Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Book: Colditz (November 2022) – Athenaeum Book Club 2023

By Ben Macintyre

November 27, 2022

The real Colditz – for the first time

In a forbidding gothic castle on a hilltop deep in Nazi German, un unlikely band of British officers spent the Second World War plotting daring escapes from their German captors – or so the myth of Colditz has been told, unchallenged for seventy years.  But that tale contains only part of the truth.

The astonishing inside story, revealed here for the first time by bestselling historian Ben Macintyre, is a trilling tale of the indomitable human spirit, but also one of class conflict and sexual liaisons, bullying and espionage, insanity and farce.  From eminent officers – some of the greatest escapers of all – to their long-suffering orderlies, the prisoners of Colditz Castle created an eccentric world within a hilltop cage, a world apart that was divided over politics, sexuality and race, with a distinct language, theatrical shows and even its own Olympics.

With access to an unprecedented range of material.  Macintyre paints a vivid new picture of the prisoners and their jailers, who lived side by side for years in an epic game of cat and mouse.  He reveals a remarkable cast of characters, from the unknown Indian doctor who went on hunger strike to the members of the Colditz Bullingdon Club, and from the Anglophile German officer who recreated escape attempts to the Polish housewife, in fact an agent of British intelligence, whose network smuggled dozens of prisoners to safety.

Deeply researched and full of incredible stories of heroes who were also human, this is classic Ben Macintyre – and the definitive book on Colditz.

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