The best books that will challenge how your think about WWII in Europe

Jeffrey H. Jackson Author Of Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis
By Jeffrey H. Jackson

Who am I?

Jeffrey H. Jackson is a prolific author and award-winning Professor of History at Rhodes College. He has written several books about the history of Europe including Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis, Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910, and Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post,,,, and in numerous other publications.

I wrote...

Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis

By Jeffrey H. Jackson,

Book cover of Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis

What is my book about?

Paper Bullets is the first book to tell the history of an audacious anti-Nazi campaign undertaken by an unlikely pair: two French women, Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, who drew on their skills as Parisian avant-garde artists to write and distribute "paper bullets"--wicked insults against Hitler, calls to rebel, and subversive fictional dialogues designed to demoralize Nazi troops occupying their adopted home on the British Channel Island of Jersey. Devising their own PSYOPS campaign, they slipped their notes into soldier's pockets or tucked them inside newsstand magazines.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II

Why did I love this book?

Leaders, soldiers, and civilians around the world faced a dizzying array of ethical dilemmas during the course of the conflict. From the decision to drop the atomic bomb and making alliances with dictators to the role of kamikaze pilots and war crimes trials, Bess considers the ethics of warfare from multiple viewpoints. He shakes up our conventional wisdom about wartime decision making and shows how the legacies of those choices remain with us today.

By Michael Bess,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Choices Under Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

World War II was the quintessential “good war.” It was not, however, a conflict free of moral ambiguity, painful dilemmas, and unavoidable compromises. Was the bombing of civilian populations in Germany and Japan justified? Were the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials legally scrupulous? What is the legacy bequeathed to the world by Hiroshima? With wisdom and clarity, Michael Bess brings a fresh eye to these difficult questions and others, arguing eloquently against the binaries of honor and dishonor, pride and shame, and points instead toward a nuanced reckoning with one of the most pivotal conflicts in human history.

Book cover of Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

Why did I love this book?

The story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon has become famous for its amazing story of harboring French Jews and others the Nazis deemed enemies as they tried to escape the German occupation. Moorehead re-examines a longstanding culture of resistance, community identity, and local leadership that made the town’s actions legendary. But her discussion of the complexities of memory and myth-making in the years that followed force us to rethink the boundaries and limits of both resistance and collaboration.

By Caroline Moorehead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Village of Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Train in Winter comes the extraordinary story of a French village that helped save thousands who were pursued by the Gestapo during World War II.

High up in the mountains of the southern Massif Central in France lies a cluster of tiny, remote villages united by a long and particular history. During the Nazi occupation, the inhabitants of the Plateau Vivarais Lignon saved several thousand people from the concentration camps. As the victims of Nazi persecution flooded…

Book cover of The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals

Why did I love this book?

Hitler had ambivalent feelings about gay men, but Heinrich Himmler did not. The SS leader spearheaded the Nazi persecution of homosexuality in an effort to root out a perceived corruption that he believed was incompatible with the hyper-masculine doctrine of Nazism. A direct response to a flourishing gay culture in the 1920s and the medical study of “sexology,” gay men were rounded up and forced to wear the pink triangle as a sign of what the Nazis called their “degeneracy.”

By Richard Plant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pink Triangle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first comprehensive book in English on the fate of the homosexuals in Nazi Germany. The author, a German refugee, examines the climate and conditions that gave rise to a vicious campaign against Germany's gays, as directed by Himmler and his SS--persecution that resulted in tens of thousands of arrests and thousands of deaths.

In this Nazi crusade, homosexual prisoners were confined to death camps where, forced to wear pink triangles, they constituted the lowest rung in the camp hierarchy. The horror of camp life is described through diaries, previously untranslated documents, and interviews with and letters from…

Book cover of My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin

Why did I love this book?

One of the foremost historians of his generation who taught for many years at Yale, Peter Gay writes with both the immediacy of a memoirist and the critical distance of a scholar looking back on his boyhood before his family escaped the Third Reich. The book is a slow burn, showing how even those not directly caught up in Nazi violence still experienced the constant lurking specter of anti-Semitism and exclusion. Gay and his family escaped (barely), but he refused to call himself a “survivor,” instead working through his own painful memories of his early years that haunted him for the rest of his life.

By Peter Gay,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My German Question as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this poignant book, a renowned historian tells of his youth as an assimilated, anti-religious Jew in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1939-"the story," says Peter Gay, "of a poisoning and how I dealt with it." With his customary eloquence and analytic acumen, Gay describes his family, the life they led, and the reasons they did not emigrate sooner, and he explores his own ambivalent feelings-then and now-toward Germany and the Germans.
Gay relates that the early years of the Nazi regime were relatively benign for his family: as a schoolboy at the Goethe Gymnasium he experienced no ridicule or…

Book cover of Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

Why did I love this book?

For the first time during World War II, American women served in the US military, but their crucial wartime work reached into every corner of life and across Europe. Yellin explores the wide range of roles that American women undertook on behalf of the cause, from factory workers and journalists to spies and doctors. Told with dramatic stories and memorable details, Yellin reshapes how we understand the “total war” that World War II became.

By Emily Yellin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Our Mothers' War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Our Mothers' War is a stunning and unprecedented portrait of women during World War II, a war that forever transformed the way women participate in American society.

Never before has the vast range of women's experiences during this pivotal era been brought together in one book. Now, Our Mothers' War re-creates what American women from all walks of life were doing and thinking, on the home front and abroad. These heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking accounts of the women we have known as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers reveal facets of their lives that have usually remained unmentioned and unappreciated.

Our Mothers'…

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