Resistance: The Underground War Against Hitler, 1939–1945

Liveright: Norton. May 2022. 960p. ISBN 9781324091653. $45. HIST
This ambitious book by historian Kochanski (Britain’s Royal Historical Society; The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War) takes an exhaustive approach to the resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War. II The book’s organization is thematic, chronological, and geographic, which is important in a work of this scope. Kochanski’s definition of “the resistance” will be somewhat controversial, as it doesn’t include German resisters, whom she instead classifies as internal opponents to the Nazi regime. She argues that the development of resistance movements in a given Nazi-occupied region depended almost entirely on that nation’s treatment by the occupying Germans. For instance, Nazi ruthlessness in occupied regions of the Soviet Union and in occupied Poland led people there to join resistance movements because they felt they had no other chance at survival, whereas the relative leniency exhibited by Nazis in occupied Western European countries, like France and the Netherlands, led to more complacency among the people of those nations. Kochanski also posits that the goals and effectiveness of resistance movements also varied from nation to nation: many resistance groups almost ignored the Germans and focused on fighting one another, with an eye to grabbing political power after the war; some resisters declared their opposition to the principles of Nazism, others were Nazi collaborators who then turned against the Germans when it became advantageous. The story of the resistance is a messy one, and Kochanski needs all of the book’s 960 pages to tell it thoroughly.
VERDICT This title will be appreciated by specialists but is not for the general reader.
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