in great detail, and this left me with a great understanding of why precisely the Germans could be succesful, and also why the Allies failed. I've read quite a number of books on this subject, but never did I find an account as detailed and well investigated as this one.

There is one drawback to this approach you should be aware of. This is not a complete account of the campaign in the West in 1940. There is no mention of the invasion of the Netherlands worth noting here, and the focuss is mainly on events in the Ardennes, Sedan and then with the Panzers. Once the evacuation of Dunkirk is dealt with, the book only briefly describes the second phase, Fall Rot. So if you're looking for a balanced account look elsewhere. But you'll miss out on the best explanation for German victory I've ever read.

The book does give a fine description of the forces available to both sides, including comparisons of major tank- and aircraft types. There are a good number of black and white pictures to support the text, and a number of coloured maps is included to help the reader understand the geography of the sectors being described.

One of the major eye-openers is the way in which Hitler's role is portrayed, especially his role in the famous halt order. Mr. Frieser really puts an end to any thoughts of Hitler being a good commander, who knows his business and strongly builds his case. This fits in very well with the way Hitler later behaved.

So eventhough its not a complete history of the war in the West in 1940, but one that focussed mainly on the Panzerthrust, I still feel anyone interested in this part of WW2 should read this book. It really adds to your understanding of the outcome and it also helps in understanding later developments, both in the Axis and Allied camps. I highly recommend it.
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on 12 February 2014
This is a very fine book, being well written, displaying genuine insight and fresh analysis. The book has been said by some to challenge conventional wisdom, I am not so sure as whether you find this book completely changes your understanding of the Battle of France or whether it adds understanding whilst building on and complementing existing knowledge and understanding will depend very much on your previous reading history. The book is very focused on the breakthrough at Sedan followed by the dash to the Channel which is an entirely valid idea and also includes a detailed analysis of the failure of the Germany army and air force to prevent the escape of the BEF, the author examines a number of theories which attempt to explain this failure. The study of the genesis and evolution of the famous sickle cut plan is worth buying the book for in itself. Whilst recognising the brilliance of Manstein, the resistance of the general staff and Hitlers initial enthusiasm it presents a far more nuanced analysis than most histories. In particular the generalship of Halder during the campaign was brilliant and a key part of the success of Manstein's idea whilst after initial enthusiasm Hitler displayed caution and indecision at key moments of the campaign. The most interesting part of the book is the writers analysis of the concept of operations and a very convincing argument that German appreciation of the concept of operations in 1940 played a devastating role later in the war when the unexpected success of the sickle cut operational plan which led to a stunning strategic success in France led to a substitution of strategy by operations in 1941 when Germany invaded the USSR. The sections dealing with the relative force numbers and quality of equipment between the adversaries are sometimes quoted as a revelation however this is one aspect of the book which really does not add anything new to the history of the campaign. The book is nicely produced with superb full colour maps which really help the reader follow the events of the text. My only slight disappointment is that the equipment tables and maps were not translated for the English edition however this is not enough to withhold a five star rating. This is a marvellous book, very highly recommended.
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on 24 November 2011
A superb description of the German victory and the reasons for it. Others wrote at length about it.

What I'd add is that there is also a short description of the German campaign of 1914, and the reasons for its failure, which I also found interesting, especially in comparison to Israeli historian Martin van Creveld's view. (The two views are largely compatible, van Creveld argues that what the Germans tried to do was impossible for logistical reasons, and Frieser argues that they shouldn't have attempted what they did, but instead should have turned south much earlier, thereby winning a smaller operational victory near Sedan, almost exactly where they had half a century earlier. Which, in turn, might have won the war for them in 1914 - as opposed to the grand victory in one battle which they wanted to win but was impossible to reach.) He also identifies a number of errors both the Germans and the French committed during that campaign.
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on 30 May 2010
This book is a definite account of the German attack in the West in 1940, and unlikely to be surpassed.
It is very detailed, and makes a thorough analysis of the campaign based on a wide range sources from all sides, still it never bogs down and is a surprisingly good read.
The maps themselves are almost worth the book alone, if only all such works could include so numerous and good-quality maps!
As previously stated, just be aware that the Northern thrust into the Netherlands is sparsely covered (intentionally, it was outside the scope of this account).

Otherwise, a must-have for everyone interested in this campaign.
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on 9 February 2008
This is the definitive account of the campaign in France and Benelux 1940. Thoroughly researched, myth-busting, superb analysis, easy to read in spite of its academic complexity. Award winning in both Germany and France. Recognized as the official historical account in Germany.
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on 4 November 2016
Very well research, and a brilliant analysis of the Battle of France!
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on 2 June 2016
brilliant book, well written and interesting
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