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Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation Hardcover – January 7, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When the German army marched into Paris on June 14, 1940, approximately 5,000 Americans remained in Paris. They had refused or been unable to leave for many different reasons; their actions during the course of the German occupation would prove to be just as varied. Glass interweaves the experiences of some of the individuals who belonged to this unique colony of American expatriates living in Paris. Among the stories highlighted are those of Charles Bedaux, an American millionaire determined to carry on with his business affairs as usual; Sylvia Beach, owner of the famous English-language bookstore Shakespeare & Company; Clara Longworth de Chambrun, patroness of the American Library in Paris and distantly related to FDR; and Dr. Sumner Jackson, the American Hospital’s chief surgeon. These fascinating tales reflect the complicated network of choices—passive compromise, outright collaboration, patient retreat, and active resistance—that existed for Americans caught in the German web. --Margaret Flanagan


"A story of extraordinary precision... absorbing." --Financial Times

"Rich in intrigue and heroism... a fascinating treat." --Antony Beevor, Daily Telegraph (UK)

"Glass, a world-class journalist, proves a gifted historian in this electrifying account of resistance, collaboration, terror, and valor." -- Parade magazine

"[Glass] skillfully uses memoirs, diaries, letters, documents and official records to draw a picture of expatriates caught in a mesh of deceit, bravery, self-sacrifice and fear, and places them in the context of diplomacy and the wider war." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (January 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202427
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202421
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #945,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David M. Dougherty VINE VOICE on November 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an interesting but not riveting book telling the stories of various American citizens from 1939 to 1945 in France. Although the narrative is somewhat disjointed and at times incomplete, I liked the author's work. It is definitely worth reading if one is interested in World War II. However, to put the stories into context, I recommend reading "Hitler's Empire -- How The Nazis Ruled Europe" by Mark Mazower.

A quick check in my library of other works concerning France under German occupation in WWII revealed essentially no information on the people covered by this work. Books like "France Under The Germans", "Verdict On Vichy", "The French Against The French", "Soldiers Of The Night", "Vichy Two Years Of Deception" and "Paris Underground" failed to mention the principal characters in this work, and Ambassador Bullitt only rated a single line in all of the above. Obviously, the French and writers of the French occupation years are interested in only presenting the stories of French citizens -- usually to depict how heroic they were in resisting the Germans. The actual story as we now know is that collaboration was widespread and Vichy was the only Non-German government that voluntarily rounded up and shipped off Jews to Germany for extermination.

So to me, at least, this story of Americans in France during this time was essentially unknown. Some of those individuals covered in this work actively resisted the Germans and some didn't. Nonetheless, I found all of the characters important to form a complete picture of the situation, although some like Charles Bedaux present complex and sometimes contradictory behavior.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The anecdotal material buried inside this 400-plus page book is fascinating, but the reader sometimes has to dig deep to find the nuggets -- such as the octagenerian African-American French Legion veteran who appears in the opening and closing chapters, only to vanish in between; the story of Mary Berg (American only in name) who miraculously is sent from Warsaw to an American internment camp (which isn't, incidentally, in Paris at all...) and Drue Leyton, who runs a Resistance and evasion network when not interned as an enemy alien.

The problem, I think, is that Glass has approached his subject in an almost encyclopedic way, cramming together the stories of anyone and everyone who was American and who happened to be in Paris between June 1940 and August 1944. The result is jarring, as we move from Sylvia Beach (a fascinating story of the experiences of a Left Bank bookseller and patron of such writers as Hemingway and Joyce) to unknown heroes, like the doctor at the American Hospital in Neuilly, who sacrifices himself to save Allied airmen and others as part of the Resistance. Some have fascinating stories, but simply don't fit well into the overall story, like Charles Bedaux, at whose home the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were married, and who appears to have had no interest in anything but doing business -- with whatever regime he happened to be tied to at the point in time. Technically an American -- and someone who died in American custody -- he's not really representative of the experience of Americans in Paris during this time.

The stories are often compelling, but a good book is more than just a series of stories tied together in chronological chapters; it has some kind of overarching theme or point to it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title is imprecise: The geographical scope is wider than Paris, and the featured Americans had stronger ties to France than to the U.S. That is why they stayed there after the French army's collapse and the division of the country between a German-occupied zone and the territory of the collaborationist Vichy regime. Leaving would have entailed the sacrifice of extensive business interests or close personal friendships or humanitarian enterprises.

Americans in Paris follows the fortunes of about half a dozen of these Franco-Americans. They are not a representative sample. Except for a few who show up only in vignettes, all have been the subjects of other books. They include industrialist and efficiency expert Charles Bedaux, the aristocratic de Chambrun family (père an American citizen in his own mind, mère and fils in reality), Dr. Sumner Jackson of the American Hospital in Paris, and Sylvia Beach, proprietress of the original Shakespeare and Company, Paris's leading English language bookstore. I suspect that octogenarian Charles Anderson, a minor business functionary married to a French woman, is more typical. He gets only a passage near the end of the book, and that passage aims to score points against American racism rather than illuminate the experience of living in wartime Paris.

The advantage of the atypical main characters is that they have fascinating, and very different, stories. On one side is Dr. Jackson, who used his hospital position to help downed Allied airmen escape from the Germans. More ambivalent are the Chambruns, who worked to keep the American Hospital and American Library out of Nazi hands but showed no sympathy for the Resistance and were on good terms with Pierre Laval, whose daughter Chambrun fils had married. M.
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