Colditz: The Definitive History: The Untold Story of World War II's Great Escapes

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9780060012861: Colditz: The Definitive History: The Untold Story of World War II's Great Escapes

Colditz high security camp contained every presistent escaper, trouble maker and valuable hostage captured by the Germans in World War II. It was considered escape proof but the very opposite proved to be true. The prisoners pooled their collected talents to create the greatest escape academy of the war. Now, for the first time in Colditz, Henry Chancellor tells the prisoners' own story. Many have never spoken before but using over fifty original interviews, the English, French, Dutch and Polish officers, and their guards describe their experiences in the notorious castle, and their escape across Nazi Germany. This book grew out of the television series, Escape From Colditz, which was twelve years in the making, won sweeping critical praise and has been shown around the world. It is a story of breathtaking ingenuity and daring, a game of wit between captives and captors.

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Product Description:

Colditz high security camp contained every persistent escaper, trouble maker and valuable hostage captured by the Germans in World War II. It was considered escape proof but the very opposite proved to be true. The prisoners pooled their collected talents to create the greatest escape academy of the war. Here, Henry Chancellor tells the prisoners' own story. Many have never spoken before but using over 50 original interviews, the English, French, Dutch and Polish officers, and their guards describe their experiences in the notorious castle, and their escape across Nazi Germany. It is a story of ingenuity and daring, a game of wit between captives and captors.

Review:

Claiming anything, let alone a book on the Colditz story, as "the definitive history", is certainly a bold move. But since Henry Chancellor was the man behind the acclaimed British television series, Escape from Colditz, it might just be true. Certainly it is an enthralling read, although given its subject matter it could hardly be anything else. Colditz, more prosaically known to the German military as "Oflag 4C", was the supposedly escape-proof medieval German fortress from which over 300 men during the Second World War attempted to escape, and from which 32 made a "home-run". A small but hugely morale-boosting figure. With tragic heroism, some of these successful escapees, having risked life and limb getting back to the home country, then returned eagerly to the war only to be killed in battle. Chancellor's book represents 76 interviews carried out over a course of 14 years, and so promises to be exhaustive. It also corrects some of the errors in the classic but not always flawless memoirs of former prisoners such as Major Pat Reid. He is also good on adding colourful if tangential details, such as the fact that the great expansion of castle took place under the reign of Augustus the Strong of Saxony in the 17th century, a man who fathered no fewer than 354 offspring. The heart of the book, however, is the accounts of escape by the men themselves who lived to tell the tale. This is a history book that will make your hands clammy with fear and excitement. One can also relish the humour with which these old soldiers recall their days and nights of danger. One of them attempted to escape disguised as a woman. "But I had made the great mistake of filling it [his bra] with biscuits, in an attempt not to waste space. Unfortunately by the time I had crawled through the tunnel the biscuits had turned to crumbs and everything was sagging." So, not only a thrilling and inspiring history, but a useful guide to cross-dressing too: don't keep biscuits in your bra.-- Christopher Hart

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