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The Lisbon Route: Entry and Escape in Nazi Europe Hardcover – March 16, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Apr.)
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Review

A leisurely, story-filled account of life in Nazi-occupied Europe's last open door to freedom. During World War II, the port city of Lisbon, in neutral Portugal, was the destination for a flood of refugees fleeing the Nazi terror who hoped to make their way to the United States and elsewhere. An estimated 100,000 or more refugees passed through the old-fashioned European capital, writes Weber (American Studies/Univ. of Notre Dame; News of Paris: American Journalists in the City of Light Between the Wars, 2006, etc.), often waiting for weeks or months for a place on a freighter, fishing boat or plane. At the same time, reporters, diplomats, spies, military leaders and others shuttled in and out freely, and the formerly sleepy city became a frenzied bazaar, charged with energy, conspiratorial feeling and moral uncertainty. . . . Based on newspaper accounts as well as diaries and letters, Weber's book brings the wartime city to life, tracing the machinations of agents and double agents in bars and hotels; Varian Fry's work on behalf of the International Rescue Committee to find safe passage for artists and intellectuals; and secret meetings where belligerents exchanged information. With the war's end, Prime Minister Antonio Salazar's authoritarian government began promoting the country as a postwar tourist destination. An engaging . . . chronicle of a city that was 'a way into Europe as well as a way out.' (Kirkus)

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)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; Book Club Edition edition (March 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566638763
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566638760
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The Lisbon Route" is a quick read on what amounts to a sidebar to World War II.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not just the story of Lisbon but of `neutral' Portugal. It is also many other stories.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Advice to writers often emphasizes the importance of seizing the reader's interest in the first chapter. This book is a classic example of how not to do that. Much of the first chapter consists of summaries of newspaper and magazine articles and some fiction. Only in the second chapter does the author get to the stories of individuals that make the book fascinating reading.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was meticulously researched and gives an interesting picture of Portugal's mostly neutral role in World War II. The chapters dealt with various aspects of life in Lisbon including spying, propaganda, and refugees. I found THE LISBON ROUTE to be a slow read; it was challenging for me to keep track of the many people mentioned in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Since I am very interested in World War II history in Europe I found this book fascinating ... a great little niche of the history of the War. The author obviously did a great deal of research. I have already borrowed from the library one of the books the author cites as a source, and am reading it (WE ESCAPED), and plan to go through his list of sources carefully to find other possible good reads. Especially heart-rending was the story of the fate of the plane Leslie Howard was on.
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