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Publisher's Summary

World War II is one of the most harrowing and impactful events in human history. Our imaginations may be captured by the sweeping military battles, but the story of war is the story of humans, everyday people trying to do their bit in a world falling apart around them.

In France, for instance, you’ll find a young, unassuming mother who became the leader of the largest and most important Allied spy network in occupied France. In Poland, a brilliant, young mathematician successfully broke Germany’s Enigma code, laying the groundwork for the famed British codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park. In Belgium, a 23-year-old nurse from Brussels created an escape line that smuggled hundreds of shot-down British and American airmen out of enemy territory and back to freedom.

What did these three very different people have in common? They were all unsung heroes of war, men and women of courage and conscience who helped change the course of history but who, for various reasons, have slipped into history’s shadows. Unsung Heroes of World War II: Europe is your chance to meet these and other everyday heroes who have never been given the credit they deserved. Taught by historian Lynne Olson, author of seven acclaimed books about World War II, these 12 scintillating lectures offer a trove of stories across Europe and America that you likely have never heard before.

Delve into a world of citizens holding onto illicit radios so they can listen to broadcasts from the BBC, a beacon of liberty for those living in occupied territory. Mingle with spies listening to secrets, gathering intelligence, and taking risks to share information with the Allies. Meet the politicians behind the scenes who orchestrated great events. With a storyteller’s true gift for setting a scene and an eye for interesting details, Professor Olson takes you into the shadows of history to introduce you to some of the most courageous figures in the war - all of whom did their best to defeat tyranny and restore freedom in their own countries and the world at large.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 The Great Courses (P)2020 The Teaching Company, LLC

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Great Lectures and So-So Lectures

When I saw this course I shook my head. Yet another course on World War II when there are so many other historical topics people would love to see? Haven't we heard everything there is to know about this well-studied war? Despite so much existing material out there on World War II this course does provide fresh, unknown but thrilling stories of some of the lesser known heroes of the war. Specifically lectures 1, 4, 5, 10, and 12 were keepers in which Historian Olson wraps the good deeds of these heroes in a good story, really helping to paint a realistic picture of how it was like to live the events being relayed. These lectures provide good insight into the unknown stories of resistance movements (exiled royalty and secret escape lines) and the underappreciated difference-makers (Polish pilots and Polish cryptographers). At the time time the other seven lectures are so-so. They didn't engage or interest me as much as the other five. While Historian Olson is a good storyteller, there are times when she relates things in a somewhat hackneyed, old fashioned manner that didn’t exactly connect. It may just be a style thing vs. "telling a tall tale" (I didn't get the sense she was putting words in anyone's mouths). I will say she speaks clearly and at the right pace which are huge assets for a presenter (and not always present in other professors!). All in all I would recommend this course. But I would say focus on lectures 1, 4, 5, 10, and 12. Those are the shining stars and worthy of a spot in anyone's library.

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I really enjoyed the professor and the topic.

I really enjoyed this series of lectures. I usually go for Great Courses audiobooks that are 12 hrs or more, but was intrigued by the topic so I gave this one a try. It had a lot of good info for such a short lecture series. I enjoyed the way the professor presented each new topic and am interested in learning more about some of the people she highlighted, which, to me, means that this audiobook was successful. I love to learn and am so glad I purchased this book.