`This book presents a solid, sensible account.' Sunday Telegraph
`MacKenzie's study is a fine piece of research and clearly reflects a historian deeply engaged with his subject. His approach is broad and yet detailed at the same time, and this book has increased our knowledge of the treatment of prisoners of was significantly' Mark Connelly, Twentieth Century British History
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POW Experience Was Brutal but Not ShortApril 6 2015
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Let's get one thing straight right up front. The title is a misnomer, as this book isn't really about the POW camp at Colditz but is rather a broad overview of the German POW system as it pertained to British and Commonwealth prisoners. The author contends that we have been misled by books and movies like The Colditz Story and The Great Escape into believing that being a British POW in Nazi Germany was sort of a boy's frolic, an extended camping trip where mischievous British lads took turns frustrating their plodding Teutonic captors. He might just as well have called it The Hogan's Heroes Myth. Author Mackenzie has a good point. Being a POW was a miserable experience, even for British and American officers (Soviet and other Eastern European prisoners all too often found it to be an un-survivable hell). While the Germans did attempt to follow the Geneva convention to a surprising extent, living conditions were hard, the enlisted men were required to work (often in deplorable conditions in outside work camps) and the food supply was grossly insufficient (when the Red Cross began importing food parcels to supplement the POW ration the Germans took the opportunity to slash their own contribution by a third). Overcrowding, boredom, lack of medical care, lack of female companionship, and the pervasive uncertainty of what the future held (would the SS execute the prisoners as the Allied armies approached?) all conspired to make the Kriegie experience a terrible memory for millions of young men in what should have been the prime of their lives. By the way, this is one of the few books that attempt to discuss the sexual experiences of the prisoners. Having grown up watching Colonel Hogan seducing (and being seduced) by gorgeous Russian spies and voluptuous Bavarian barmaids (who secretly assisted the Resistance, naturally) I was disappointed to learn that such assignations were fiction. The typical Kriegie (German slang for Prisoner of War) had no sex life at all during his years of captivity (malnutrition helped take your mind off it); those who did found their solace in the same way as other incarcerated young men have done over the centuries. Mackenzie does a very good job at covering the typical experience from the moment of capture to ultimate release, without bogging down in too many personal stories. I would have rated this book a 5 but for a few quibbles: A) he doesn't seem to use or even mention what I consider the best reference on one part of the subject, the semi-official British government work Escape From Germany by Crawley, and B) Like most of the best books on the POWs available in English, he concentrates almost entirely on the British experience. The only comparable American book I can think of off the top of my head is the excellent Stalag Luft III by Arthur A. Durand. Overall a very good addition for anyone concerned with World War Two history.
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I've read parts of it, not all of it ...Sept. 28 2014
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I've read parts of it, not all of it at this point. Very dense read. Not at all what I expected. it's about POWs in Germany in general. Not just about Colditz.