Book Review: “Liberation of Paris: How Eisenhower, De Gaulle and Von Choltitz Saved the City of Light” by Jean Edward Smith

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Liberation of Paris, Book review by Bev Scott

Liberation of Paris by historian Jean Edward Smith, tells a fascinating story of the efforts of three key men that resulted in the liberation of Paris in World War II. The Allies swept across northern France after they broke through the German lines in Normandy. They were pursuing the German army intending to cross the Rhine and enter Germany before winter. They had no intention of liberating Paris. At the same time Parisians defied the Germans and began their own efforts of liberation. This was possible because the German commandant in Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz believed the war was lost to the Germans. He also believed that Paris should not be destroyed. So, he defied Hitler’s orders and schemed to surrender the city to the Allies. 

Charles de Gaulle, a leading figure in the Free French Government, feared that the partisan conflict would leave the communists in control. Thus he urged General Dwight D. Eisenhower to divert forces to Paris. President Roosevelt apparently strongly disliked de Gaulle, and Eisenhower’s staff disapproved of taking time to liberate Paris. Regardless, Eisenhower agreed with de Gaulle and wanted to position him to lead France after the war.

Smith masterfully describes the unfolding of this story. The author offers an inside view to the influences that impacted the outcomes of the war. He weaves the stories of the interactions, influences and connections of the three men whose key decisions saved the city of Paris. However, the Paris Liberation potentially extended the length of the war. If you like history you will enjoy this dramatic true story.