Historical Events & Topics

Second World War

  • UNIN
    Julie Summers
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    Social historian Julie Summers looks over the period during the Second World War when thousands of families had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave everything they knew and start a new life in a location where Hitler's Luftwaffe could not reach them - and the role Britain's country houses had to play in this.

    Based on extensive research and interviews, Julie conveys the problems these families faced during the early years of the conflict and examines the locations that they were sent to. She also looks at the problems and social stigmas they had to face and overcome in each different area.

    This hardback shines a light on a previously untold story from the Second World War. It looks at how people from all walks of life found themselves in these most esteemed surroundings and how the juxtaposition of splendour and opulence was at odds with their temporary residents' needs.
  • WWII Military Collection - 5 Books - Collection - 9781407251004
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    From the Dambusters bombing raid to the story that inspired the classic film, The Great Escape, this collection is full of fascinating reads for anyone interested in military history.

    With five books to read through, it will provide hours of reading. The Battle for the Code is the story of how the German Enigma codes were broken (as seen in the Benedict Cumberbatch film The Imitation Game); Ill Met by Moonlight is an adventure story about how the Special Forces kidnapped the General of Crete; and The Great Escape is the story of a mass escape from a WWII German PoW camp.

    This collection also includes Wings on My Sleeve, test pilot Eric Brown's autobiography; and The Dambusters Raid, a definitive account of the most audacious bombing raid of the Second World War.
  • SPIG
    Gordon Corera
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    BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera reveals the story of MI14 and the Secret Pigeon Service during the Second World War for the first time in this compelling read.

    Using extensive original research and declassified documents, he reveals the inner workings of 'Columba' - an operation that saw 16,000 plucky homing pigeons dropped in an arc from Bourdeaux to Copenhagen in an effort to bring back intelligence from those living under Nazi occupation.

    The messages came flooding back from France, the Netherlands and Belgium - all written on tiny pieces of rice paper that has been tucked into canisters and tied to the legs of the birds - and these authentic missives ranged from the comic to the tragic and occasionally invaluable, giving the British Intelligence advance notice of German troop movements, weapons and more.

    Corera also looks at the people behind this mission, not many of whom were trained agents or experienced in spying. He focuses in particular on the Leopold Vindictive network, a small group of Belgian villagers - led by priest Joseph Raskin - who were always prepared to risk everything. This is a powerful and tragic tale of wartime espionage that looks at a quirky and quarrelsome band of spy masters and their unique operations.
  • SPST
    Jacky Hyams
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    Published in association with Imperial War Museums, this book is packed with tales of courage, heartbreak and humour set against the Spitfire's extraordinary history.

    Based on documents, letters, stories, photographs and articles from the museum's archives, it also uses interviews with designers, engineers, mechanics, ground staff and pilots to explain how this magnificent flying machine helped Britain to victory.

    The most famous plane of World War II and a source of national pride, the Spitfire is one of the most iconic aviation images of all time. This book celebrates the achievements of the people in charge of these planes.
  • FTEH
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    A companion to the brilliant Channel 4 series of the same name, The Freedom Trails: Escaping Hitler tells the incredible story of some of the brave individuals who managed to escape Nazi Germany.

    Over 5,000 British, Commonwealth and American servicemen made the journey over the Pyrenees, the Slovenian mountains and the Italian alps and many died en route. However, the brave men and women of the resistance still managed to defy the odds and keep the routes open.

    Among those you'll read about are Blondie Haslar, the leader of the Cockleshell Heroes, US airman Chuck Yaeger (whose story was retold in The Right Stuff) and Andree de Jongh, a young woman who risked her life to smuggle men through occupied France and survived being sent to two concentration camps.

    Based on in-depth research and interviews with survivors as well as his own experiences walking the trails, broadcaster and former Royal Marine Monty Halls book is dramatic and gripping from first page to last.
  • DFTR
    Nicholas Rankin
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    Nicholas Rankin, the bestselling author of Churchill's Wizards, examines how Gibraltar - a lone outpost of the British Empire, riddled with tunnels, spies and secrets - managed to hold off attacks by land, sea and air to help the Allies win the Second World War.

    Two months before his death, Adolf Hitler realised where it had gone wrong - he failed to seize Gibraltar in 1940. A pillar of British sea power since 1704, the Rock of Gibraltar looked formidable but was also very vulnerable.

    Gibraltar was menaced on all sides by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Vichy France and Francoist Spain and had to let thousands of people cross its frontier to work every day - many of whom were eager to blow up its 25 miles of secret tunnels.

    Eventually in 1942, Gibraltar became US General Eisenhower's HQ for the invasion of North Africa and it was this campaign that led to the Allies' victory. This revelatory book features the likes of Haile Selassie, Anthony Burgess and General Sikorsi and sets Gibraltar in the wider context of the struggle against fascism. It also covers its role in the Spanish Civil War and its people's rise to independence.
  • URCH
    Max Arthur
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    Commemorating 50 years since the death of Winston Churchil, this is a unique illustrated biography for anyone interested in the history of Britain.

    It includes rare and previously unpublished images from the vaults of the Churchill Archive Centre and family pictures from the Broadwater collection. Written by historian Max Arthur, the book covers everything from Churchill's youth and early military career through to the First and Second World Wars and his post-war life.

    Endlessly fascinating, it includes timelines, speech drafts, telegrams and insights into Churchill's key influences, acquaintances and family.
  • TOAH
    David King
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    On 8 November, 1923, Adolf Hitler stormed into a beer hall in Munich, fired his pistol in the air and declared the start of a revolution.

    Seventeen hours later and he was on the run from the police, with his career seemingly in tatters. All that remained of his bold move was a trail of destruction... Written by historian David King, this is the true story of the monumental criminal proceeding that followed as Hitler and nine other suspects were charged with high treason.

    While reporters from all over the world came to witness the trial, things clicked into place for Hitler and he ended up hailing the fiasco of the beer hall putsch as a victory for the fledgling Nazi Party. This trial thrust Hitler into the limelight and provided him and set him on his journey to power.

    Using trial transcripts, police files and a host of sources, including 500 documents recently discovered from the Landsberg Prison record office, King's The Trial of Adolf Hitler explains how this failure of the justice system changed the world forever.
  • MSWW
    Peter Chasseaud
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    This informative book contains 150 maps that demonstrate how - and where - the Second World War was fought around the world.

    Published in association with the Imperial War Museums, it features everything from small-scale maps of country boundaries to large-scale maps of the key battles.

    Alongside the maps are photographs and expert commentary on the conflict that lasted from 1939-1945. There are also trench maps, maps from newspapers and key propaganda.
  • MPWR
    Jeremy Black
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    A very poignant and powerful book, Maps of War is a visual survey of how conflict was recorded and planned. It uses archive maps to reveal how warfare and documentation has changed through the centuries.

    Covering the history of military mapping, the book looks at beginning and what impact the invention of printing and introduction of gunpowder had. In the 17th century, military commanders and strategists started to document wars by way of illustration.

    In the 18th century, they started to use maps to chart progress. This chapter reflects the spread of European power and transoceanic conflict and focuses on the American war of Independence. The book then moves on to the 19th and 20th centuries, covering everything from the American Civil War to the World War, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars.
    Jonathan Mayo
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    On 30th April 1945 Germany is in chaos...Russian troops have reached Berlin. All over the country, people are on the move - concentration camp survivors, Allied PoWs, escaping Nazis - and the civilian population is fast running out of food. The man who orchestrated this nightmare is in his bunker beneath the capital, saying his farewells. This is the gripping story of Hitler's final hours, as seen through the eyes of those who were with him in the bunker; those fighting in the streets of Germany; and those pacing the corridors of power in Washington, London and Moscow. It was a day of endings and beginnings when ordinary people were placed in extraordinary situations. 30th April 1945 was a day that millions had dreamed of, and millions had died for.
    Robert Weintraub
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    An extraordinary tale of the remarkable bond between one man and his dog during the Second World War. The two friends huddled close together, each of them the other's saving grace in a world gone to hell ...There was nothing terribly unusual about POWs suffering horribly at the hands of their Japanese captors. All across the Pacific theatre, Allied captives were experiencing similar punishment. But there was one thing unusual about this particular duo of prisoners. One of them was a dog. Flight technician Frank Williams and Judy, a purebred pointer, met in the most unlikely of places: a World War II internment camp. Judy was a fiercely loyal dog, with a keen sense for who was friend and who was foe, and the pair's relationship deepened throughout their captivity. When the prisoners suffered beatings, Judy would repeatedly risk her life to intervene. She survived bombings and other near-death experiences and became a beacon not only for Frank but for all the men, who saw in her survival a flicker of hope for their own. Using a wealth of new material including interviews with those who knew Frank and Judy, letters and firsthand accounts, Robert Weintraub expertly weaves a narrative of an unbreakable bond forged in the worst circumstances. Judy's devotion to the men she was interned with, including a host of characters from all around the world, from Australia to the UK, was so powerful that reports indicate she might have been the only dog spared in these camps - and their care for her helped keep them alive. At one point, deep in despair and starvation, Frank contemplated killing himself and the dog to prevent either from watching the other die. But both were rescued, and Judy spent the rest of her life with Frank. She became the war's only official canine POW, and after she died at the age of fourteen, Frank couldn't bring himself to ever have another dog. Their story of friendship and survival is one of the great sagas of World War II.
    Sonia Purnell
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    Without Churchill's inspiring leadership Britain could not have survived its darkest hour and repelled the Nazi menace. Without his wife Clementine, however, he might never have become Prime Minister. By his own admission, the Second World War would have been 'impossible without her'. Clementine was Winston's emotional rock and his most trusted confidante; not only was she involved in some of the most crucial decisions of war, but she exerted an influence over her husband and the Government that would appear scandalous to modern eyes. Yet her ability to charm Britain's allies and her humanitarian efforts on the Home Front earned her deep respect, both behind closed doors in Whitehall and among the population at large. That Clementine should become Britain's 'First Lady' was by no means pre-ordained. Born into impecunious aristocracy, her childhood was far from gilded. Her mother was a serial adulteress and gambler, who spent many years uprooting her children to escape the clutches of their erstwhile father, and by the time Clementine entered polite society she had become the target of cruel snobbery and rumours about her parentage. In Winston, however, she discovered a partner as emotionally insecure as herself, and in his career she found her mission. Her dedication to his cause may have had tragic consequences for their children, but theirs was a marriage that changed the course of history. Now, acclaimed biographer Sonia Purnell explores the peculiar dynamics of this fascinating union. From the personal and political upheavals of the Great War, through the Churchills' 'wilderness years' in the 1930s, to Clementine's desperate efforts to preserve her husband's health during the struggle against Hitler, Sonia presents the inspiring but often ignored story of one of the most important women in modern history.
  • Imperial War Museum's History Collection - 3 Books - Collection - 9781471162497
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    Published in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum, this three-book collection brings together a fascinating and authoritative social history of the Second World War.

    A Prayer for Gallipoli covers the Great War from the point of view of a chaplain. Kenneth Best had no military training, so to fulfil his pastoral role, he had to get close to the front line and work with troops as they were under fire. As his empathy for the troops grew larger, he became more and more disgusted with their leaders. These diaries provide an insight into the horrific realities of trench warfare.

    The Secret History of the Blitz by Joshua Levine looks at the people that are not normally mentioned during accounts of the War - those spivs, outcasts and unsung heroes who were in the shadows; and D-Day to Victory features the diaries of a British tank commander as the war finally came to an end.

    All written using archive and primary sources, these are candid and compelling reads about the triumphs and tragedies of war.
  • Stanfords Travel Classics Collection - 3 Books - Collection - 9781909612860
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    With books from Captain Joshua Slocum, Robert Louis Stevenson and Edith Wharton, this collection features some of the finest historical travel writing of all time.

    Edith Wharton, the author of The Age of Innocence, travelled to Morocco in the final days of the First World War. A time before guidebooks, she recorded her encounters with the country's people, traditions and ceremonies and described the mosques, palaces and ruins she visited in In Morocco. Very observant and brimming with passion, her work will transport you to another era.

    Captain Joshua Slocum sailed the world for over 35 years and embarked on the first solo circumnavigation of the globe. For more than three years, he battled stormy seas, attacks from raiders and loneliness and in Sailing Alone Around the World, he documented it all. Travels with a Donkey in Cevennes is Robert Louis Stevenson's humorous and heart-warming memoirs of a walking trip (with a donley named Modestine) he took in his early 20s.

    This is an eye-opening collection for people interested in travel, history and classic authors.
  • World War Miscellanies Set - 2 Books - Collection - 9781849537117
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    If you've ever wondered who fired the first British shot of the First World War, how low the Dambusters flew or just how many ships were sunk at Pearl Harbor, these two books will provide the answers.

    Compiled and written by Norman Ferguson, the miscellanies tell the stories of the battles, aircraft, weapons, soldiers, heroes and enemies of both world wars, while also presenting these tales in accessible, bite-sized chunks. Among the events covered in the First World War are the downing of the Red Baron and the first WWI soldier to receive the Victoria Cross...

    The book based around the Second World War tells the stories of the Battle of Britain, the Siege of Leningrad, the horrors of the Holocaust and the D-Day landings... Compelling throughout, the books also contain a startling number of facts and figures to dip into.
    Ingrid Carlberg
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    An Honorary Citizen of the U.S.A., and designated as one of the Righteous among the Nations by Israel, Raoul Wallenberg's heroism in Budapest at the height of the Holocaust saved countless lives, and ultimately cost him his own. A series of unlikely coincidences led to the appointment of Wallenberg, by trade a poultry importer, as Sweden's Special Envoy to Budapest in 1944. With remarkable bravery, Wallenberg created a system of protective passports, and sheltered thousands of desperate Jews in buildings he claimed were Swedish libraries and research institutes. As the war drew to a close, his invaluable work almost complete, Wallenberg voluntarily went to meet with the Soviet troops who were relieving the city. Arrested as a spy, Wallenberg disappeared into the depths of the Soviet system, never to be seen again. For this seminal biography, Ingrid Carlberg has carried out unprecedented research into all elements of Wallenberg's life, narrating with vigour and insight the story of a heroic life, and navigating with wisdom and sensitivity the truth about his disappearance and death.
    Harry Borden
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    Over the course of five years, acclaimed photographer Harry Borden has travelled the globe photographing survivors of the Holocaust. The people featured vary in age, gender and nationality, but are all tied together by their experience and survival of one of the darkest moments in human history. Each photograph is accompanied by a handwritten note from the sitter, ranging from poems, to memories, to hopes for the future, creating a strong sense of intimacy between sitter and reader. This intimacy is amplified by the home settings of many of the photographs, along with the photographer's use of available light at each scene. At the end of the book is a section providing more information about the person in each portrait, and about how and what they survived, together with the historical context of the events they lived through. Thought-provoking and touching, this book conveys the dignity and humanity of each subject's character. Survivor is a unique and powerful testimony of what it is to live with memories of the Holocaust.
    Murray Jack Laulicht
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    On 1 February 1940, a thirty-three-year-old Jewish woman arrived alone in New York Harbor bearing, in her womb, the person who would eventually become the author of this book. Ernestyna Goldwasser had left behind her family, steeped in the rich Jewish culture of Krakow, to seek sanctuary from the marauding Germans, who had invaded Poland the previous fall. As the child of a father who held US citizenship, Ernestyna enjoyed a special status that became priceless when the war broke out. She, too, was deemed a US citizen and thereby eligible to emigrate out of Poland. Unfortunately, Ernestyna's husband, Chaskel Goldwasser, enjoyed no such status. As his wife, pregnant with their first child, embarked on her journey, Chaskel was forced to remain behind, trapped in the inferno that was soon to engulf and incinerate one third of the world's Jewish population. Ernestyna entered the US through the famed golden door mentioned in the final words of the Emma Lazarus poem that graces the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, because of the anti-Semitic policies of the US State Department, that door remained shut tight to Chaskel. During Ernestyna's valiant struggle to reunite with her husband, they were able to maintain an intimate and highly emotional correspondence. Many of their letters have been preserved and are presented in this volume as a first-person account of their desperate struggle to find the key that would unlock Chaskel's imprisonment...before it was too late.
    Peter Longerich
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    As head of the SS, chief of police, 'Reichskommissar for the Consolidation of Germanness', and Reich Interior Minister, Heinrich Himmler enjoyed a position of almost unparalleled power and responsibility in Nazi Germany. Perhaps more than any other single Nazi leader aside from Hitler, his name has become a byword for the terror, persecution, and destruction that characterized the Third Reich. His wide-ranging powers meant that he bore equal responsibility for the repression of the German people on the home front and the atrocities perpetrated by the SS in the East. Yet, in spite of his central role in the crimes of the Nazi regime, until now Himmler has remained a colourless and elusive figure in the history of the period. In this, the first-ever comprehensive biography of the SS-Reichsfuhrer, leading German historian Peter Longerich puts every aspect of Himmler's life under the microscope. Masterfully interweaving the story of Himmler's personal life and political career with the wider history of the Nazi dictatorship, Longerich shows how skilfully he exploited and manipulated his disparate roles in the pursuit of his far-reaching and grandiose objectives. In the process, he illuminates the extraordinary degree to which Himmler's own personal prejudices, idiosyncrasies, and predilections made their mark on the organizations for which he was responsible - especially the SS, which in so many ways bore the characteristic hallmarks of its leader, and whose history remains both incomplete and incomprehensible without a detailed and intimate knowledge of its deeply sinister commander-in-chief.
    Gerald Steinacher
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    The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is one of the world's oldest, most prominent, and revered aid organizations. But at the end of World War II things could not have looked more different. Under fire for its failure to speak out against the Holocaust or to extend substantial assistance to Jews trapped in Nazi camps across Europe, the ICRC desperately needed to salvage its reputation in order to remain relevant in the post-war world. Indeed, the whole future of Switzerland's humanitarian flagship looked to hang in the balance at this time. Torn between defending Swiss neutrality and battling Communist critics in the early Cold War, the Red Cross leadership in Geneva emerged from the world war with a new commitment to protecting civilians caught in the crossfire of conflict. Yet they did so while interfering with Allied de-nazification efforts in Germany and elsewhere, and coming to the defence of former Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials. Not least, they provided the tools for many of Hitler's former henchmen, notorious figures such as Joseph Mengele and Adolf Eichmann, to slip out of Europe and escape prosecution - behaviour which did little to silence those critics in the Allied powers who unfavourably compared the 'shabby' neutrality of the Swiss with the 'good neutrality' of the Swedes, their eager rivals for leadership in international humanitarian initiatives. However, in spite of all this, by the end of the decade, the ICRC had emerged triumphant from its moment of existential crisis, navigating the new global order to reaffirm its leadership in world humanitarian affairs against the challenge of the Swedes, and playing a formative role in rewriting the rules of war in the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This uncompromising new history tells the remarkable and intriguing story of how the ICRC achieved this - successfully escaping the shadow of its ambiguous wartime record to forge a new role and a new identity in the post-1945 world.
    Robert Gellately (Earl Ray Bec
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    At age thirty in 1919, Adolf Hitler had no accomplishments. He was a rootless loner, a corporal in a shattered army, without money or prospects. A little more than twenty years later, in autumn 1941, he directed his dynamic forces against the Soviet Union, and in December, the Germans were at the gates of Moscow and Leningrad. At that moment, Hitler appeared - however briefly - to be the most powerful ruler on the planet. Given this dramatic turn of events, it is little wonder that since 1945 generations of historians keep trying to explain how it all happened. This richly illustrated history provides a readable and fresh approach to the complex history of the Third Reich, from the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933 to the final collapse in 1945. Using photographs, paintings, propaganda images, and a host of other such materials from a wide range of sources, including official documents, cinema, and the photography of contemporary amateurs, foreigners, and the Allied armies, it distils our ideas about the period and provides a balanced and accessible account of the whole era.
    Bengt Jangfeldt
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    The story of Raoul Wallenberg - who, at immense personal risk, rescued many of Budapest's Jews from the Holocaust - is one of the most remarkable of World War II. Yet the complete account of his life and fate can only be told now - and for the first time in this book - following access to the Russian archives, previously unavailable. Wallenberg was a Swedish businessman, recruited by the War Refugee Board to rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews. Once in Budapest, he created and distributed so called 'protection passports' among the Jewish population, thus managing to save up to 7,000 people. Through the 'safe houses' and clandestine networks that he established around the city, many thousands more were saved from the concentration camps. Yet, when Budapest was liberated by the Red Army in January 1945, Wallenberg was arrested, taken to Moscow and disappeared into the Soviet prison system. Using previously unseen sources, Jangfeldt has been able to reconstruct the events surrounding Wallenberg's arrest almost hour by hour and, for the first time, he presents evidence of why Wallenberg was arrested and what happened to him after he disappeared.
    Laurence Rees
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    This landmark work answers two of the most fundamental questions in history - how, and why, did the Holocaust happen? Laurence Rees has spent twenty-five years meeting survivors and perpetrators of the Holocaust. Now, in his magnum opus, he combines their enthralling eyewitness testimony, a large amount of which has never been published before, with the latest academic research to create the first accessible and authoritative account of the Holocaust in more than three decades. This is a new history of the Holocaust in three ways. First, and most importantly, Rees has created a gripping narrative that that contains a large amount of testimony that has never been published before. Second, he places this powerful interview material in the context of an examination of the decision making process of the Nazi state, and in the process reveals the series of escalations that cumulatively created the horror. Third, Rees covers all those across Europe who participated in the deaths, and he argues that whilst hatred of the Jews was always at the epicentre of Nazi thinking, what happened cannot be fully understood without considering the murder of the Jews alongside plans to kill millions of non-Jews, including homosexuals, 'Gypsies' and the disabled. Through a chronological, intensely readable narrative, featuring enthralling eyewitness testimony and the latest academic research, this is a compelling new account of the worst crime in history.