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Hardcover The Last Escape: The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners of War in Europe 1944-45 Book

ISBN: 0670032123

ISBN13: 9780670032129

The Last Escape: The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners of War in Europe 1944-45

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

By June 1944 there were hundreds of thousands of American and British prisoners of war in camps across Nazi-controlled Europe. News of the D-Day landings, heard on secret camp radios, filled the... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A non-comparison in suffering

Comparing suffering is a little like comparing husbands and wives: you can't do it. Yet for the thousands of Allied POWs in the second world war, comparisons were made between the German and Japanese treatment of those interred in the POW camps and which group had it worse. Yes, the inmates in Changi Prison had dysentary and work detail and died on forced marches by the score - but so did countless American and British soldiers and airmen in Germany, most notably within the last five months of the war. Who is to say that one group of POWs had a worse fate? Each of them suffered greater hardships and loss than most of us can contemplate. Yet for those reading up on that period of history, it's the horrors of the Japanese prison camps which first come to mind, not the POW camps in Europe. The Last Escape, luckily, does not even attempt to compare the hardships of the two groups of POWs. Instead, it focuses squarely on the men interred in German POW camps, the misinformation that was given to the civilian public about their daily lives, and the reality they were experiencing. As the Russian and Allied front moved into Germany in the early part of 1945, the narrative follows the various Stalags in near-chronological order as they begin a series of forced marches deep into German territory. Mostly it is the memories and the words of those who survived the marches which tell the story (the authors highlight around fifteen veterans, who they either interviewed personally or were able to access privately published memoirs). All of the stories are horrific and utterly believable. The book itself is easy to read, with maps strewn at various points within, clearly marked to follow the marches into Germany. I found the story quite gripping and interesting. The story carried every soldier well past the liberation of the camps and all the way home, so we were not left wondering what happened to any of them at the end. (Perhaps the last two chapters were the most interesting, in learning how the governments managed to get the tens of thousands of POWs home again in record time, and the difficulties with readjusting to freedom that those soldiers had.) What I especially appreciated was the even focus on both American and British soldiers within the book. While nationalities were generally kept seperate within the camps, there were a few cases in which American soldiers bunked with British, and vice versa. This was the case in the book, where half the featured stories were of British soliders, and half were of American. There was very little information on any other nationality, although there was plenty of hearsay about the Russian POWs - not all of it good, unfortunately. There was also much consideration of the political ramifications of who actually liberated the POWs. I had not before realized what a struggle it was with Stalinist Russia on the release of British and American POWs who had been liberated by the Communists, but the book car

Excellent untold story of WWII POW's

The Last Escape: the Untold Story of Allied Prisoners of War in Europe is an excellent book about a subject not many people know about. Many people know about pow's because of The Great Escape and The Bridge over the River Kwai, but this book tells a different story. Late in WWII as Germany's defeat drew nearer, problems arose for the Allied forces involving prisoners of war under German control. How to get them back? What about the Gestapo and SS? This book offers many sides of the story not often presented about the closing months of the war. The Last Escape has interviews with countless prisoners who survived the ordeal. You can read about the marches in the blizzard across Germany, US and Russian relations about the prisoners, plans from the homefront about how to handle the prisoners, and so much more. This was a very informative book that is at times very moving and at others very disturbing. The Last Escape puts you in the prison camp with the POWs making the whole thing that much more real. For a very enjoyable and informative read about the little known stories of prisoners of war in WWII, check out The Last Escape!

The Tragic Story Of Allied POWs in WWII Germany

Few history books will ever have a more immediate and visceral impact on a reader; this is a chronicle of horror, bravery, hate, love and uncertainty woven into a rich tapestry of human endeavor at the absolute limit of comprehension. The authors have put stark human faces on one of the great acts of treachery and inhumanity of the Third Reich. In the brutal winter of 1944-45 the Germans began moving over 200,000 allied POWs from the advancing Russian armies toward the west, for reasons not certain even today. The particular ordeals of POWs from a selected number of the camps are described in riveting detail, with the personalities and actions of key POW participants richly revealed in often first-hand accounts and from recent interviews and testimony. It is almost unreal the depth of depravity inflicted by the Germans, particularly the SS, on these marches, some hundreds of miles long and lasting over several months. It seems incomprehensible that as a signatory to the Geneva Convention and a generally Christian nation that the Germans could be so uncaring of fellow humans; and as badly as the American and British POWs suffered, the treatment of the Russian prisoners will leave the reader profoundly disturbed. The authors follow the main characters throughout the ordeal and in many cases through the happiness and disappointments they faced after liberation. The book is carefully constructed so that as events unfold on the ground the reader is given the backdrop of actions by the governments and military hierarchies of the USA, UK, Soviet Union and Germany which help to explain the cascading events leading to the tragedy. Like a really good novel, the books gives us a look at the aftermath, when both heroes and scoundrels get what they deserve, or, all too often, what they don't deserve. Readers will find themselves cheering on the good guys and screaming invective at the bad guys and there are many of them, on both sides of the wire. This is THE book to top the "must read" list of anyone who enjoys or studies WWII history; buy it, read it and share it with friends; this is an important and largely unknown story superbly written.

good blend of person person history and research

Historical works tend to lean to one of two sides--first person recollections or cumbersome accounts of occurences with often little signficance. THE LAST ESCAPE transcends both of these genres and presents a most readable account of the western European POW experience during the last two years of World War II. Prisoners-of-war have seemingly been the focus of many books in the past few years but this volume informs the reader with a thorough picture of daily life, the forced marches and ultimate liberation. What makes the book stand out from others is its presentation of archival material which gives a scholarly background of not only why the Germans did what they did, but why the Allies reacted in their own manner. Stalin's dealings with the Soviet role in the POW situation are nothing less than fascinating and the role of families back home (home being England) and their coping with loved ones in captivity or worse, whereabouts unknown, mesmerize the reader with a sense of empathy not often seen in historical works of this nature. Readers are, of course familiar with POW books such as THE WOODEN HORSE, THE GREAT ESCAPE, A GALLANT COMPANY, et al, but THE LAST ESCAPE is the only book (aside from the excellent Vietnam prisoner book HONOR BOUND by Rochester and Kiley)topresent a most impressive blend of humanizing accounts with diligent academic research.When considered in the context of the supporting material, the recollections of RAF and USAAF prisoners take on an entirely new meaning and present a view of despair, frustration, dashed hopes and finally the job (but at the same time) uncertainty of freedom. THE LAST ESCAPE splendidly portrays these roller coster emotions on the part of prisoners.

one of the great atrocities of World War II

In December 1944, some 270,000 American, British, and Commonwealth prisoners were sent on the road so they wouldn't be liberated by the advancing Allied armies. Nichol (himself a PW during the first Gulf War) and Rennell have dug out the stories of these men, who were marched for hundreds of miles through one of the worst winters Germany has ever experienced--half frozen, generally unfed, racked with dysentery, and apt at any moment to be shot by a German guard or strafed by Allied aircraft who had no idea who they were. Afterward, their ordeal was forgotten by all but themselves. An excellent account of an unknown atrocity, which left thousands dead and other thousands crippled for life. -- Dan Ford
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