When Men Fell from the Sky: Civilians and Downed Airmen in Second World War Europe

Book cover

When Men Fell from the Sky: Civilians and Downed Airmen in Second World War Europe

Friday, 2 June 2023 - 5:00pm to 6:45pm
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HR
Claire Andrieu (Sciences Po, Paris)
Robert Gildea (Worcester College, Oxford)
Ruth Harris (All Souls College, Oxford); Martin Conway (Balliol College, Oxford); Nick Stargardt (Magdalen College, Oxford)
European Studies Seminar


When Men Fell Out of the Sky: Civilians and Downed Airmen in Second World War Europe

Between 1940 and 1945, more than 100,000 airmen were shot down over Europe, a few thousand of whom survived and avoided being arrested. When Men Fell from the Sky is a comparative history of the treatment of these airmen by civilians in France, Germany and Britain. By studying the situation on the ground, Claire Andrieu shows how these encounters reshaped societies at a local level. She reveals how the fall of France in 1940 may have concealed an insurrection nipped in the bud, that the 'People's War' in Britain was not merely a myth, and that in Germany, the 'racial community of the people' had in fact become a social reality with Allied airmen increasingly subjected to lynching from 1943 onwards. By considering why the treatment of these airmen contrasted so strongly in these countries, Andrieu sheds new light on how civilians reacted when confronted with the war 'at home'.

Claire Andrieu is professor of contemporary history at Sciences Po, Paris. She co-edited the Dictionnaire De Gaulle with Philippe Braud and Guillaume Piketty (Robert Laffont, 2006) and contributed to the Dictionnaire historique de la Resistance edited by Francois Marcot (Robert Laffont, 2006). Her books about the French Resistance deal with its political project (Le programme commun de la Resistance, Editions de l'Erudit, 1984; and a co-edition: Les nationalisations de la Liberation, Presses de Sciences Po, 1987). As a former member of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Spoliation of Jews in France, she published several books on spoliations and restitutions. Her current research is on the behaviour of European civil population toward fugitives in World War II.