Academic journal article Military Review

The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe

Academic journal article Military Review

The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe

Article excerpt

THE LAST BATTLE: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe

Stephen Harding, Da Capo Press, Boston, MA, 2013, 173 pages, $25.99

The Last Battle is the story of a little known battle that took place just across the German border in the Tyrol region of Austria in the final hours of World War II. What makes it unique is that German soldiers, French civilian detainees, and U.S. soldiers fought side-by-side against Nazi Waffen SS troops to safeguard civilian detainees and prevent their likely executions.

The French civilian detainees had been leaders in the French government during the early days of the 1940 German occupation and with Hitler's orders were arrested and confined. The detainees were moved to Schloss Itter, a hilltop castle located just over the German border in Austria. The French VIPs included French army generals, former prime ministers (who detected each other), a former national defense minister, a trade union secretary-general, a tennis star, and several others. They lived together in the castle, but their political differences kept them from working together. When the detainees realized the German forces were retreating, and on the verge of losing the war, they knew they might be executed so they could not testify against crimes committed by their German captors. …

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