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I found this book to be a little like the TV sitcom 'Hallo Hallo' and a mix of clique Nazi behaviour and sometimes nothing new in behaviour of armies throughout history. Max Hastings asks these questions by the end of the book and although not excusing the Das Reich still shows that even the British Army is guilty of such behaviour at times if not on such a scale. Personally I don't believe international law has answered the question about irregulars, partisans, guerrillas and terrorists. One side has to play by the rules whilst the other seems to have carte blanche to carry on as they wish, as long as they are on the winning side. Max Hasting has decided to leave out some of the more dreadful details and un-collaborated evidence to keep the story flowing which helps to focus on the history. Das Reich was never going to win the hearts & minds of the French and their tactics of terror was used to effect throughout Europe especially in Russia, so what could you expect? As for the British and Allies. They really had no idea how to use the resistance properly, or what genie they had help to let out of the bottle. Nobody comes out of this story looking good. Perhaps the Americans but only due to their naivety. Like any soldier, when your enemy isn't in uniform, does not play by the rules and kills indiscriminately, everybody becomes the enemy. You tend to fight fire with fire.
This is a great listen in combination with Hastings' "Bomber Command" as the two stories overlap in interesting ways. "Das Reich" would work as a straightforward thriller without Hastings' characteristic hard work in telling the story of strategic decisions by war leaders and the individual stories of combatants gleaned from diaries and interviews. In combination it really is an outstanding listen that went straight to replay after the first hearing.
The core of the book starts in spring 1944 with Hitler weighing up his troops in France and deciding they're too old and soft to stand up to the imminent D Day invasions. He calculates that he can just about spare the Das Reich panzer division from the Russian front and so they're recalled to add firepower, ferocity and professionalism to the defence. Once in France they wait for the landing beaches to become clear and D-Day itself acts as a starters pistol as they're tasked to race to the landing beaches while the combined forces of the French Resistance, the RAF and various secret service operatives try to delay the journey long enough for a beach-head to be properly established.
Complicating factors include a massive influx of volunteers to the resistance as French citizens rush to get on the winning side of the conflict, squabbling allied commanders seeking the glory of making the decisive blow in defeating Nazism and the Das Reich themselves who returned from 3 years of annihilating 24/7 conflict in Russia suffering from a sort of rabid collective blood lust. So the allies were an enthusiastic shambles and Das Reich were primed to get hopelessly distracted from the race to Normandy at the first sign of trouble from the natives. Local French non-combatants paid a terrible price.
Hastings makes all of this incredibly gripping. He's great at using first person testimony to breath life into historical tragedy; his analysis of the battle for leadership in the strategic thinking of Allied and Axis forces is intellectually satisfying and he really shows you the hard work invested in tracking down and interviewing combatants from all sides who are now no longer alive. This is top class popular history and it's really making me think that I'll just have to give in and get all of Hastings' offerings on Audible.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
As usual Max Hastings work is excellent. the narration j's Ok but only (I found) when I set the play speed to x1.25 as I found the narrators delivery far too slow. Problem solved by listening at x1.25 speed.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
The author provides an intensely interesting account of the times and by reflection. For those, like myself who don't speak French I'm sure though I have missed many points made in the book as there is no translations of these numerous comments.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
The book has the right mix of drama, suspense, history and action to hold your attention.
What did you like best about this story?
Having visited Oradour sur Glane I thought I understood the complicated story behind the massacre but this book gave me a much better background
Did Nigel Carrington do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?
The narrator portrayed the characters well but he appeared to have a need to impress his readers with his knowledge of French pronunciation. The French passages, names and places were over dramatised and annunciated to the point that I hardly recognised them! The audio engineers must have spent quite some time cleaning sputum out of the microphone!
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Oradour sur Glane. Unforgettable