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Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945

Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945

4.0 5
by Neill Lochery

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Lisbon had a pivotal role in the history of World War II, though not a gun was fired there. The only European city in which both the Allies and the Axis power operated openly, it was temporary home to much of Europe's exiled royalty, over one million refugees seeking passage to the U.S., and a host of spies, secret police, captains of industry, bankers,


Lisbon had a pivotal role in the history of World War II, though not a gun was fired there. The only European city in which both the Allies and the Axis power operated openly, it was temporary home to much of Europe's exiled royalty, over one million refugees seeking passage to the U.S., and a host of spies, secret police, captains of industry, bankers, prominent Jews, writers and artists, escaped POWs, and black marketeers. An operations officer writing in 1944 described the daily scene at Lisbon's airport as being like the movie “Casablanca,” times twenty.

In this riveting narrative, renowned historian Neill Lochery draws on his relationships with high-level Portuguese contacts, access to records recently uncovered from Portuguese secret police and banking archives, and other unpublished documents to offer a revelatory portrait of the War's back stage. And he tells the story of how Portugal, a relatively poor European country trying frantically to remain neutral amidst extraordinary pressures, survived the war not only physically intact but significantly wealthier. The country's emergence as a prosperous European Union nation would be financed in part, it turns out, by a cache of Nazi gold.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Publishers Weekly
“Lochery tells the gripping story of the city known as ‘Casablanca II’…engrossing and rewarding.” 

Booklist, September 20, 2011
“Lochery recounts wartime happenings in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, where the Allies and the Axis conducted the war through espionage, propaganda, and diplomatic pressure on Salazar to relinquish Portugal’s neutrality. A cloak-and-dagger atmosphere accordingly suffuses Lochery’s account…. A productive archival sleuth, [he] makes original contributions to the literature of neutrality in WWII.”

Shelf Awareness
“A lively, accessible and hair-raising history revealing every sordid detail of Lisbon during World War II--a time and place that many have chosen to forget in order to save face.”

Wall Street Journal
“Evocative…. [Lochery] skillfully documents the experiences of the rich and glamorous as well as the less fortunate and even sinister of the city’s war time arrivals… Distilling an enormous quantity of research, he has rendered a fascinating and readable account of this small country’s role in World War II, protected, as it was, by its wily champion.”

Seattle Times

“’Lisbon’ is a valuable source of information about an astonishing time and place.”
Columbia Daily News
featured in roundup of history books: “A fascinating account of one of the back stages of the War. Lisbon was a hotbed of intrigue and espionage while remaining neutral as the world fought around it.”\

“Like Casablanca, only 20 times more.”

Express Milwaukee


The Scotsman, four-star review
“Intrigue, betrayal, opportunism and double dealing’ Lochery promises us – and his engrossing book delivers all those things and more.”

Literary Review
"The twists and turns of Salazar's tight-rope diplomacy form the central thread of Neill Lochery's impressive account of wartime Lisbon and its leader... The personalities, plots and counterplots within that tale are absorbing... The book's principal worth lies in its illumination of Salazar, who emerges from Lochery's pages as a fascinating, tireless and single-minded figure."

Jill Jolliffe,

Publishers Weekly
While spared fighting during WWII, few cities saw more intrigue and espionage than Lisbon. Neutral Portugal maintained economic ties to both Axis and Allied powers, and was the world’s largest exporter of wolfram, a metal crucial to producing armaments. The capital, previously a provincial backwater, suddenly bulged with arms dealers, profiteers, opportunists, spies of every nationality, and tens of thousands of refugees, primarily Jews seeking passage to America or Palestine. Lochery, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at University College London, tells the gripping story of the city known as “Casablanca II,” which is largely the history of António de Oliveira Salazar, the tireless prime minister whose first priority was to maintain Portugal’s neutrality to avoid “economic sanctions from the Allied powers, and outright invasion by the Germans.” Lochery’s portrayal of Salazar is broadly sympathetic while not hagiographic, a corrective to the popular image of an authoritarian Franco-lite. While engrossing and rewarding, the book exhibits problems with pacing and structure, introducing characters and concepts in a pointillist fashion; in four pages, Lochery discusses an honorary degree Cambridge University bestowed on Salazar, British efforts to prevent Germany from obtaining wolfram, the prevalence of prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases, and a rally for national unity held by Salazar. (Nov.)
Library Journal
The only European city where Allied and Axis powers both operated openly during World War II, Lisbon sheltered not only exiled royalty, escaped POWs, and a million refugees seeking passage to America but spies, secret police, and black marketeers. A historian fluent in Portuguese, Lochery lets the amazing facts speak for themselves.
Kirkus Reviews
An engaging account of the city of Lisbon during World War II, as dictator António de Oliveira Salazar navigated treacherous diplomatic waters in order to ensure the neutrality of Portugal. Middle East expert Lochery (Loaded Dice: The Foreign Office and Israel, 2008, etc.) chronicles the city's importance to the war on both sides, portraying it as a sort of Casablanca, complete with an entrenched gambling establishment. Salazar worked hard to ensure that his country was neutral and managed to improve its economic condition during the war by playing each side against the other. Both rich and poor fled to Lisbon from continental Europe in hopes of procuring passage off the continent, whether by selling jewels and gold or by more desperate means. Lochery presents a flashy city while also reminding readers of the plight of poorer refugees and Portuguese citizens who did not have the resources of the rich. Though the author mostly portrays Salazar in a positive light, he emphasizes the leader's lack of sympathy toward the Jews fleeing the Nazis. Lochery keeps the pages turning, never allowing his narrative to become dry or difficult; as a result, it is ideally suited to the interested layperson. However, the author does assume that the readers have knowledge of the major events of the time period, particularly those preceding WWII. Well-researched enough for an academic, but still accessible to general readers.

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5.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Neill Lochery, PhD, is a world-renowned source on Israel, the Middle East, and Mediterranean history. He is the author of five books and countless newspaper and magazine articles. He regularly appears on television in the UK, the USA, and the Middle East. He is currently based at University College London and regularly gives talks in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.

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Lisbon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thin on substance and very very very repetitive. This book focuses on Salazar and his policies, not on the refuges or spies. If you are expecting a Casablanca type story or an Alan Furst like story you will be very disappointed. A good editor could reduce this book to ten pages and you would have all the essential information.
brian_heller More than 1 year ago
Having visited Lisbon twice while in the Navy (40+ years ago), I found it to be one of the loveliest and cleanest cities of those I had visited in Europe during my two-year tour. I only wish I had had Lochery's "Lisbon" as a preface to my visits. Most people probably have two conceptions of Lisbon (as I had): first, as the way station--celebrated in the movie "Casablanca"--between persecution and freedom during WWII; and second, a city totally destroyed by an earthquake and resulting tsunami in 1755. "Lisbon" uncovers the detailed anatomy and intrigue of a city with "a past".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This clearing is very woody, with barely any room on the ground to move without bumping into a tree. Apprentices will learn to be agile here when fighting in a crowded space, and tey will also learn how to traverse and battle in trees.