Reading Group Guide for The Bitter Road to Freedom by William I. Hitchcock
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1. The story of the liberation of Europe has been told many times. What new and surprising things did you learn from this book that you didn't know before?
2. The book makes use of so many primary sources: letters, diaries, old records, and, as a result, we hear many voices. Did these first-hand accounts change the way you previously perceived the liberation of Europe? Why or why not?
3. Americans remember the end of WWII as a time of triumph and universal celebration in Europe when the occupied countries were finally freed from Hitler's tyranny. What was life really like for Europeans during and after the Liberation? Why do you think Americans remember the Liberation so differently from Europeans?
4. The book discusses the violence and suffering that occur to the civilian population in even the most just of wars. Do you think what happened in Europe after the war has present-day applications, especially regarding the war in Iraq and our escalating campaign in Afghanistan?
5. Some might see this book as disparaging to the accomplishments of "The Greatest Generation." How do you think veterans of WWII will react to this book?
6. Americans were surprised to find that they got along well with the Germans upon entering their country. In what ways does Eisenhower's failed ban on American soldiers fraternizing with German civilians illustrate the differences between political ideology and basic human experience? How might these differences still be true today?
7. Were you surprised to find that survivors of the Holocaust faced such difficulties in the immediate aftermath of their liberation? How might that treatment influence their view of the end of the war?
8. Why do you think the large-scale relief effort that America led in Europe, through many charitable organizations and volunteer groups, is not better known in the United States? Should historians write as much about the humanitarian side of war as they do about battle-field history?