Captivity, Flight, and Survival in World War II

By Alan J. Levine | Go to book overview

Introduction

This book is devoted to recounting some of the great escapes of World War II--and the dreadful conditions from which those escapes were made. Some of these stories have never been told before. Others have been described, but usually in obscure books printed in the 1940s and 1950s, many almost unavailable in the United States. The "escape story'' was a staple of British publishing in the 1950s, but does not seem to have been remotely as popular with the Americans of that era. As we shall see, they missed a lot! There has been no overall account of escapes of all kinds during the war. Those facts and the passage of years, have left some of the greatest adventures of all time almost unknown. It should be noted that I have interpreted "escape" more broadly than usual, to include all sorts of flight from enemy-controlled territory-- many of which, I believe, are more amazing than the "typical" stories of escapes from prisoner of war camps, which are relatively familiar. I have also dealt with the subject of escapes from Jewish ghettoes and concentration camps. I have devoted special attention to the neglected subject of escapes by small boats across the North Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are a category of escape that I find particularly fascinating and inspiring, and I hope the reader will, too.

However, this book is not simply about heroic adventure; it has a serious side. Escapes cast a good deal of light on conditions in Axis-occupied areas and the development of resistance there. I have attempted to explore the psychology of escape and, by necessity, the conditions of

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