The Blood of Free Men
The Liberation of Paris, 1944
By Michael Neiberg
(Basic Books, Hardcover, 9780465023998, 352pp.)
Publication Date: October 2012
As the Allies struggled inland from Normandy in August of 1944, the fate of Paris hung in the balance. Other jewels of Europesites like Warsaw, Antwerp, and Monte Cassinowere, or would soon be, reduced to rubble during attempts to liberate them. But Paris endured, thanks to a fractious cast of characters, from Resistance cells to Free French operatives to an unlikely assortment of diplomats, Allied generals, and governmental officials. Their efforts, and those of the German forces fighting to maintain control of the city, would shape the course of the battle for Europe and color popular memory of the conflict for generations to come.
In The Blood of Free Men, celebrated historian Michael Neiberg deftly tracks the forces vying for Paris, providing a revealing new look at the city’s dramatic and triumphant resistance against the Nazis. The salvation of Paris was not a foregone conclusion, Neiberg shows, and the liberation was a chaotic operation that could have easily ended in the city’s ruin. The Allies were intent on bypassing Paris so as to strike the heart of the Third Reich in Germany, and the French themselves were deeply divided; feuding political cells fought for control of the Resistance within Paris, as did Charles de Gaulle and his Free French Forces outside the city. Although many of Paris’s citizens initially chose a tenuous stability over outright resistance to the German occupation, they were forced to act when the approaching fighting pushed the city to the brink of starvation. In a desperate bid to save their city, ordinary Parisians took to the streets, and through a combination of valiant fighting, shrewd diplomacy, and last-minute aid from the Allies, managed to save the City of Lights.
A groundbreaking, arresting narrative of the liberation, The Blood of Free Men tells the full story of one of the war’s defining moments, when a tortured city and its inhabitants narrowly survived the deadliest conflict in human history.
Michael Neiberg is professor of history in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College. He is the author of numerous books on warfare in the twentieth century, including Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I. He lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War
Paris will be transformed into a heap of rubble,’ ordered Adolf Hitler in August 1944. The heroic story of how that crime against civilization was prevented is grippingly told in this diligently-researched and extremely well-written book. You can almost hear the bullets ricocheting across the boulevards.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review[A] vivid account . Neiberg skillfully describes six days of disorganized but bloody urban warfare between poorly armed Frenchmen and mostly unenthusiastic Germans until a French regiment, in defiance of Allied orders, entered the city. While hardly a great victory and followed by a nasty vengeance against collaborators, Paris’s liberation produced ecstatic delight throughout the West, making it one of the few feel-good stories of the war, and Neiberg, with a close-up and evocative narrative, delivers a thoroughly satisfying history.” Dennis Showalter, author of Hitler’s PanzersMichael Neiberg’s talents as a scholar and storyteller brilliantly present the complex realities underlying the liberation of Paris in 1944, when the City of Light regained its freedom through the risks and sacrifices of its people. ” Kirkus ReviewsNeiberg’s taut narrative explains how the liberation played out . An evenhanded, efficient account of one of World War II’s signature moments.”
In his engrossing and stirring narrative, [Neiberg] reveals how the city was liberated through a combination of heroism, ignoble acts, and the machinations of politicians, resistance fighters, and even hardheaded diplomats. Although Neiberg doesn’t avoid the more unsavory aspects of the saga, his descriptions of the courageous acts of ordinary Parisians roused from their slumber make for one of the most remarkable and inspiring episodes of the war.”