Olson celebrates the heroism of people from occupied Europe who helped the Allies win World War II, challenging the view that their efforts counted for little in the great scheme of things. She opens with the difficult decision that faced European royal families: Should they flee the approaching Nazis, decamping for London and leaving their people behind? Olson generally depicts the British establishment as classist, xenophobic, and inept. This was evident in the reluctance of the Royal Air Force to put Czech and Polish squadrons into the Battle of Britain—until there was no choice. Once in the fight, those squadrons performed magnificently. But she also reveals the imagination that went into making the BBC World Service a force for truth to combat Nazi propaganda. Olson’s account is sometimes superficial but never dull. Many moving stories and characters enliven the book, which succeeds in bringing to life the achievements of European patriots who fought on even when their cause appeared close to hopeless.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Military, Scientific, and Technological From This Issue