The Bit­ter Road to Free­dom: A New His­to­ry of the Lib­er­a­tion of Europe

William I. Hitchcock
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012

Most his­to­ries of Europe dur­ing the peri­od of World War II end with the defeat of the Nazis and the lib­er­a­tion of the occu­pied coun­tries. But the sto­ry is far more com­pli­cat­ed. William Hitch­cock, a pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty, approach­es this top­ic from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, that of the civil­ians liv­ing in the occu­pied coun­tries. Europe wel­comed the expul­sion of the Ger­mans, but the bat­tles lead­ing up to lib­er­a­tion left cities in ruins and killed many civil­ians. The com­bat-hard­ened sol­diers did not always behave well as they inter­act­ed with the locals. Feed­ing, hous­ing, and reset­tling dis­placed per­sons, pros­e­cut­ing war crim­i­nals, and set­ting up relief orga­ni­za­tions required intense effort. Using a wide range of sources (exten­sive notes and a bib­li­og­ra­phy), includ­ing per­son­al accounts of cit­i­zens from the affect­ed coun­tries, Hitch­cock con­sid­ers thorny issues such as whether Ger­man civil­ians were vic­tims. He pro­vides a bal­ance to the rosier accounts of this era with­out com­pro­mis­ing the jus­tice of the Allied cause.

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

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