Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/March 2013/Book reviews

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Fleeing Hitler - Hanna Diamond

French prisoners of war marching through northern France while in German captivity

4/5 stars

By Nick-D

Fleeing Hitler is a history of the massive movements of refugees within France during the Battle of France in May and June 1940. It was written by the British academic historian Hanna Diamond, and is one of few English-language books on this significant topic.

I found Fleeing Hitler to be fascinating. Diamond notes that despite the huge scale of the evacuations (as many as 7 million people) this topic has received relatively little attention in French histories of the war, and even less attention in the English-speaking world. Diamond traces the factors leading to the evacuations, the nature of these movements, and their influence on the French Government's decision to end the war. She also convincingly argues that the lack of preparation made by the government for these evacuations was an important factor in discrediting the French Third Republic, and contributed to the initial popularity of the Vichy government. I didn't know much about these evacuations prior to reading the book and found it to be highly illuminating; the awful conditions endured by the refugees (which led to an estimated 100,000 deaths) and the shambolic nature of the evacuations were shocking.

As part of the book's conclusion Diamond notes that one of the reasons this topic has received little coverage is that few official records are available on the scale and nature of the movements - as the French national and provincial governments were also evacuating, no-one was keeping records of what was happening. While Diamond has attempted to address this shortfall by drawing on personal recollections, the results sometimes don't work out and some of the material on movements of groups of refugees is confusing or repetitive. While there probably isn't a way around this, it would have been better if Diamond had acknowledged this limitation in the sources as part of the introduction to the book so that readers understood the constraints of her narrative. The book is generally well written and suitable for a non-specialist audience, but Diamond lapses into academic language as part of the conclusion (e.g. lots of references to "discourses" and the like).

Overall, this is a very interesting book and is a significant addition to the English language literature on the Battle of France, and France's experiences in World War II more generally.

Publishing details: Diamond, Hanna (2008). Fleeing Hitler : France 1940. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199532599. 

Recent external reviews

Hudson, Geoffrey L., ed. (2007). British Military and Naval Medicine, 1600-1830. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN 9042022728. 

Clark, Christopher (2013). The Sleepwalkers : How Europe Went to War in 1914. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 006114665X. 

Summers, Julie (2013). Jambusters : The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0857200461. 

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