Das Reich is an account of the march north to Normandy in June 1944 by the 2nd SS Panzer Division – the Das Reich of the title – during which the Germans inflicted appalling atrocities on French people in reprisal for real and imagined attacks by the Resistance. Most notoriously, men of the Das Reich hanged 99 innocent hostages from the balconies of Tulle in the Correze, and massacred more than 500 people of all ages in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. In writing the book, Max set out to explore a legendary episode from both the French and German perspectives. He interviewed many former members of the Maquis who fought the Das Reich, together with officers and soldiers of the division, some of whom had been convicted of war crimes. He met former British agents of SOE who had parachuted into France to aid the Resistance, and pieced together a little-known epic of the SAS, who targeted petrol trains destined to fuel the Das Reich’s tanks, but then fell victim to a devastating German attack. The book overturns many cherished legends about Resistance, and also paints a vivid portrait of what happened in occupied France in June 1944 from the viewpoints of both the German and French people.
Click here to read an extract Das Reich 45-77