The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century

The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century
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Release Date
September 25, 2018
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At the height of World War I, as battles raged in the trenches and in the air, another struggle for survival was being waged in the most notorious POW camp in all of Germany: Holzminden. A land-locked Alcatraz of sorts, it was home to the most troublesome Allied prisoners--and the most talented at escape. The Grand Escape tells the remarkable tale of a band of pilots who pulled off an ingenious plan and made it out of enemy territory in the biggest breakout of WWI, inspiring their countrymen in the darkest hours of the war.

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Exciting World War ONE Narrative Nonfiction
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World War I was a harrowing war, but is not covered as frequently as World War II. This is a shame, since there are so many facets of the war that have not been covered. For instance, I had forgotten that the Hague Conventions laid out very clear and extensive rules about how prisoners of war should be treated. During WWI, the Germans violated these on multiple occasions. The Grand Escape tells how prisoners at Holzminden were so mistreated that the planned an almost impossible escape.

In prose that has all of the compelling interest of a fictionalized tale but with plentiful period photographs to reinforce the reality of the horror, Bascomb follows soldiers as they are fighting and then captured, eventually ending up in the notorious prison camp. Following the individual's backstories, as well as their experiences in the camp, brings a very personal immediacy to the escape. Of course, any true follower of war tales will appreciate the maps and copies of notes as the prisoners plan and eventually execute their plans.
Good Points
Bascomb (who also wrote The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi and other adult titles) knows how to tell a tale that keeps the reaer on the edge of the seat. I got so caught up in the details of the story that I frequently forgot this was nonfiction, and then stopped to check the chapter notes to reassure myself that I was not reading a novel!

While there are shelves and shelves of riveting historical nonfiction about WWII, such as McCormick's McCormick, Patricia. The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero, Freedman's We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler, Hoose's The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club and O'Reilly' s Hitler's Last Days: The Death of the Nazi Regime and the World's Most Notorious Dictator, there is relatively little about WWI. Freedman's The War to End All Wars: World War I is excellent, but more of an overview than an in-depth dissection of a particular facet. I would love to see more on this military conflict and encourage my readers who like this sort of literature to broaden their scope a tiny bit!
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