The liberation of Paris was an important symbolic event during the end game in World War II. Author Michael Neiberg’s account of that liberation, “The Blood of Free Men,” explores the importance of Paris to the French and Americans, not the strategic value that other sites would have during World War II, but the emotional connection most Allied combatants felt toward the City of Light.
The title of the book is derived from the words of Algerian-born existentialist Albert Camus who was writing for an underground newspaper, Combat.
Camus said that Paris had traditionally and historically filled a role of purging tyranny with “the blood of free men,” Neiberg writes:
“The liberty that the city was buying with its own blood,” Camus argued, “was the liberty not just of Paris and not just of France, but of mankind itself.”
Neiberg shows how Free French Forces leader Gen. Charles de Gaulle staged the liberation to cement his political dominance in post-war France, and how his masterful political maneuvering prevented what French democrats do best — kill one other, although there was a fair amount of that, too.
The book is not just about de Gaulle, or the American-British coalition that allowed him to liberate his country’s capital city. It is about all the factions that worked together to drive the Germans from Paris. Some of those partisans were cast aside after the liberation, but they are acknowledged here as partners in an important symbolic Allied victory and Axis defeat.
— Michael L. Ramsey is president of the Roanoke Public Library Foundation.