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The Blood of Free Men

The Liberation of Paris, 1944

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780465023998

Price: $35 / $44 (CAD)

ON SALE: October 2nd 2012

Genre: Nonfiction / History / Europe / Western


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As the Allies struggled inland from Normandy in August of 1944, the fate of Paris hung in the balance. Other jewels of Europe — sites like Warsaw, Antwerp, and Monte Cassino — were, 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.

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Reader Reviews


“Historian Neiberg takes a new look at the liberation of Paris and how it narrowly escaped devastation.... [An] impressive cast of real-life characters populates this retelling of Paris's deliverance, ranging from future world leaders Dwight Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle to writers Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre to the brave rank and file of the French Resistance. And yet the most fascinating and controversial figure remains German Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, the man who left Pairs unburnt.”

Journal of Military History
"Neiberg provides his readers an exciting story of a city and its people caught in the middle of a turbulent and transformative time. Throughout, he displays his skills as an accomplished historian. Mining a vast array of secondary literature and written in a lively style, he describes for both the historian and general reader the various social, military, and political dimensions of this dramatic moment.... A pleasant and informative experience."

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.”
Dallas Morning News
“[A] compelling, well-researched narrative.... The story of how Paris ultimately was saved is complex and inspiring and richly told by Neiberg.”

Philadelphia Inquirer
“[A] riveting account of a generally neglected subplot of the war.... [Neiberg] is especially adroit in charting the course of French politics in the mid-1940s.”

San Antonio Express-News
“Spellbinding.... Although a myriad of books have been written on World War II, Neiberg's work is freshly delivered with a love and passion for a city and its people that brings to life not only the fear and pain the city experienced under Nazi rule, but also for the hope its liberation inspired in Parisians and free men everywhere.”

Roanoke Times
“The liberation of Paris was an important symbolic event during the end game in World War II. Author Michael Neiberg's account of that liberation, The Blood of Free Men, explores the importance of Paris to the French and Americans, not the strategic value that other sites would have during World War II, but the emotional connection most Allied combatants felt toward the City of Light.”
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 Panzers
“Michael 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 Reviews
“Neiberg's taut narrative explains how the liberation played out.... An evenhanded, efficient account of one of World War II's signature moments.”
Jeremy Black, author of The Politics of World War Two
“With this fascinating book, Michael Neiberg, one of America's leading historians of World War One, turns to consider 1944. He brings a wealth of expertise as a scholar of French history, and offers a well-written and exciting treatment.”

Alan Riding, author of And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
“Michael Neiberg's fast-paced and well researched account of the liberation of Paris has all the detail, tension, and contradictions of a ‘you-were-there' drama. And for a change, the French are heroes: not only the Parisians who joined the final insurrection, but above all Charles de Gaulle, that stubborn patriot whose opponents in the summer of 1944 included the Americans and Communists as well as the German occupiers.”
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