At the core of this murky, wordy book on Europe's response to German occupation are two slippery propositions--both of them...



At the core of this murky, wordy book on Europe's response to German occupation are two slippery propositions--both of them presented, with much ado, as contrary to general belief. The first maintains that the majority of Europeans collaborated with the enemy, and thus ""rendered invaluable service to the German war effort."" If collaboration is equated with going along, not resisting (a big ""if""), the proposition is factually accurate; and no responsible historian claims otherwise--notwithstanding all the writing on the Resistance that has provoked Rings' ire. The second proposition holds--in accordance with some military historians--that the Resistance had little military value, and did some military ""harm""; factually accurate or not (and that depends on the weight one assigns to, say, enabling hundreds of downed Allied flyers to return to combat), the proposition gives short shrift to the moral and political value of resistance. Just what, one wonders, is Rings getting at? Is it the purpose of this review of the forms of collaboration (neutral, unconditional, conditional, tactical) and the forms, or stages, of resistance (symbolic, polemic, defensive, offensive) to advocate an unoffending mean--tactical collaboration and symbolic resistance, perhaps, as against unconditional collaboration and offensive resistance? Possibly--insofar as Rings refers to resistance, in his Postscript, as ""a form of provocation"" which produced ""a war of terrorism and counterterrorism"" (and we know he doesn't favor all-out collaboration). But if this is the testament of a closet pacifist, he never makes his meaning plain. The opening, pre-war chapters seem to be belaboring Hitler's duplicity and the Allies' credulity; once into the war, the text seems intended to demonstrate much that is not new--that the Germans had no Master Plan, that the different occupied countries were differently administered, that responses differed from country to country, that Eastern Europe fared worst and resisted most, that the Norwegians, Danes, and Dutch took a stand on patriotic principle, that everywhere resistance rose as the screws tightened (with forced labor, the deportation of Jews) and, most vitally, the Germans began to lose. What is important about this material is that Rings has swept it all in (from books on wartime Norway, Denmark, Poland, etc.); but, even so, he is much better at raising issues (how much collaboration was warranted, instance by instance) than at clarifying what actually occurred. (The book is especially unreliable on the French Resistance; but even relatively simple matters--like the early stages of the Occupation in the smaller countries--are not properly explained.) Rings' offside contentions could provoke some discussion; the mass of material may be of some use. Overall, however, the book leaves much to be desired--in concept, presentation, and scholarship.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981