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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Gestapo´s Most Improbable Hostage

This book, the indeed improbable wartime experiences of Squadron Leader Hugh Mallory Falconer, proved to be not only very informative but also more thought-provoking and entertaining than I had thought. Most books about the Second World War are limited in their outlook. A few, like this one, rise above the rest and simultaneously tell a strong story from WWII and another, larger one.

I had expected, and also got, a book about life as a special prisoner of the Third Reich and the half-baked idea of the top Nazi leadership to create a pool of prominent hostages, as a kind of insurance policy to make sure that they would be able to survive the defeat of the Third Reich. The essence of this idea was to collect regime opponents, not only foreign ones, that the Nazi leaders deemed were somehow valuable to the outside world. This plan was connected to the larger idea of the "Southern Redoubt" in Austria.

Squadron Leader Hugh Mallory Falconer, a French Foreign Legion veteran and agent of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), delivers a personal account of the Nazi hostage idea that also says a great deal about Nazism itself, mankind in general and how to cope with solitary confinement and mental torture. Mallory effectively teaches about mental strength, the SS guard mindset, secret communications and how to never give up. His survival strategy is a shining example of how to overcome the worst odds, but not inexplicable – he really helps the reader to understand the stages he went through during his long imprisonment.

The Gestapo´s Most Improbable Hostage is a disturbing, inspiring book that also contains some unexpected but very British humour.

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