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The Human Past
The Hill We Climb
Escaping Hitler Across the Pyrenees169
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The mountain paths are as treacherous as they are steep - the more so in the dark and in winter. Even for the fit the journey is a formidable challenge. Hundreds of those who climbed through the Pyrenees during the Second World War were malnourished and exhausted after weeks on the run hiding in barns and attics. Many never even reached the Spanish border. Today their bravery and endurance is commemorated each July by a trek along the Chemin de la Liberte - the toughest and most dangerous of wartime routes. From his fellow pilgrims Edward Stourton uncovers stories of midnight scrambles across rooftops and drops from speeding trains; burning Lancasters, doomed love affairs, horrific murder and astonishing heroism. The lives of the men, women and children who were drawn by the war to the Pyrenees often read as breathtakingly exciting adventure, but they were led against a background of intense fear, mounting persecution and appalling risk. Drawing on interviews with the few remaining survivors and the families of those who were there, Edward Stourton's vivid history of this little-known aspect of the Second World War is shocking, dramatic and intensely moving.
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This is a very shocking book. It recaptures the adventure and the horror as it brilliantly conjures up the voices of the past. -- Jason Goodwin * Country Life * Charming but astute, Stourton captures not only the extraordinary courage of the escapers and the passeurs, or guides, who helped them, but the sense of danger and excitement as they evaded their pursuers. -- Adrian Brewer * The Tablet * A moving retelling of some of the war's most heroic episodes -- Nigel Jones * Sunday Telegraph * Stourton's richly rewarding research into the wartime journeys across the Pyrenees reminds us of so many dramatic stories of courage, tragedy, endurance and survival. -- Iain Finlayson * Saga Magazine * Stourton writes evocatively and with sensitivity... an engaging collection of tales. -- Viv Watts * Daily Express *
Edward Stourton is the author of six books. He is writer and presenter of several high-profile current-affairs programmes and documentaries for radio and television, and regularly presents BBC Radio Four programmes such as The World at One, The World This Weekend, Sunday and Analysis. He is a frequent contributor to the Today programme, where for ten years he was one of the main presenters.