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Piercing the Reich : the Penetration of Nazi Germany by OSS Agents During World War II / Joseph E. Persico. Hardcover – 1997

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Hardcover, 1997
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8a68bb4c) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a5ab038) out of 5 stars Superb book on OSS spies inside Nazi Germany 27 May 2003
By Frank - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb book on a little-told aspect of World War II espionage -- the infiltration of OSS spies into Nazi Germany, and their tales of survival (or capture) while trying to collect intelligence, and send it to the Allies, from inside one of the most repressive police states during wartime. This book is FULL of fascinating tales and insights, providing enough detail to be rich, but not enough to be stilted. The book reads like a good spy novel, except fiction is bounded by realm of the possible, and these are real people.
This book goes well beyond "this happened, and then that happened." The author explains the relevant history and structure of Nazi Germany, and examines the political and psychological pressures on the various countries, spy organizations, and on the agents themselves. Worker activists and communists were helpful to the Allies as spies during the war, but dumped soon afterward.
One tale is of "Cicero," the Albanian valet to the British ambassador to Ankara, who stole volumes of critical information from the ambassador's safe and sold it to the Germans, including the "Overlord" code name of the Normandy invasion. Even after being warned, the British allowed Cicero to stay in his position for months. Yet another twist happens as conflicts and jealousies within German intelligence led the Germans to discount the actual intelligence Cicero provided. And as the final twist, the £300,000 paid by the Germans to Cicero was all counterfeit money.
One of the most fascinating stories is how the Germans came to build their "last stand" National Redoubt in Austria. It started as a wholly mistaken OSS intelligence rumor -- the Germans had no such plan. But when the Germans intercepted the American radio report of such "German plans," the National Redoubt idea was sent to Hitler and implemented. A lot of our scarce espionage capabilities were misdirected to examining enemy plans in the "National Redoubt" area during the war. American troops at the end of the European war left Berlin to the Russians, and turned to Austria to vanquish the very same almost-empty "National Redoubt" chimera we'd created.
One helpful insight of the book was on the issue of whether the majority of ordinary Germans knew the purpose of the concentration camps. One capable spy, doing his best to make observations, with an anti-Nazi bias (both characteristics unlike most Germans), reported that the only information most Germans had of the purpose of the concentration camps came from what they may have heard from American propaganda, which they dismissed, because Allied anti-German propaganda in World War I had been so exaggerated. The majority of Germans, if they knew of the camps, assumed they were places of confinement and not extermination. This did not apply, of course, to the minority of Germans involved with the camps, and perhaps those living near the camps.
The author goes into the psychology of what makes a good spy, in a very paranoid "papers, please" regime, who is always pushing the envelope, always at the the risk of capture and torture and perhaps execution, but yet must survive in order to pass his/her information back to the Allies. What was the right type of man or woman to send into Nazi Germany with an important and delicate mission? (One description: "The ideal candidate was honest and devious, inconspicuous and audacious, quick and prudent, zealous and cool.") Should the OSS recruit ordinary captured German soldiers? Was it ethical to make promises to potential spies which couldn't be kept? How could the OSS tell who was telling the truth, and who had contrary motives -- or determine who had the character to perform well in extreme circumstances?
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in politics, history, or espionage.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a5ab08c) out of 5 stars The Spy's Spy Book 9 July 2000
By Dan. C - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the amazing story the the O.S.S america's first true intelligence service. This is the dazaling story of the 200 O.S.S agents that risked their life and pierced the German 3rd reich. it will compell you with it's stories of heroism and danger. This is truly one of the greatest spy books ever written and if you don't read you miss a part of America's classic spy history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By biblio - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Glad we found this edition from the '70's, one of the characters in the book was known to us. He never talked about his wartime activities, even to his children. They learned of his background through a schoolmate who read the book. Well-written and suspenseful. Extraordinary times and people, most of whom are gone now.
HASH(0x8a5ab4ac) out of 5 stars It's a recap of OSS activities in Germany during WWII ... 27 July 2016
By Frank N. Hawkins - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a recap of OSS activities in Germany during WWII. The details about these activities in Switzerland, the U.K. and Germany are facinating. I give it five stars.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a5ab878) out of 5 stars Interesting but disjointed 6 Mar. 2013
By Kirinjin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are plenty of interesting anecdotes here about the OSS and its activities into Germany and Austria. I bought the book for a research project, and reaped a few worthwhile facts. Alas, the stories are cobbled together with little coherent theme. Some chapters are organized well, but most just jump around from tale to tale. Some aggressive editing would have helped.
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