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Prisoners of the Castle: An Epic Story of Survival and Escape from Colditz, the Nazis' Fortress Prison (2022)

por Ben Macintyre

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3791167,233 (4.23)15
In this gripping narrative, Ben Macintyre tackles one of the most famous prison stories in history and makes it utterly his own. During World War II, the German army used the towering Colditz Castle to hold the most defiant Allied prisoners. For four years, these prisoners of the castle tested its walls and its guards with ingenious escape attempts that would become legend. But as Macintyre shows, the story of Colditz was about much more than escape. Its population represented a society in miniature, full of heroes and traitors, class conflicts and secret alliances, and the full range of human joy and despair. In Macintyre's telling, Colditz's most famous names--like the indomitable Pat Reid--share glory with lesser known but equally remarkable characters like Indian doctor Birendranath Mazumdar whose ill treatment, hunger strike, and eventual escape read like fiction; Florimond Duke, America's oldest paratrooper and least successful secret agent; and Christopher Clayton Hutton, the brilliant inventor employed by British intelligence to manufacture covert escape aids for POWs. Prisoners of the Castle traces the war's arc from within Colditz's stone walls, where the stakes rose as Hitler's war machine faltered and the men feared that liberation would not come soon enough to spare them a grisly fate at the hands of the Nazis. Bringing together the wartime intrigue of his acclaimed Operation Mincemeat and keen psychological portraits of his bestselling true-life spy stories, Macintyre has breathed new life into one of the greatest war stories ever told.… (mais)
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Like many, my interest in Colditz Castle began with the tv series broadcast in 1972-74, starring Peter McCallum, and featuring the escape plans from the legendary POW prison that was said to be escape-proof. Over 70 metres above ground, with stone walls 2 metres thick, the castle invited methods of escape that were eccentric, to say the least, ranging from human catapults to a glider. Although the guards outnumbered the prisoners, 130 escapees managed to get out, and of those 32 were successful in reaching safety. Many of those imprisoned at Colditz had been successful escapees of other camps and were, or went on to become, famous names. They included David Stirling, the British officer who founded the Special Air Service (SAS) who had escaped four times prior to Colditz. Airey Neave (later a member of parliament and advisor to Margaret Thatcher) made a remarkable but failed first attempt as a German officer. He found the brief time of freedom addictive and his second attempt via a trap door under the stage of a theatrical production made him the first British POW to escape Colditz. His fake German uniform was ingenious. Officers were not expected to work but lower ranks were required to work by serving their superiors, thus creating a miniature international community with hierarchy and snobbery intact, to say nothing of racism as Birendranath Mazumdar, the only Indian officer, can attest. Macintyre’s narrative is fascinating, covers much more than escape attempts and is well worth reading for entertainment value as well as historic. ( )
  VivienneR | Feb 2, 2024 |
L'histoire d'un chateau et d'une prison particulière ( )
  guilmom | Jan 28, 2024 |
Fascinating account of life at Colditz. We are introduced to several characters and learn of the dynamics within and between the different groups of prisoners and their captors. We also learn the details of the many escape attempts, which I found really interesting in both their ingenuity and boldness. I was also interested in learning of the work of an ‘escapologist’ working on the outside to provide various helpful items to the prisoners.
On the downside, the book seemed to lack structure, but I figure that this was a result of the subject matter being inherently difficult to organize. I did read it in bits in pieces over several months, which likely affected my impression of the book, but I still found it long. There were a crazy number of people discussed and I was not able to keep track of them all.
I was provided with an ARC (thanks to the author & publisher!) and I am voluntarily posting my honest review. ( )
  AnnieKMD | Dec 21, 2023 |
I often like to say that Ben Macintyre can take any bit of history and turn it into a fascinating story. It’s a gift. But in this case, I think he had a rather easier job of it. Because the story of Colditz is so full of unforgettable characters and extraordinary incidents that even a lesser writer would make something of it. Basically, it’s the story of a very stupid idea. Germany had captured lots of Allied soldiers early in the Second World War, many of them officers, and some of them desperate to escape and to resume their fight against the Nazis. Particularly difficult prisoners who were escaping all the time from other POW camps were collected from all over the Reich and put in one place — the hilltop fortress of Colditz in eastern Germany. All those misfits, all those crazy, brave men who would do anything to escape, all put together in a single place. What could possibly go wrong? Another wonderful book by an amazing writer, well-researched, full of unforgettable characters and a real page-turner. Highly recommended. ( )
  ericlee | Oct 10, 2023 |
A much more honest account of what went on. ( )
  GeoffreyFrost | Jun 17, 2023 |
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In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced not cried aloud
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

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The myth of Colditz has stood unchanged and unchallenged for more than seventy years: prisoners of war, with moustaches firmly set on stiff upper lips, defying the Nazis by tunnelling out of a grim Gothic castle on a German hilltop, fighting the war by other means.
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In this gripping narrative, Ben Macintyre tackles one of the most famous prison stories in history and makes it utterly his own. During World War II, the German army used the towering Colditz Castle to hold the most defiant Allied prisoners. For four years, these prisoners of the castle tested its walls and its guards with ingenious escape attempts that would become legend. But as Macintyre shows, the story of Colditz was about much more than escape. Its population represented a society in miniature, full of heroes and traitors, class conflicts and secret alliances, and the full range of human joy and despair. In Macintyre's telling, Colditz's most famous names--like the indomitable Pat Reid--share glory with lesser known but equally remarkable characters like Indian doctor Birendranath Mazumdar whose ill treatment, hunger strike, and eventual escape read like fiction; Florimond Duke, America's oldest paratrooper and least successful secret agent; and Christopher Clayton Hutton, the brilliant inventor employed by British intelligence to manufacture covert escape aids for POWs. Prisoners of the Castle traces the war's arc from within Colditz's stone walls, where the stakes rose as Hitler's war machine faltered and the men feared that liberation would not come soon enough to spare them a grisly fate at the hands of the Nazis. Bringing together the wartime intrigue of his acclaimed Operation Mincemeat and keen psychological portraits of his bestselling true-life spy stories, Macintyre has breathed new life into one of the greatest war stories ever told.

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