cover image The Blood of Free Men: 
The Liberation of Paris, 1944

The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944

Michael Neiberg. Basic, $29.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-465-02399-8

After the June 1944 Normandy landings, Allied armies intended to avoid Paris, and Germany didn’t consider it strategically important, but the city obsessed every Frenchman. In this vivid account, Neiberg, professor of history at the U.S. Army War College (Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I), points out that, by July, Parisians were starving. Malnourishment during four years of Nazi occupation worsened as Allied bombing plus German diversion to supply its forces reduced food imports to famine levels. This plus a yearning to strike the hated Germans inflamed the city’s resistance. Parisians rose up on August 19, and 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. 23 b&w photos, 1 map. Agent: Geri Thoma, Markson Thoma. (Oct.)