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Fleeing Hitler: France 1940 Hardcover – August 19, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0192806185 ISBN-10: 0192806181 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In France, it is called l'exode, or "exodus": the flight from their homes of up to seven million residents before and during the German invasion of the country in May and June 1940 (events described in the bestselling novel Suite Française). Diamond, who specializes in modern French history at the University of Bath, combed dozens of memoirs and diaries about the flight for this first major study in English. She notes a number of reasons for the mass internal migration, including a belief in the "atrocity propaganda" about Germany from WWI; fears that the Germans would bomb Paris and other cities; a desire to avoid working for the Nazi war machine; and the flight of the French government itself from Paris. She captures how an initial "holiday spirit" gave way to a sense of displacement, loss and impoverishment for some and separation of families. Diamond also shows how the host communities, predominantly in France's south and west, often were overwhelmed by a doubling or tripling of their populations virtually overnight. Perhaps most important and interesting is her exploration of how Marshall Pétain exploited the exodus to discredit the government of the Third Republic. While Diamond's treatment of some topics, like fatalities during the exodus, is cursory, this is a solid work on a socially convulsive episode of WWII. 22 b&w photos. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Gives new insight into the significance of the trauma of 1940 for French people and makes plain the political fallout of rapid military defeat plain." H-France

"Diamond's book is an important resource."--Journal of Modern History


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192806181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192806185
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Truthteller on August 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An often overlooked result of the Nazi Blitzkrieg against France in 1940 is that the invasion, combined with the rapidly retreating French forces and flight by the French government from Paris, created chaos and confusion throughout the country. An estimated 7 million people (2 million alone from Paris), fueled by absurd propaganda stories of expected German atrocities (e.g., the Nazis were not only going to rape women but were also going to cut off the hands of children), fled the oncoming German Army. Included among these unfortunates were approximately 2 million refugees from Belgium as well as 150,000 or more from Holland and Luxembourg.

The result was a stupendous traffic jam unequalled to that point in European, if not human, history as people took flight in trucks, cars, carts, bicyles, and every other form of transportation imaginable. The situation was compounded by an oppressive summer heat, and the fact the war was still going on, e.g., the masses of refugees impeded the movement of the very troops who were trying to help them and their country (although admittedly the ranks of the refugees were not without significant numbers of deserting troops, not to mention government officials and police).

Ironically, many refugees, fleeing a predicted heavy bombing of the big cities (which did not take place), were killed by seemingly indiscriminate bombing and strafing by German planes (a feat which the Allies in turn later inflicted on German refugees many times over in 1944-45). There were also shortages of food, water, and housing as the refugees overwhelmed portions of southern and western France.

After France's defeat it is estimated that all but about a million refugees slowly returned to their homes within a year.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Eric A. Arnold on September 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Diamond, Hanna E.
Fleeing Hitler; France, 1940
Oxford, Oxford University Press
219 pp, plus endnotes, bibliography and index
ISBN 978-0-19--280618-5, May, 2007

I should note in starting my review of Prof. Diamond's excellent little book that it was Oxford University Press who sought out Prof. Diamond rather than the other way around; that in itself is striking evidence of her qualifications. She earned her DPhil (the British equivalent of the American PhD) at the University of Sussex. Her dissertation, which she successfully defended in July 1992, was entitled "Women's Experience during and after World War II in the Toulouse Area, 1939-1948;" after revising her dissertation, it was published as Women and the Second World War in France: Choices and Constraints," which was published in 1999 (New York: Longman's). She has also edited two books and made major contribution to 11 others, plus numerous journal articles. She was on the faculty of the Université de Paris X - Nanterre, the American University in Paris and has been on the faculty of the University of Bath since 1997.
Based on her work to date, she is an extremely promising young scholar.
Much has been written on the tragic French military disaster of May - June 1940 as well as on the neo-Nazi/Fascist Vichy Government, late June 1940 through the liberation of Paris on August 22, 1944. But until now, nothing (that I know of) has been written on the flight of millions of Frenchmen from Paris and other parts of the interior.
The French Government had plans in place to accept and relocate refugees from Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the departments of northern France (eg, the Nord).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on December 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I originally bought Fleeing Hitler for a family member, who as a child took part in the Parisian "Exodus" in the summer of 1940 as Hitler advanced at Blitzkrieg speed into France. I honestly didn't think a book about civilians fleeing would be very interesting, it's such a seemingly minor, and for many embarrassing event in World War II history; but I was soon hooked after reading the first few pages. Not only did the Exodus directly shape the course of the war, 'Fleeing Hitler' is hugely educational, entertaining, and even relevant today.

Diamond unfolds the events with liberal use of direct quotes from about a dozen people who left excellent accounts, published and private. The first few chapters describe the build-up to war, invasion, the "phony war" and finally the Exodus itself. Diamond has a novelists sense of building a story so that by the time the Nazi's invade you feel ready to flee along with everyone else. Then there is an excellent history of how and why the French government split into the Vichy government and the government in exile - this has always been a confusing for me, but now I understand it was largely in direct consequence of the Exodus.

'Fleeing Hitler' can be enjoyed on many levels, from WWII history of a largely forgotten and unknown but major event, to personal stories of survival, to general lessons about evacuations and what happens when a modern western industrial society breaks down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike B on January 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
A ground view of what happened to the people of France during the German invasion of 1940. There were over 6 million refugees on the move in France - including over 1 million from Belgium. Paris was almost emptied.

The author examines the reasons behind this vast and chaotic movement of people. One was the unprecedented collapse of the French military. The departure of the government from Paris added to this disorder.

Ms. Diamond uses first-hand accounts of people who participated and experienced this mass exodus. It was a traumatic beginning to four years of occupation. This tragic tale is well told and is certain to interest those who have an interest in this period of French history.
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