Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War

In Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe and the Brotherhood that Helped Turn the Tide of War, historian Lynne Olson looks at the seldom-told stories of how European refugees--both governments-in-exile and individual patriots--continued to fight Nazi Germany from a (relatively) safe base of operations in London.

Taken individually, their stories are dramatic, and occasionally tragic. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was outraged when the captain of the British destroyer on which she escaped Amsterdam refused to put her ashore at Zeeland: she had been determined to "be the last man to fall in the last ditch" in defense of her country. Jacques Allier, a young French banker traveling on a fake passport, smuggled the world's supply of heavy water from German-occupied Norway to Scotland under the nose of Abwehr operatives--hamstringing Germany's efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

Told in combination, these stories challenge traditional accounts of the war. Olson reminds readers that French forces guarded British troops during the heroic evacuation at Dunkirk. Polish pilots played a critical role in the Battle of Britain and in defending London during the Blitz. And Britain's successes in breaking the Enigma codes rested on the work of the Polish underground, who were able to decipher a high percentage of Enigma intercepts by early 1938.

In the English-speaking world, Britain and the United States are often portrayed as standing alone against the Nazis in World War II. Last Hope Island demonstrates how that was never true. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

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