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

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  197 ratings  ·  35 reviews
American s are justly proud of th e role their country played in liberating Europe from Nazi tyranny. For many years, we have celebrated the courage of 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 Euro ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published October 21st 2008 by Free Press
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Susan
Although I had a number of gripes about this book, I ended up deciding that it was a pretty important book. First the gripes:

1. In the preface he suggests that the reason European nations chose not to participate with the US in the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq was that, having experienced WWII on their own soil and recognizing the terrible price paid by those liberated (as well as the difficulty of the liberators), European countries had a more realistic (and “dark”) understanding of the t
...more
Sue
It's frankly impossible for anyone to understand and mentally process just how many people were irrevocably affected by the very act of Liberation in 1944-45. Whether it was due to the direct attack via bombings, reprisals by retreating Fascist forces, revenge taken by advancing Soviet forces, or the sheer masses of displaced people (POWs, conscripted labor, and those Jews who'd survived to see the end of the war) suddenly freed from camps across central Europe, the end result was millions upon ...more
Caroline
The classic historical narrative of liberation in Europe at the end of World War II is one of celebration, thanksgiving, gratitude, relief. One thinks of images of joyful civilians throwing flowers at Allied jeeps, at soldiers being kissed by grateful young women, of celebrating crowds lining the streets in Paris and other cities. This narrative isn't inaccurate - far from it, all of these things did take place - but it isn't the entire story, and the focus on the more uplifting aspects of liber ...more
Steve Smits
Themes of WWII military history (in Europe) are well-recognized by those with even the most casual interest. The astonishing perfidy of the German aggressors, the devastation wrought in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union followed by its massive counter offensive with millions of resuting casualties to its armed forces, the horrific murderousness of Germans directed at Jews and others, the story of the awakening of the American war machine and its stalwart actions on the western front -- these a ...more
Kim
A look at WWII from a non-American point of view. Instead of the typical, "We went over there, helped stop the madness, and lost so many of our own for a worthy cause" this book looks at the choas from the point of view of those noncombatants whose backyard the war was in. Perhaps the children of the European nations recieve more of this type of history than we do as Americans. It was eye-opening for me to hear of the trials that still existed even after the Germans were driven back off previous ...more
Vince
The author covers different parts of the liberation experience in Europe during and after WW2. He makes many good points and trys to empathize with the civilan populations who traded the hell of Nazi occupation for either the hell of Russian occupation or an improved but far from idea occupation by the Americans. He's a bit critical of US and British war policy especially in regards to the bombings of population centers and the treatment of DPs. Still I would like to point out in the defense of ...more
Jeanne Bracken
I knew little about the liberation of Europe after World War II. This book explodes the myth (at least in my mind) that the Europeans--French, Dutch, etc.--welcomed us Yankees and Allies with open arms, seeing us as saviors from the Nazi regime. While Hitchcock assures us that they were glad to see the last of the Germans, the Allies still bombed and killed a lot of civilians to get to that point, and relief efforts were difficult or sometimes impossible to set up before many more of the liberat ...more
Mark
Since I am interested in WWII books, I chose The Bitter Road to Freedom by William I. Hitchcock. It focusses where other histories often fail to mention or gloss over, namely the often horrible experiences of the civilians as their farms, village, towns and cities became battlefields. The experience of the guys doing the actual fighting are also gone into. What is not in the book except peripherally is much detail on command decisions. If you have ever wondered why the French citizens of Caen we ...more
4ZZZ
The thing about rating a book under such a limited system such as a star rating is that on a personal level one can rate a classic as much as an obscure history tome. This is because in the end it is what one gets out of the book be it entertainment for the sheer enjoyment of a ripping yarn or for the information that is learnt. There have been plenty of fine books that I have learnt a lot from that I have rated highly but others have not. Fine. That is life.

But it has been an interesting read
...more
Matt
The central claim of this book is that a collective amnesia has existed in Western histories of WWII in the decades since it concluded - amnesia regarding the awful tolls that the European liberation took on the liberated peoples of Europe. He uses specific examples of the French in Normandy, the Belgians, and the Dutch, and more general examples of Eastern Europeans, relief efforts of UNRRA, displaced persons, and the Jews to illustrate the various tolls that war exacted and that liberation cre ...more
carl  theaker

Author Hitchcock is like the coach, who being the father of the star
athlete on the team, berates him continually to curry favor with the
parents of the other less talented kids, and to show he's really a fair
guy.

The trials and tribulations of the peoples in German occupied
territories during their liberation are the subject, the Armies of the
USA and Britain are the whipping boys for the author's
self-consciousness.

The story is a valid, and interesting one, it's the tone that
grates. The modern te
...more
Julie
Hitchcock takes the popular vision of the cheering masses tossing flowers at Jeep-loads of Allied liberators and reflects it back on those liberated during the year between D-Day in '44 to V-E day in '45 and the months following. The reality of liberation- the indiscriminate bombing and looting of European towns, farms, villages as the American, British and Canadian troops moved eastward and Russian soldiers flooded west- was shocking and heartbreaking. We know well the destruction wrought by re ...more
Nan
An intense and stunning history book. Hitchcock talks about what "liberation" meant to the thousands of civilians in Europe, as well as what the war meant. This is a long way from the Allies as Heroes narrative that gets forced at us by everyone from Tom Brokaw to Steven Spielberg (realizing there's not a quantum leap between those two). This book more than any other impressed on me the horror of WWII, and the scale of the carnage and suffering. No wonder the anti-war movement is so much stronge ...more
Devon
Because of the subject matter and the exhaustive research that went into this, and that’s written into this book’s pages, reading Bitter Road to Freedom can be like running a mental marathon at times. It’s difficult to read large chunks of it without needing a break because of how dense the book really is. It does help, though, that Hitchcock’s writing is a joy to read. He writes simply, but clearly, and does well in varying his sentence lengths and structures to make reading a book less of a ch ...more
Jeff
An important book detailing a side of European history not discussed in depth. I learned much about the end of WWII that I had never known before. The author discusses the "Liberation" of France and the Low Countries after D-Day in terms of how the locals were affected by the Anglo-American military machines; how hunger played a part of the liberation for not only people interred in camps in Germany and Poland, but also the western countries; how some of the liberators brought rape and robbery t ...more
Garryvivianne
Very interesting view on the liberation of Europe from the Nazi's. However not too good for the small towns that got destroyed, tens of thousands of civilians killed & many left homeless. Even the liberation of the concentration camp prisoners was met with repulsion by the allies. Many Europeans were thrown out of their homes so the soldiers, be it American, British or Russian liberators, would have places to stay, which made them no better than the Germans. This book details many civilian a ...more
Troy Martin
A depressing, grim, difficult, but important document of the unseen and often unreported victims of any war, in this case the "liberated" of WWII Europe. This should not supersede or replace any histories of the European war, but should be read alongside them to complete the sometimes fragmented picture of a continent in total war.
Jur
Interesting book that gives an important perspective on the liberation of Europe. How liberators and liberated or newly occupied had to accomodate, the tensions, but also the bonds wrought.

Sometimes this went into unexpected and tragic directions, like the attempts of American troops to ameliorate the plight of the Germans after 1945, while the treatment of Jewish survivors was less than magnanimous, sometimes even in their concentration camps.

The efforts of the UNHCR for the disposessed and dis
...more
Diane
This book tells the story of the liberation of Europe after World War II, focusing on the experiences of Western Europeans, Germans, and Jews, and their interactions with the arriving allies. I was surprised to learn that the travails of the Jewish population of Europe did not end with liberation, and that the allies were not very keen to resettle the concentration camp populations. Overall, the book was filled with interesting information, but the writing style was a bit dry. Also, I was disapp ...more
Matt Sparling
This book started out good and I had high hopes for it but soon it resorted into a typical book about the concentration camps. The liberation of France, Belgium, and Netherlands was interesting. The rest I had read many times before.
Cliff Riseborough
A very different take on the end of the second world war, from the perspective of European civilians, prisoners, and the honest thoughts of US and Commonwealth troops. It examines why the average French or Dutch citizen was perhaps not thrilled as they were freed (and their towns shattered by massed artillery fire), the absolute joke of referring to Eastern nations like Poland being 'liberated' as they were handed over in their entirety to Stalin, and the frustrations held by Allied troops towar ...more
John
A side of liberation likely not known to many.
Ronald
Never thought much about the civilians of Europe in the aftermath of WWII. I had heard of the airlifts of food and the difficult conditions regarding that event. This book brings to light much of the suffering even after the bombing stopped. Armies, U.S. included took untold liberties that further the suffering. It was an insightful book if not, something that was enjoyable to listen to. I, took breaks from it on occasion to listen to something more enjoyable.
A needful read.
Edelita
An insightful account of the clean up of Europe after WWII. We hear about the glory of the liberation of Europe but very little of the aftermath.
This book concentrates on the social aspects of the war, how ordinary civilians were affected. It is amazing to think how quickly Europe got its act together after such shocking brutality and barbarity of the second world war but as this book makes clear, it didn't happen overnight.
An important read.
Elgin
Its easy to believe that when the war is over, its over and everything is fine (though the Iraq "war" certainly shows different.) But I had never before read about the continuing misery of the French, the Dutch, the concentration camp Jews, etc. for years after liberation, their sometimes continued mistreatment by the liberating forces, and how much better the (west) Germans were treated than were many other peoples.
John
Mar 23, 2015 John rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who wish a deeper understanding of WWII
Recommended to John by: Dr Michael Galvin
Shelves: wwii
very good book. Caused a shift and further consideration on the toll of WWII, European Theater.Dispels some of the Great American Hero myth. Americans stepped up to the plate financially, logistically, and humanly. Not to sell any gratitude short. War bears a person into a baser human. Some deeper than others. The civilians in Europe had it tough. A real meat grinder. The Jews suffered, but not alone.
Adam
A very important and depressing book. After living under Nazi oppression, the allies were none to quick to help the displaced persons return home. The English treatment of the Jews was particularly despicable, as was selling out poland to the Russian. We all acted horribly.
Gail
An excellent book. The perspective is to show the situation of the civilian population of Europe and the millions of refugees from the time of the invasion of Normandy to several years after the end of WWII. The story was well told. I learned a great deal.
Twoster
May 13, 2009 Twoster rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
I learned a lot about WWII that I wasn't aware of. This book looks at the end of the war from the perspective of the people living in Europe. The descriptions were so horrific and really shows the human cost of war.
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