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Lost in the Stacks: Prisoners of the Castle

At the infamous Colditz Castle, a German prisoner-of-war camp in World War II, some prisoners of war saw 90-foot-high walls, sheer cliffs and well-armed guards and thought why try to escape? Others dreamed of tunnels, disguises and tricks and thought why not?

In Prisoners of the Castle Ben Macintyre revisits the history of one of World War II’s most notorious camps. He reveals the hidden stories of the Allied prisoners, their German guards, and the men and women who aided the POWs in the most ingenious ways. Towering above the city of Colditz, 400 miles from the Swiss border, the gothic Colditz Castle was seemingly a perfect place to gather all the “bad eggs” – Allied captives with previous escape attempts – into one escape-proof basket. But through luck, trickery, cleverness and sheer audacity the British, Polish, French and Dutch prisoners dreamed up escape scheme after escape scheme. There was the French “Le Metro” tunnel, a marvel of engineering extending from a clock tower to the basement; elaborate disguises with fake German uniforms; and cunning plots involving gliders. Even their German captors, who became ever more adept at the endless games of cat and mouse, were impressed by the prisoners’ ingenuity. Thrilling escapes are only part of the Colditz story, however, and Macintyre intriguingly shares the forgotten heroes who provided invaluable help to the prisoners. Men like Christopher “Cutty” Hutton, an intelligence officer at M19, who created the most ingenious gadgets like razor blades made into compasses or minuscule maps. He sent them to the prisoners hidden in boot heels or hairbrush handles. There was an elegant pince-nezed Swiss diplomat who insisted the Germans follow the Geneva Convention. And ardent Irma Wegener, who fell in love with one of the prisoners and provided intelligence to the Allies. Captivatingly told, Prisoners of the Castle is the perfect read for World War II enthusiasts and fans of The Great Escape. 

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