Americans are justly proud of the role the United States played in liberating Europe from Nazi tyranny. For many years, we have celebrated the courage of the Allied soldiers, sailors, and aircrews who defeated Hitler's regime and restored freedom to the continent. But in recounting the heroism of the "greatest generation," Americans often overlook the wartime experiences of European people themselves—the very people for whom the war was fought.
In this brilliant new book, historian William I. Hitchcock surveys the European continent from D-Day to the final battles of the war and the first few months of the peace. Based on exhaustive research in five nations and dozens of archives, Hitchcock's groundbreaking account shows that the liberation of Europe was both a military triumph and a human tragedy of epic proportions.
Hitchcock gives voice to those who were on the receiving end of liberation, moving them from the edge of the story to the center. From France to Poland to Germany, from concentration camp internees to refugees, farmers to shopkeepers, husbands and wives to children, the experience of liberation was often difficult and dangerous. Their gratitude was mixed with guilt or resentment. Their lives were difficult to reassemble.
This strikingly original, multinational history of liberation brings to light the interactions of soldiers and civilians, the experiences of noncombatants, and the trauma of displacement and loss amid unprecedented destruction. This book recounts a surprising story, often jarring and uncomfortable, and one that has never been told with such richness and depth.
Today, with American soldiers once again waging wars of liberation in faraway lands, this book serves as a timely and sharp reminder of the terrible human toll exacted by even the most righteous of wars.