Storming the Eagle's Nest : Hitler'S War in the Alps Hardback
by Jim Ring
From the Fall of France in June 1940 to Hitler's suicide in April 1945, the swastika flew from the peaks of the High Savoy in the western Alps to the passes above Ljubljana in the east.
The Alps as much as Berlin were the heart of the Third Reich. 'Yes,' Hitler declared of his headquarters in the Bavarian Alps, 'I have a close link to this mountain.
Much was done there, came about and ended there; those were the best times of my life...My great plans were forged there.' With great authority and verve, Jim Ring tells the story of how the war was conceived and directed from the Fuhrer's mountain retreat, how all the Alps bar Switzerland fell to Fascism, and how Switzerland herself became the Nazi's banker and Europe's spy centre.
How the Alps in France, Italy and Yugoslavia became cradles of resistance, how the range proved both a sanctuary and a death-trap for Europe's Jews - and how the whole war culminated in the Allies' descent on what was rumoured to be Hitler's Alpine Redoubt, a Bavarian mountain fortress.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 304 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber
- Publication Date: 05/09/2013
- Category: European history
- ISBN: 9780571282388
- Paperback from £8.65
- EPUB from £7.19
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by atticusfinch1048
OK as General HistoryJim Ring the author of Storming the Eagle’s Nest is an intelligent well qualified person with degrees in Biochemistry and English, a qualified historian he is not, maybe I am being snobbish but the book is well written. As someone with a history degree who has read and researched the war years extensively I was hoping for a new view, something different that will be added to the vast pantheon of books on the Second World War. I would have hoped his editor would have acted like any historian would with the writing of this book, what is its purpose, what are you trying to say and explain. If this had been presented as a dissertation to an academic historian by an undergraduate, he would have been handed it back and asked to remove most of the padding and waffle. A historical book needs to forensically work through the evidence, rather like a lawyer presenting evidence in court rather this is like a politician giving telling a story without really presenting anything new. One really does have to ask the editor what were you thinking? Clearly an English graduate not a historical one as none of the usual who what why when was answered in the book, but the grammar and flow is what you would expect from a well written edited book.The only really new story that is in the book is the story of a boy, Matteus Guidon, at the time was 7 years old used to lead Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. Which is an important story that needed to be told and known only to a few in the village of Samedan near St Moritz.One of the questions Jim Ring did not answer is one many people have asked, why after the fall of France in June 1940, did the Germans not take Switzerland, when they had the very clear opportunity. As Ring does note that Switzerland was the only place along the Alps which cover a large part of Europe not have a swastika fly over it at any point in the war. He just fails to answer the question why.Hitler as an Austrian from Linz clearly loved the Alps and showed this by using the Berghof and Berchtesgaden as not just his Bavarian base, but his main base outside of Berlin. This is conveyed well throughout the book.Switzerland and how it was spy central throughout the war as well as being the Nazi banker is covered in the book, but again does not add anything new. Yugoslavia and how Tito became the favoured resistance leader is also covered well, as are some of the actions that they took. Other than those stories there is nothing new at all, and there is certainly no storming of nests in this book.Jim Ring wrote an excellent book How the English Made the Alps (2000), Faber and Faber wanted a follow up to that excellent book unfortunately this book is not a great follow up. It will go with the other books on Second World War History easy to read for a general reader with reassuring stories in the main that are already very well known. For anyone who has a history degree this would be a failure to hit the target
Review by drmaf
Just when you thought every possible story about WWII had been covered, up comes a book like this and reveals so much new. While aspects of this book have been represented tangentially in many other books, Ring is the first to bring together a comprehensive history of the Alps as a geographical entity in its own right in WWII . The heart of the story concerns Switzerland, the only nation contained entirely within the Alps, an island of democracy surrounded hy hostile fascist states, Germany, Italy and Vichy France, twice coming within hours of German invasion, but surviving through luck and advantageous developments elsewhere in Europe. This is the first book I have read that deals comprehensively with Switzerland's war experience, a nation that is in the background of of so many other war stories, as refuge for escaping Allied POWS and Jews fleeing genocide, a haunt of Allied and German spies, the only place where warring nations could conduct business with each other, and less palatably, as the eager recipient of Nazi gold ripped from the mouths of concentration camp victims. In addition Ring deals with other little known campaigns of WWII, the heroic fights of French resistance and Italian anti-fascist partisans, and the British playing off the communist and royalist resistance in Yugoslavia util they decided to support Tito's communist partisans, with major consequences for post-war Europe. Also covered in depth is Berchtesgarden, Hitler's Alpine retreat, its place in Hitler's heart and in his plans including as part of a planned impregnable redoubt to stave off defeat. Its not a perfect book by any means, sometimes it drags, and an occassional tone of forced jocularity is awkward, but for what it represents, bringing a largely neglected theatreof WWII together in its proper historical and geographical context, it is a terriffic read and a genuine revelation.
Review by RobertDay
The story of the Alpine nations in World War 2 is little known; this book goes a long way towards correcting this lack. It takes as its central theme the story of Switzerland, which remained neutral during the war against all odds and expectations. There was, after all, a certain degree of sympathy for the German cause in Switzerland (and indeed, there is a considerable authoritarian streak in the nation even today; I have heard it described as 'the world's most polite police state'...). At the same time, the Swiss are fiercely independent, and valuer their particular strain of democracy very highly.The key to the conundrum of why Switzerland avoided invasion lies in two things: firstly, the ability of the Swiss to disrupt vital communication links between Germany and Italy, and secondly, the ability of the Swiss army to retreat to the high Alps and defy any attempts to dislodge them. Ironically, as the Third Reich collapsed, the Nazi regime promoted the concept of the "Alpine Redoubt", where Hitler and his henchmen would retreat to and wage unending guerrilla warfare against the Allies, in no small part inspired by what the Swiss actually were prepared to do. It was all propaganda and fantasy, of course; but fears that it might be true were instrumental in the western Allies diverting their attention to the Alps and leaving the capture of Berlin to the Red Army.As a neutral enclave in occupied Europe, Switzerland became extremely useful to both sides as a conduit for information, diplomacy and trade; a role it has retained to the present day.The book contrasts the story of Switzerland with the stories of the war in the other Alpine nations - France, Italy, Austria and Yugoslavia. (This last is rather odd, as Yugoslavia is not generally considered to be an Alpine nation; though there are useful political parallels that make the story hang together.) The book certainly tells some interesting stories, such as the activities of the Maquis in the Vercors, the vast limestone plateau near Grenoble; the short-lived partisan states in northern Italy; or the activities of the Austrian partisan group O5; but other stories are missed or glossed over. After all, the one place where the Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler was put into full action was in Austria; and I got more detail on the partisan war in Yugoslavia from a book on Bosnian narrow-gauge railways than I found here. And if Yugoslavia, why not Greece? Again; the book mentions the Kehlsteinhaus, the one remaining building from the Obersalzburg complex that formed Hitler's mountain retreat but once, and fails to mention the story of its construction and the perhaps more remarkable story of its retention after the war against the opposition of the occupying Allies.There is also a serious lack of fact-checking and ignorance of the general political, cultural and social landscape of Europe, both then and now. Errors such as connecting the legend of the sleeping monarch Barbarossa under the German Alps to Wagnerian opera (a project Wagner considered and did preparatory sketches on, but which never resulted in a finished work); describing Göring's Schloss Mauterndorf as "Bavarian" when it is as close to the centre of Austria as you can get; or, more seriously, considering the 97% 'yes' vote in the Austrian Anschluß plebiscite as a legitimate expression of the will of the Austrian people when its status as a classic rigged ballot is well-known, are blithely slipped into the text as minor asides delivered with the knowingness of the expert. These errors, connected with a writing style that is unabashed popularism and some heavy-handed political opinions promoted as gospel fact betray this as a hurried work of journalism rather than a considered work of history.Yet its subject has been little covered and that alone makes this useful; but serious researchers will want to supplement it with more detailed sources.