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The Lisbon Route: Entry and Escape in Nazi Europe Hardcover – March 16, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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During WWII, people hoping to escape Nazi-occupied Europe made their way to a city that was a gateway to the free world. Lisbon, Portugal, was an open city, politically neutral, which made it a prime destination for refugees. But getting there wasn’t easy, and getting out of Lisbon wasn’t a walk in the park, either. Weber explores the importance of the Lisbon route to freedom by focusing on the stories of men and women who used it, or who made it possible, people like Arthur Koestler, the Jewish writer who decided to get out of occupied Paris in 1940 (which he did by taking an unusual first step—enlisting in the French Foreign Legion); American journalist Varian Fry, who secretly worked for the Emergency Rescue Committee, helping refugees get out of Europe; and Russian-born German spy Lily Sergeyev, who operated as a double agent for the British in Lisbon. . . . The information is educational and very interesting. WWII buffs should definitely give it a read. (Booklist)
As Weber notes, the Lisbon route is largely forgotten as anything more than Ilsa's destination in Casablanca. But the route offered thousands of refugees a path from Nazi-held Europe to neutral Portugal and from there to America. Weber, professor emeritus of American studies at Notre Dame (News of Paris), assembles vignettes into each stand-alone chapter, creating contrast between the breathless escape of pilots such as Chuck Yeager (who crossed the Pyrenees with the help of the Resistance after his plane was downed in France) and easier journeys by Man Ray, Virgil Thomson (who arrived by train), and the duke and duchess of Windsor, (they fled France by car with a diplomatic escort). As the primary city offering air and sea passage to England and the United States, once quiet Lisbon attracted a mixture of wealthy expatriates, desperate intellectuals, and other refugees, along with spies, creating a colorful collage of luxury hotels, and brothels whose prostitutes were paid to spy; Ian Fleming came as a member of British naval intelligence. Weber provides a rich if sober microcosm of one segment of WWII's substantial displaced population. (Publishers Weekly)
A vivid depiction of how Lisbon became the antechamber of Nazi Occupied Europe. Weber brings alive the experiences of those who found themselves in a city caught between the Axis and the Allies during the Second World War. His illuminating account shows how reaching Lisbon was a momentous step toward escape for many, at the same time others benefited from unexpected opportunities provided by the conflict. (Hanna Diamond, University of Bath)
Top Customer Reviews
This book paints a vivid picture of the streams of humanity flowing into Lisbon and then on to safer destinations. These stitched together personal stories and anecdotes round out a seldom told story.
As one would expect from one of the only neutral ports in the war, Lisbon was awash in spies and their schemes. The spy details are a particularly fetching part of the story. The incompetence and indifference of the Germans in the spy game is surprising.
The descriptions of the diplomatic/geopolitical dance over use of Portugal's Azores and key minerals are fascinating. Portugal deftly played the Brits, Americans and Germans off each other to keep out of the war, yet at the same time making it a crucial ally to all. Fascinating read.
This is the story of many refugees and of officials and ordinary men and women who defied orders to issue transit visas. It is also the story of the ships that traveled to neutral Portugal and the Pan Am Clippers. It was one of the goals for servicemen trying to avoid capture, including Chuck Yeager's journey across the Pyrenees. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Noel Coward are not forgotten.
The book is filled with names and facts and narratives of those who helped and those who need that help. You do not get close to them because there are just so many - page after page of the part Lisbon played in the machinations and intrigues of WWII.
The details of Portugal's neutrality and its' effects on the escape route that it became during the war are well detailed. All aspects of the propaganda war are described, as well as the political pressure from the Allies for the use of bases in the Azores. There are some fascinating, little known details in here. The tale of wolfram, a mineral from which tungsten is derived which is used to harden steel needed for war materials. It was mined in Portugal and needed by Germany. The Safehaven Program is detailed - an effort to keep German hidden money from being used after the war.
This is a book filled with so much information those interested in the history of the intelligence communities, the political maneuverings and intricate aspects of WWII would find it of interest.
The stories range from the tragic to the laughable. Some escapees suffered severe hardships in getting to Lisbon; Arthur Koestler's survival story is particularly harrowing. Other migrants of more privileged classes escaped in comfort. Some private citizens like Varian Fry acted heroically in helping desperate people. At the other extreme, some of the actions by foreign governments in Lisbon were insensitive, naive and amateurish.
Portugal skillfully managed its Allied-leaning neutrality to emerge unscathed, and richer, from the war. We may condemn Salazar as a dictator, but he successfully guided his country through a dark age when other nations envied Portugal's sunny allure.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating and little known aspect of WWII. A very worthwhile read.Published 4 months ago by Rick B.
A useful guide to Portugal in WWII and the spy-vs.-spy atmosphere in Lisbon. My British Mom passed thru Lisbon is
WWII, so I wanted some info.
This book provided good information about Lisbon's escape route during World War II. Interesting and informative. The text helped make the travails of the escapees real.Published on April 12, 2014 by Sharon
This is a collection of individual stories about the non-Portuguese who passed through Lisbon between (roughly) 1938 and 1946. Read morePublished on December 25, 2013 by Patrick Donnelly