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The tangled morals of war,
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This review is from: Human Game: Hunting the Great Escape Murderers (Kindle Edition)
This is a curious book. I have not yet finished reading, but would recommend it for reasons other than those for which it seems to have been marketed. This is not a thrilling story. After the drama of the retelling the Great Escape, it settles into the monotony of the search for the perpetrators of the slaughter of the 50 airmen who escaped and were shot, offering a unique glimpse of the dangerous and devastated landscape of post war Germany. A sense of bleakness permeates the somewhat stilted telling of the tale, and since this is not the sort of book I usually read, I have surprised myself by wanting to read on. The reason is that there is a possibly unintended but compelling subtext to this recent history. The assumptions are clear. The shooting of 50 unarmed escaped officers was an accepted war crime and the perpetrators must be punished. The slaughter was ordered by Hitler in a fit of peak but its' execution involved many people at different levels of the hierarchy. When caught, a few were unremorseful, but many argued that they had not wanted to be involved but were under orders. Had they not obeyed their orders they would certainly have been shot themselves and their families would have suffered. Others argued that their 'immorality' was no greater than that of the airmen who had bombed Dresden and other cities to rubble, killing their relatives and friends. The bomber airmen too were under orders, and though this is not discussed in the book, they had until recently been conveniently 'forgotten', and their contribution to the war was not fully recognised because of the enormity of what occurred. After being caught and questioned, the German offenders were sent back to England to the 'London Cage', a series of grand houses which hid the reality of what went on inside. This was where prisoners were in fact tortured to elicit further information. In view of the recent revelations and debates about torture and the morality of how prisoners are treated, this is both sobering and fascinating. Maybe the final part of the book makes this debate more explicit, but whether it does or not, I would recommend this book, not because it is exciting or particularly well written, but because it offers a unique glimpse of a period of very recent, but already mythologised history.