Review by Booklist Review
"It is one of the achievements of our time," observes Morgan early on in this book, "to have proclaimed the crime against humanity." It is not at first clear whether he is speaking ironically or with serious intent---or both. His ambiguity is entirely in keeping with the subject of this book, which deals in essence with the problems, at once existential and moral, that the 1987 trial of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie posed to the French people. The French-born Morgan (author of FDR: A Biography [BKL O 15 85] and Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs [BKL O 1 88]) brings the perspective of a native son to his work, writing with feeling and insight on his family's wartime experiences, the French Resistance, the persecution of the French Jews, and Barbie's activities in the city where he earned the sobriquet the Butcher of Lyon. In exploring the sometimes ambivalent relationship that existed between the French and the forces of the German occupation (which Barbie came to personify), Morgan demonstrates that one of the cruelest legacies of the war is the not wholly unjustified sense of guilt and shame over this ambivalence that afflicts the French national conscience to this very day. Notes; index. --Steve Weingartner
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Two themes dominate this wide-ranging look at the 1940 German invasion and subsequent occupation of France: that nation's vulnerability, and the deportation of French Jews to Nazi concentration camps. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Morgan also explores the attempts of the Vichy government to work out a compromise with the German authorities; recounts the destruction of the maquis stronghold at Vercor; and describes the activities of Klaus Barbie during and after the war. Chief SS officer in Lyon, France, he was extradited from Bolivia in 1983, tried in Lyon in '87 for crimes against humanity and is presently serving a 20-year sentence in France. Morgan's account of Barbie's role in the deportation program is detailed, and shows how the Germans, in their attempt to eradicate Jewry, adopted a corporate model complete with production goals, a system by which human tragedy was converted to logistical tasks. The book is based on depositions and documents collected for the Barbie trial. Morgan (ne Sanche de Gramont), who was living in France in 1940, includes material on the fate of his relatives during the Occupation. Illustrated. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
This latest book on Klaus Barbie, the Nazi SS chief in wartime Lyon, is by the French-American journalist who covered Barbie's 1987 trial for the New York Times Magazine . Morgan provides a sweeping chronicle of France's defeat in 1940, the Vichy regime, the Resistance, the treatment of Jews in wartime France, and Barbie's own behavior in Lyon. Morgan had access to the secret documents prepared for the Barbie trial. But he prefers to take a general approach rather than to carefully analyze Barbie's wartime activities. Better coverage of Barbie and the controversies surrounding his trial can be found in Erna Paris's Unhealed Wounds: France and the Klaus Barbie Affair ( LJ 7/86). Morgan's account is filled with anecdotes, some of them from his own family. They make the book readable for general audiences, who followed the trial both in and out of France.-- Frank L. Wilson, Purdue Univ., W. Lafayette, Ind. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
It is probably impossible to have been a French citizen during the Nazi era and not carry a natural curiosity into adulthood concerning the collaboration of Vichy. Morgan (n‚ de Gramont--his chosen name is a modified anagram), who has written biographies of FDR, Churchill, Maugham, and William Burroughs, here gives play to his own curiosity, using the recent trial of Klaus Barbie--""the Butcher of Lyon""--to penetrate that doleful era. Morgan details well the many aspects of the Barbie affair: Lyon (""more Swiss than French in its bourgeois virtues. . . Paris wore its diamonds; Lyon kept them in a safe deposit box""); the French (such as Minister of Justice Robert Badinter, who abolished the guillotine, thus ironically saving Barbie, the murderer of Badinter's own father, from its justice); the Germans (who had, in overrunning the Maginot line, repeated the history of 1870 and 1914). There are also the French Jews (25,000 of whom were sent to death camps despite a deal struck by the Vichy regime to deport only ""foreign"" Jews); and Barbie himself (facing off one of his accusers with cool aplomb, he told the judge, ""This lady has been to the movies and is telling you the plot of a movie she saw""). The aging Barbie is not the focus of Morgan's narrative, however. Rather, the author uses the documents released at Barbie's trial to re-create the five years of Lyon's misery under Barbie and his Nazi henchmen, swaggering around town swinging night sticks at citizens' genitals, collecting 5,000 francs per Jew rounded up (when a bounty-hunter's victim killed himself rather than be taken, Morgan reports, the bounty hunter thought, ""There goes five thousand francs""). A vivid and chilling look at how the ordinary citizen suffered under extraordinary evil. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Descriptive content provided by Syndetics™, a Bowker service.