“Then the all-clear sounded. And people returned, hope undiminished. They returned, so elegant and purposeful to the books.”
~Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty (2007)
Maira Kalman’s painting (above) of the famous Blitz photo (below) shows Londoners contentedly browsing through books at a bombed out library in 1940. It seems to say: Bombs will not come between the Brits, their books and ultimately, their freedom.
The Blitz was an eight-month German aerial assault on Britain during World War Two. More than 40,000 British civilians perished, but the Germans ultimately failed to bring the Brits to their knees.
While some speculate that this photograph was posed and used as government propaganda to bolster morale, the story it tells is not far from the truth.
I know several Brits who lived through this brutal attack, and though they are slowing down with age, there is no mistaking their strength of character: They got through it with humility, humour, hot tea — and a few good books. Hitler didn’t stand a chance.
Find out more about the “the books that helped win WW2” at the wonderful Books for Victory.