Prisoners of the Castle
An Epic Story of Survival and Escape from Colditz, the Nazis' Fortress Prison
From the bestselling author of The Spy and the Traitor, a definitive and surprising new narrative of one of history's most famous prisons--and the remarkable cast of POWs who tried to relentlessly escape their Nazi captors.
The myth of Colditz, the most infamous prison in history, has stood unchallenged for 70 years: prisoners of war, mustaches firmly set on stiff upper lips, defying the Nazis by tunnelling out of a grim Gothic castle on a German hilltop. Like all legends, that story contains only part of the truth. In Ben Macintyre's brilliant, cliche-smashing new history, he offers a vision of Colditz previously unimagined, a story of much more than an escape, just as the prison's inmates were far more complicated than the cardboard saints depicted in post-war pop culture.
Colditz was a miniature replica of office-class society at the time, only far stranger: a lethal, high stakes boarding school surrounded by barbed wire, initially containing prisoners of all Allied nations, including Canada, but eventually only Britons and Americans, a heavily guarded cage with its own culture, eccentricities, and internal tensions. In intimate and compelling detail, Macintyre explores what happens to people when they are locked up without committing a crime and with no idea when or if they might be liberated. Colditz, then, is a tale of the indomitable human spirit, but also one of snobbery, class conflict, hidden sexuality, bullying, espionage, boredom, insanity, and farce.
With access to declassified archives, private papers, and never-before-seen photos, the author reveals a remarkable cast of characters, previously hidden from history: Indian doctor Birendranath Mazymdar, the only non-white prisoner, whose ill-treatment, hunger-strike and eventual escape reads like fiction; Florimond Duke, America's oldest paratrooper and least successful secret agent; Christoper Clayton Hutton, the brilliant inventor employed by British intelligence to manufacture escape aids for POWs, from maps hidden in playing cards to a compass secreted inside a walnut; and many others.
Bringing together the wartime intrigue of his acclaimed Operation Mincemeat and keen psychological portraits of his bestselling true-life spy stories, Macintyre has breathed stunning new life into one of the greatest war stories ever told.
About this Author
BEN MACINTYRE is a writer-at-large for The Times (UK) and the bestselling author of Agent Sonya, The Spy and the Traitor, A Spy Among Friends, Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, and Rogue Heroes, among other books. Macintyre has also written and presented BBC documentaries of his work.
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