France no longer belonged to the French themselves, occupied by the Germans for a second time. Even though the French army surrendered, the French people did not. Forming groups of rag tag gorilla resistance fighters. The resistance group was the Forces Françaises De L’intérieur or the FFI, a small group just shy of 200 people. They were a pester for German solider all though out the occupation, destroying anything that could aid the Germans. They blew up troop transportation, such as trains and caravans. The main sabotage was the German trains; one of the better stories from the chapter is the blowing up of two trains in two consecutive days. Doing all they could to drive the Germans out, they went on to help fight with the allies in Africa and Italy. Their numbers slowly dwelled, being killed in skirmishes, being captured and sent to the concentration camps and shooting squads. They weren’t the only resistance though; many French people defied the Germans. The church for example leaned aid to Jews and help when they could despite the fact that the punishment was death. “Jews are men. Jews are women. They are part of humanity. They are our brothers, like anyone else. A Christian may not forget that.” All these brave people, fought for people they didn’t know, for a country that was occupied by a force that outnumbered and outgunned any of them. People like this were so important in saving hundreds of life and fighting against the German power.
Rome during the Second World War was called an ‘open city’ by the Pope and Nazis, where the devastations of war would not be permitted to reach the streets of Rome. However, the city still had a strong Nazi presence during the war. Mak highlights the inaction of the Vatican against the Nazis in Rome. While Pope Pius XII’s devotion to the church was unquestionable, he was also believed to be an anti-Semite that detested communism. Mak writes that while “he sent out directives to help Jews… [and] played an important role behind the scenes in stopping the deportations,” he was at the same time “a sly negotiator who, to keep from compromising his own secular power, avoided all conflicts with the Nazi regime” (p.515). Because of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican never directly opposed the Nazis when it came to protecting the Jews of Italy. The absence of the Pope and Catholic Church was made obvious when, after a bomb killed thirty-two SS men in Rome, the resulting reprisal that killed 320 political prisoners went unopposed by the Church. While local priests did what they could to protect Italian Jews, there came no leadership from the Church. The Vatican was also believed to have played a role in helping Nazis escape after World War Two. Mak writes that fleeing Nazis “received money, shelter, false documents and an escape route to South America from Vatican prelates” (p.517). Over half a million Italians were deported to concentration camps where many would die as victims of the Holocaust.
Vichy France was roughly the southern half of France that was allowed to remain unoccupied after the conquest of France by the Third Reich. Its name comes from the town of Vichy, which housed the new authoritarian government of what remained of France. Contrary to popular belief, the Vichy regime was not established by the Nazis nor was it created against the will of France’s population. Rather, it was praised by millions of French citizens and had not a National Socialist agenda, but a French one entirely. Because it existed only during World War II, people tend to think of Vichy France as a temporary government that existed as an extension of Nazi Germany. This understanding is partly accurate– Vichy France was indeed temporary in the eyes of the Third Reich. As Mak puts it, “this ‘free’ bit of France existed only as long as the German had no need for it.” (Mak, In Europe, pg. 520) But the Vichy government, despite being content to conform to a new Europe inhabited largely by Germany, did not see itself as a servant to the Reich. It is more accurate to view Vichy France as a fifth new fascist government in addition to Italy, Germany, Spain and Portugal; it had its own aspirations to build an authoritarian France that could one day surpass Germany in power.
Here is a link to the Vichy anthem which Mak mentions on page 522:
Maréchal, nous voilá
Devant toi, le sauveur de la France.
Nous jurons, nous, les gars,
De servir et de suivre tes pas
The opening sets the tone, “When the American War Correspondent Martha Gellhorn first set foot in Italy in February 1944, she could hardly believe her eyes; no hurricane could have done more damage than the German-American frontlines as they slowly rolled back.” (Mak 506) Such an image leaves a feeling of chaos. Italy was in a state of chaos through out the time of the second world war it would be safe to say. A leader who was adored, but later looked at as an enemy of the country just as quickly. The King abandoned them when Germany marched in. “The Italians never forgave their king; in 1946 they voted overwhelmingly to abolish the monarchy” (Mak 509) Chaos, the town of Cassino as described by Mak is merely a town with an history that left a once happy town to be a town of what he calls a city with out a heart or memory. While Casino is a town of history, it is overwhelmed by a dark past because of the failure of leadership.
The axis in the beginning were taking Europe like the fire takes a forrest. They were not challenged. Japan and Germany where taking countries quickly. Although towards the middle of the 1940s as the war we know started to wind down the tables turned and the Germans were starting to see their downfall. The German leadership began to see the collapse and it’s effects on their great leader, Adolf Hitler. Hitler who had been almost killed by one of his own Generals. A powerful quote to describe leaves a good picture of the state of mind of Hitler at the time. “The Fuhrer, both of them felt, had ‘aged fifteen years in the three and a half that the war has lasted'”(Mak 512) Hitler mental health was in question and left his subordinates deeply concerned.
Cassino was a town that has seen the worst. To this day the memory of that time is left haunting the surrounding area Mak descirbes through past observations.
One rarely hears about the involvement of Greece in the Second World War, with most of the attention focused on the Western Front or even on the Russian Front. However, Greece had its role to play as well. Italian leader Mussolini, whose “supporters dreamed of the return of the Roman Empire” and “of hegemony along the Mediterranean seaboard,” brought WWII to Greece in late 1940, though it was not until the spring of 1941 that the Italian forces finally managed to occupy Greece after receiving aid from their German allies (Mak, 499). Despite the violence and resistance this brought throughout Greece, on the Greek island of Kefallonia, the occupation was not quite so harsh. The soldiers stationed there were “friendly Italians who were perfectly content to have the gods of war pass them by” (Mak, 503). General peace and harmony reigned there between occupiers and occupied until September of 1943 when Italy signed a truce with the Allies. This was the turning point for the Italian soldiers on Kefallonia, because instead of laying down their arms when German reinforcements arrived, they decided to join the fight against their former allies. Despite their determination, they were forced to surrender less than a month later, and in retaliation, the Germans killed nearly five thousand Italian soldiers (Mak, 504).
Istanbul has in the past been considered “…the great bridge between Europe and Asia” (Mak 489), but during his time spent there Mak finds the city to be vastly different than what it had been . He points to how it seemed there was some social progression in the 1920s and 1930s under Ataturk (women were no longer required to wear veils and given the vote, separation of church and state), but he also notes that the growing nationalism in Turkey allowed for the Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and Christians were persecuted and forced out of the country, or killed. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, tolerance was seen by Ataturk as “…sentimental and obsolete, religious and ethnic diversity only undermined the country’s identity and security”(Mak 495). Mak says the state of Istanbul now has to with Ataturk’s policies more than anything else. In the past Istanbul was tolerant the center of political power, but is now “..a symbol of glory past, ties forgotten, tolerance lost”(Mak 496).
Mak starts off the chapter in Kiev. He talks about nationalism and that even after World War II; Kiev’s true mother is the old Soviet Union and not Ukraine. He goes on talking about the Women’s Ravine; which I have never heard of before but is a site of genocide by the Germans during World War II. To the Russians, it is known as Babi Yar.
Mak states that “the massacre at Babi Yar was kept out of history books for years…until 1970 when the novel Babi Yar was published” (Mak 481). A reason that Mak gives as to why this was being kept out of history books was because of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that the Soviet Union had with Germany during World War II.
Mak finally gets to Odessa where he stays at the Londonskaya hotel. Mak gives Odessa a magical but also an ugly one too. Mak goes on to talk about how the new government and new nationalism have created obstacles and everyone in Odessa is paying for them. One thing that sparked an interest was Mak’s portrayal of Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations. This journal/paper talks about a cultural divide between Christians and Eastern Orthodox/Islamists and that lives are different on either side of the divide. I believed this to be important because this divide is not in any map and is not real: it is an imaginary line that was created in “A.D. 395” (Mak 487).
“People feel the Asian blood in them, but also feel the European blood, they must come to terms with both” (Mak 488). This is Mak’s solution to the conflict between Russia and Odessa for being “too European”.
Stalingrad was by far the most devastating and destructive battle of the entire war. When the battle for Stalingrad began on Sunday, 23 August, 1942 it was like any other day in the city families having picnics and people going about their daily lives. This is when the bombardment of Stalingrad began, “Around 40,000 men, women, and children were burned alive, suffocated or buried beneath rubble” (Mak p. 470-1). The city was much more than just a strategic location for both sides but rather a battle of egos between Stalin and Hitler, Stalin felt that this was ‘his’ city and must defended at all costs (Mak p. 471). The German forces which boasted 300,000 strong was reduced to nearly 90,000 in just five months, only 6,000 returned safely back to Germany. Mak speaks throughout this chapter of the sheer destruction and death that occurred and brings to light the atrocities of war and the devastating affects they have on men, women, and children. Hitler lost this battle because he “refused to delegate a thing” (Mak p. 478) while on the other hand Stalin who was the same kind of leader delegated to his generals. (seh268)
While much of the world was focused on the aftermath of the Holocaust, Mak hints at the idea and implementation of Stalin’s need to eliminate the kulaks was just as catastrophic. Stalin did not subject the kulaks to prison camps or gas chambers. Instead he let the elements during their deportation kill them. It has been estimated that over seven million people died during the deportation due to the cold and starvation. Mak states that this included “five million in the Ukraine [and] two million in the rest of the Soviet Union” (Mak 446). If these figures were not shocking enough, Mak briefly explained on page 448 that in 1937, “the census committee were arrested for having ‘treacherously attempted to reduce the population of the USSR.” Whether the population discussed here was strictly concerning the kulaks, or whether it included the other people who died of starvation under Soviet “care,” through this Mak explained that under Stalin, nothing and no one was 100% correct, 100% of the time, except for him. According to Stalin, he made no mistakes, and the mistakes that were made were blamed on others. And often times those others were deported and or eliminated.
Inhabitants were not surprised when the war came to Leningrad. Mak speaks with Anna Smirnova who recalls the experience of preparing for the German invasion. Citizens held blackout drills and the elderly became accustomed to war from previous experiences. People began stocking up on food products such as flour, sugar, and salt after hearing of the war’s arrival (Mak, In Europe, p. 429). Common issues in Leningrad during the war included starvation and the lack of heat during the winter (Mak, In Europe, p. 430). Anna describes the experience, “We wasted away, we were being shelled all the time” (Mak, In Europe, p. 431). She enabled her family to survive by working via a theatre and performing for the troops (Mak, In Europe, p. 432). Mak shows the difficulties faced by Leningrad’s civilians during WWII. Pre-teen Tanya Savitsyeva writes about the multiple family deaths she witnessed during the war in her diary located in St. Petersburg’s Municipal Museum (Mak, In Europe, p. 429).