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I remember very clearly the day on which I was supposed to die…
So starts the story of Squadron Leader Hugh Mallory Falconer, British Special Operations Executive agent and prisoner of the Nazis for over two and a half gruelling years.
When he was caught out of uniform by the Gestapo in Tunisia not long after the culmination of Operation Torch in 1942, he had no right to expect anything but the worst. Quite miraculously however, his papers vanished whilst he was being sent to Gestapo HQ in Berlin and, as a result, no-one could make out who he was. This, coupled with his quick-thinking and cunning whilst under interrogation, led to the Nazis including him in a group of high-profile hostages, holding him alongside such notable figures as the former French Minister Leon Blum.
The group were intended to save the Nazi leaders' necks as the War ground down to its inevitable end. Offered a certain amount of protection on account of their special status in the eyes of their captors, they experienced the war from a unique vantage point. Held at a variety of infamous camps, including Sachsenhausen, Dachau and Buchenwald, Squadron Leader Mallory was taken on a virtual grand tour of the Third Reich, witnessing the full extent of its horrors.
Then in 1945, he was forced to new heights of cunning when the Nazis began exterminating their captives. His daughter, who has painstakingly transcribed the only copy of her father’s memoirs, describes this book, published here for the first time, as ‘a personal manual on keeping your sanity when your weight has dropped to that of a small German Shepherd dog, you are covered in vermin, you are alone and you have everything to fear.’ It makes for vital and compelling reading.
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