Way sta­tion on the road to free­dom

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Jill Jolliffe

NEILL Lochery of­fers readers a taste of the heady at­mos­phere of Lisbon dur­ing World War II in this im­pres­sively re­searched work. Un­der home­spun dic­ta­tor An­to­nio de Oliveira Salazar, Por­tu­gal de­clared neu­tral­ity soon af­ter war erupted. Its cap­i­tal be­came a hub be­tween war-torn Europe, London and New York, in­volv­ing a no-holds-barred es­pi­onage war be­tween Al­lied forces and Nazis.

The au­thor has a vast can­vas to fill and points out that each key sub­ject cov­ered could war­rant a book in its own right. He de­scribes the masses of refugees pour­ing into Lisbon, many of whom were Jewish and had trekked to­wards the Ibe­rian Penin­sula af­ter the June 1940 fall of Paris. Salazar’s neigh­bour, Gen­eral Fran­cisco Franco, had also de­clared neu­tral­ity but was con­sid­ered Axis-lean­ing, so most refugees hoped to pass quickly through Spain to Por­tu­gal from where they might catch a ship to Amer­ica or Pales­tine. The Duke of Wind­sor, for­merly King Ed­ward VIII, washed up in Lisbon among them with new wife Wal­lis Simp­son. The Luft­waffe was bomb­ing Cannes as they crossed into Spain, where they had dif­fi­culty gain­ing en­try.

The Nazis had plans for the duke, who had vis­ited Hitler in 1937. They in­tended to de­tain him, ei­ther in Spain or Por­tu­gal, and to in­stall him as a quis­ling king af­ter they con­quered Bri­tain. If per­sua­sion failed, they would kid­nap him.

Dur­ing years work­ing as a jour­nal­ist from Lisbon, I was in­trigued by this story. It was only in 1995, 21 years af­ter the dic­ta­tor­ship fell, that Salazar’s files were opened. The ad­vance cat­a­logue held one mys­te­ri­ous item on the duke: ‘‘ Re­port of the PVDE [Por­tuguese se­cret po­lice] on the Visit of the Duke of Wind­sor to Por­tu­gal, July 5, 1940’’. Its ti­tle in­di­cated he had been watched through­out by Salazar’s agents and so there was a se­cret record of his time in Lisbon.

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