Australians from every field of conflict in World War II found themselves as prisoners in Hitler's notorious Stalags, or prisoner of war camps. Whether captured merchant seamen, bomber crews or soldiers taken in North Africa or the disastrous Greek and Cretan campaigns, they were to see out the war in the heart of Hitler's Europe, their fortunes intimately connected to the fortunes of the Reich.
Most were forced to labour in factories, down mines or on the land – often in conditions of enormous privation and hardship. All suffered from shortages, overcrowding and the mental strain of imprisonment. Some tried to escape, a few successfully, a few paying with their lives. The experiences of Australian POWs in Germany have long been overshadowed by the horrors of Japanese imprisonment, yet their stories of courage, stoicism, suffering and endurance deserve to be told.
Peter Monteath's fascinating narrative history is exhaustively researched, and compelling in its detailed evocation.
Publisher: Macmillan Australia
Emma Morris, The Australian wrote:
Hypertension, alcohol and tobacco addiction, impotence and diarrhoea, the loss of the art of working for a living, were - Monteath contends - nearly as likely to afflict those who had been prisoners of the Germans as of the Japanese. Some suffered from a "tormenting restiveness"; others preferred the "silent world of retreat into their memories". Monteath concludes POW with a salute to the few hundred of them still alive. His book has already paid them a nuanced, richly detailed tribute.
William Charles in The Adelaide Review wrote:
Not only is it about time that a book on this subject has been published but Monteath has delivered one that will become the leading authority on the subject and essential reading for all researchers of Australian PoWs of Hitler's Reich.
Bob Moore, War in History wrote:
Notwithstanding the awful context of the broader European conflict, these pages resound with echoes of a more innocent and respectful time, where officers on both sides were gentlemen and played largely by the rules. How distant all this seems from our contemporary regimes of extraordinary rendition and torture. Flinders University's Peter Monteath has produced an outstanding book highly recommended for any student of Australian history, or for lovers of true adventure.
Stefan Geck, H-Net Reviews wrote:
In sum, this is a well-constructed history that tells us as much about the general experience of western prisoners of war in German hands as it does about those of the Australians. Most of this has been covered in other texts but this has a highly readable style that will make it accessible to a readership beyond the realm of academia. That said, its greatest appeal is likely to be the wider Australian public - exactly as the author intended.
In a lively and knowledgeable manner, the author of this book traces the history of the Anzacs, soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, who went into German captivity in the European theatre of war between 1939/40 and 1945. Against the background of the history of the Second AIF (Australian Imperial Force) and the units of Air Force (RAAF) and Navy (RAN), all of which were deployed in the fight against the Third Reich under British High Command, Peter Monteath exhaustively documents the history of war imprisonment in its central aspects. By evaluating numerous interviews with war veterans, he manages to present more than just another "story from below".