About the book
The book draws on exclusive face-to-face interviews as well as on British and German official archives. It reveals how the POWs played a vital part in Britain’s post-war survival while, at the same time, their prolonged detention sparked political uproar. Its central theme though, is the human story of trust, friendship and even romance which developed between the POWs and the local population.
On 16 January, Paula D. gave 'Hitler’s Last Army' a five-star review on Amazon!
“… a very well written book retelling people’s experiences of being a German POW during and after WWII. The various stories are cleverly interwoven with background information taking one back to a different time which most of us have no knowledge or experience of. Highly recommended for anyone who just likes reading about other people’s lives and experiences. Couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it – very unusual for me."
Blog: Hitler’s Last Army
- Heinz Sielmann – Wildlife Films June 7, 2017
Zoologist and film-maker Heinz Sielmann (1917 – 2006) was the German equivalent of Britain’s David Attenborough. His extraordinary life and accomplishments are celebrated in a documentary on the NDR TV network this evening at 19.15 British time (20.15 German time).
Sielmann served in the German army during WW2 and was taken prisoner by British forces immediately after the German surrender in May 1945. He spent a short time in a POW camp in Egypt before being brought to the UK.
As author of Hitler’s Last Army, I was invited to take part in the programme to speak about Britain’s treatment of German prisoners of war in the immediate post-war years. Evidently the British considered him to be a reliable person who could be trusted to play a role in a new, democratic Germany. He was repatriated relatively early to a country which at the time was still under Allied control, and this probably gave him a career advantage which served him well a few years later in the new West Germany.
- After Hitler December 13, 2016
I’ve just caught up – a little belatedly – with an excellent programme on the Yesterday channel – a two-part series called After Hitler. I was impressed by the exceptionally good script, the well-chosen archive footage and the effective narration.
Among many important topics discussed, the programme reminds us that at the end of WW2 almost 11 million German servicemen finished up as POWs. A British major, we are told, wrote of the astonishing absence in Germany of men between 17 and 40. It had become “a land of women, children and old folk”.
As many as 400,000 of the prisoners were held captive in Britain, and their experiences form the nucleus of my book, Hitler’s Last Army.
- The Germans who Stayed November 13, 2016
Back in September The Times published the obituary of Eduard Luedtke, who had just died at the age of 91. The piece was headed ‘Last of the German prisoners of war who worked on English farms during the war and then settled here in peacetime’ (see my blog post of 1 November). But in fact he was only one of the last.
When the obituary appeared, ex-POW Theo Dengel contacted The Times to let them know that he was still alive and kicking —“or just about”. Elsewhere a woman anxiously called her grandfather – another former prisoner of war – to make sure he was OK.
Accordingly, a piece appeared in yesterday’s Times (page 90), as part of the paper’s Armistice coverage. Written by journalist Nigel Farndale, it mentions several of the surviving German ex-prisoners, while providing an excellent account of the 400,000 German POWs who were in Britain between 1939 and 1948. Nigel used my book, Hitler’s Last Army, as a source of information for the feature and kindly acknowledged this in his piece. Online version here.
- Close to the Enemy November 11, 2016
The series is based on actual events. The Times of 7 May 1946 reported:
German scientists, many of whom are leading aeronautical authorities, are coming to Britain to cooperate with British scientists in hastening the development of aero-dynamics, to solve the problems created by the jet engine … When Britain captured the air speed record of 606 m.p.h., jet engines had to be held back. They could easily have gone on at a greater speed if the development in aero-dynamics and in the structure of aeroplanes had kept pace with the progress of the jet engine. Since then the jet engine had forged ahead again and its development was going on by leaps and bounds …
… The scientists, all of whom are non-Nazis, will work at Farnborough, Hants, where they will live in a special hostel and will be waited on by German prisoners of war. They have been working in German research stations and will be paid the same salaries as they received there.
… In the disarmament of Germany … it was decided that this vital realm of research should not be left intact in Germany … America, Russia, and Britain had now agreed that so many of these scientists should go to each of the three countries to cooperate with their own scientists. About 25 would be coming to this country.
In Hitler’s Last Army I describe many of the other occupations in which German prisoners of war were engaged in Britain, both during and after the war. Many people would be astonished to learn, for example, that trusted German POWs were given the task of compiling records of Nazis who were wanted for war crimes; other detainees had the job of keeping an up-to-date index of all POWs in British camps.
- Last of the German POWs ? November 1, 2016
The article was sub-titled: ‘Last of the German prisoners of war who worked on English farms during the war and then settled here in peacetime’.
While Mr Luedtke was one of the last surviving German POWs, there are certainly others still alive – as some of them were quick to point out! The obituary has sparked quite a bit of interest, and my sources inform me that The Times will be publishing a feature on this subject in the very near future.
Up to 400,000 German prisoners were held in Britain between 1939 and 1948, and most of them were put to work in agriculture. After the majority had been repatriated, some 25,000 chose to remain in this country as civilian farm workers. For more info, see Hitler’s Last Army, especially Chapters 15-20.
Watch this space for updates on the projected Times article!