The Great Escape Paperback – 4 Nov 2002
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The true story of the most famous Second World War prison camp escape
Stalag Luft III was a specially built German prison camp designed to hold the most determined escapers - officers and men from the RAF. Their spectacularly daring escape plan was on an awe-inspiring scale: 650 prisoners working for an entire year to build the longest and most sophisticated tunnel under a POW camp. The tragic end, with 50 captured prisoners shot in cold blood on Hitler's personal orders, led to its own war crimes prosecution and executions. The last surviving escapers, along with the original executioners have been tracked down and dramatically tell the full story in this volume.See all Product description
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One of my favourite films is The Great Escape, and the information in the book stays pretty close to the truth.
So why difficult to rate,well this book and author has done some terrific research, fantastic details, enormous history to an incredible story of engineering, courage and determination.
Saying all that, there are so many names/ characters British, Poland, New Zealand and many more nations, it is so hard to keep up with all the names, who is in the camp, who has left etc..
I know in reality the film added some great American stars to the cast of the film (James Garner and Steve McQueen)which great for promoting the film, but not real characters in the true history of the story.
To me what shows best in the book is the boredom of being a prisoner, the enormous organisation and planning of digging the tunnels, from map making to lighting and heating in the tunnels.
Great detail on the escapes, the recapture, the story of the Germans, the guards.
The easiest character to follow is of course Roger Bushall ( as always remembered by Sir Richard Attenborough), great biography of this character and reading the book, I knew the character from the film.
Overall a great dedicated well researched book, so four stars.
This book details the backgrounds of the key participants, the incredible work they had to undertake and the ingenuity they employed in the slim hope of getting up to 200 prisoners out of Stalag Luft III at one time.
Aside from the admiration this book has given me for the real Great Escapers, it's helped me to see the film in a new light as a fairly accurate depiction of the events (with the merest sprinkling of Hollywood pixie dust).
Well worth the read.
There were loads of prisoner-of-war camps in Europe between 1940 and 1945. The most famous one is arguably Stalag Luft III, Sagan, where the world longest tunnel was build. Hitler did not only plan killing Jews but also thousands of intellectuals and civilians who were against the Nazis. Despite the inhospitable and adversity conditions given by Gestapos, prisoners showed utmost determination and energy to fight for their freedom. The account includes the astonishing fact that escapers' network extended to Sweden. The book contains photographs and diagrams illustrating the process of construction of the longest tunnel, how the trolley was operated, portraits of officers, examples of paperwork that escapers carried, and how the prisoners were shot, etc.
The sophisticated tunnel allowed a number of prisoners to get out of the German Air Force Transit Camp. However, they experienced extremely arduous journey around the snow capped mountains, and war zone territories where border patrols were stationed. The warfare resulted in a huge decrease in train service and damage in infrastructure. They often missed the connection trains. As the war progressed, the surveillance got reinforced, in particular, around he sea between Germany and Sweden. Toward the end of the war, a number of escapers were arrested, and sent to the prisons which were even more inhospitable. To make matters worse, the Gestapos started shooting the prisoners on the way to their destinations, and this action induced huge loss of relevant record of the gross murders undertaken by the Gestapos. The book also includes letters which the prisoners sent to their wives and families promising to come home soon.
All in all, from Stalag Luft III, 650 people involved in digging the tunnel, 126 people attempted to escape, 73 were recaptures, 50 men were executed, and only three men made their home. The story contained prisoners' heroic challenge of constructing the long tunnel manually, attempting to make themselves home, and having tragic and harrowing ending.