Prize-winning and bestselling historian Jean Edward Smith tells the “rousing” (Jay Winik, author of 1944) story of the liberation of Paris during World War II—a triumph achieved only through the remarkable efforts of Americans, French, and Germans, racing to save the city from destruction.
Following their breakout from Normandy in late June 1944, the Allies swept across northern France in pursuit of the German army. The Allies intended to bypass Paris and cross the Rhine into Germany, ending the war before winter set in. But as they advanced, local forces in Paris began their own liberation, defying the occupying German troops.
Charles de Gaulle, the leading figure of the Free French government, urged General Dwight Eisenhower to divert forces to liberate Paris. Eisenhower’s advisers recommended otherwise, but Ike wanted to help position de Gaulle to lead France after the war. And both men were concerned about partisan conflict in Paris that could leave the communists in control of the city and the national government. Neither man knew that the German commandant, Dietrich von Choltitz, convinced that the war was lost, schemed to surrender the city to the Allies intact, defying Hitler’s orders to leave it a burning ruin.
In The Liberation of Paris, Jean Edward Smith puts “one of the most moving moments in the history of the Second World War” (Michael Korda) in context, showing how the decision to free the city came at a heavy price: it slowed the Allied momentum and allowed the Germans to regroup. After the war German generals argued that Eisenhower’s decision to enter Paris prolonged the war for another six months. Was Paris worth this price? Smith answers this question in a “brisk new recounting” that is “terse, authoritative, [and] unsentimental” (The Washington Post).
Jean Edward Smith taught at the University of Toronto for thirty-five years, and at Marshall University for twelve. He was also a visiting scholar at Columbia, Princeton, and Georgetown. He is the author of Bush, a biography of the 43rd president; Eisenhower in War and Peace; FDR, winner of the 2008 Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians; Grant, a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist; and John Marshall: Definer of a Nation.
"Fred Sanders delivers this illuminating history in just the right way to move the action forward. He narrates with intelligence and attention to the specifics—names, dates, and events—and his pacing and tone reflect the intense atmosphere of wartime Paris as WWII nears its end. In a history that is nothing if not dramatic—Hitler wants Paris destroyed—his sure cadence illuminates contributions of General Eisenhower, who circumvents FDR; General de Gaulle, who promotes the capital as a symbol of 'la France'; and German General von Choltitz, who risks his career and his family's safety to ignore the Fuhrer's irrational instructions. This fine audiobook helps the listener understand the motivations and complex actions that saved the art, architecture, and people of the City of Light."