Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben Macintyre

Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben Macintyre



In a forbidding Gothic castle on a hilltop in the heart of Nazi Germany, an unlikely band of British officers spent the Second World War plotting daring escapes from their German captors. Or so the story of Colditz has gone, unchallenged for 70 years. But that tale contains only part of the truth.

The astonishing inside story, revealed for the first time in this new book by bestselling historian Ben Macintyre, is a tale of the indomitable human spirit, but also one of snobbery, class conflict, homosexuality, bullying, espionage, boredom, insanity and farce. With access to an astonishing range of material, Macintyre reveals a remarkable cast of characters of multiple nationalities hitherto hidden from history, with captors and prisoners living for years cheek-by-jowl in a thrilling game of cat and mouse.

From the elitist members of the Colditz Bullingdon Club to America’s oldest paratrooper and least successful secret agent, the soldier-prisoners of Colditz were courageous and resilient as well as vulnerable and fearful — and astonishingly imaginative in their desperate escape attempts. Deeply researched and full of incredible human stories, this is the definitive book on Colditz.

My Review:

Just mentioning the name Colditz Castle and many will undoubtedly recall the 1955 film starring John Mills and Eric Portman, but what really is the true story of the famous castle that housed WWII Prisoners of War. Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle (Viking Books) by Ben Macintyre is out now and really gets behind the story and some of POW’s who were held at the castle.

Colditz Castle or Schloss Colditz is situated near Leipzig, Dresden, which is part of the State of Saxony in Germany. It was at the start of WWII that the famous castle was transformed into a Prisoners of War camp and in November 1940 the first British soldiers would arrive. What Ben Macintyre does is an incredible job in research and getting behind the story of the prisoners and their captors of the castle and many would become well known for their stories of escaping from the castle fortress or the many attempts and the tunnels that would be dug right under the noses of the German guards. Many of the stories contained within the book I have never known before, and it tells the real story of life within the walls of the castle and some of the stories are quite sad not just the stories we all read about in years gone by.

We all know of the many escape stories and how the planned meticulously each escape plan, but for many of those held at the castle it has become clear the psychological effect it would have on those. For some desperation to escape would be too much. Many would escape but would be captured only to be march across the bridge and through the gates and back into Colditz, but the stories of those who escaped and made it back home are the stuff of legend.

Some of the prisoners would be classified as real high value POW’s and would be held away from the main prisoners these would be related to high-ranking officials, and they would so the story goes could become bargaining tools as the war came to an end with the Americans advancing on the town of Colditz and the bridge that led to the castle. Some of the incredible stories of how M19 came up with many ways of smuggling items into the camp to help those being held. It was 16 April 1945 after two days of fighting that the castle was liberated by US troops. What took place in the castle in the lead up to this makes for fascinating reading.

When you any book by Ben Macintyre, you know you are reading not just an historical book that is so well researched but books that really read like a gripping novel.

384 Pages.

Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben MacIntyre Published by Viking Books UK on and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK