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
- COUNTDOWN TO VE-DAY February 19, 2015
Eberhard Wendler’s wartime diary continues:
‘10 February, 1945: at 2.00 p.m. I received the first parcel from home. It contained skin cream, a mirror, a mouth-organ, a handkerchief, socks, sugar cubes, sardines in oil, and cakes.
11 February, 1945: I received the first letter from home dated 24 November 1944.’
Mail between POWs and their families went via Switzerland and wartime conditions inevitably made this a slow process. The parcel from home on 10 February was the first communication of any kind that Eberhard had received from his family since his capture six months earlier. Finding a mouth-organ in the package left him a little puzzled, however, as his mother new very well that he did not play the instrument. But it turned out to have been an inspired gift, as he explained to me when I was researching the book:
‘I couldn’t play, but some of the others could. After lights-out it still went on. And you could hear people sobbing. Every song was about home. No marching songs. That word, Heimat, [home] is holy. You can’t translate it. It’s your homeland and your own village – it’s sacred to us. They played that mouth organ right through the night and you could hear them sobbing – all in the pitch dark. We love our home … the songs we have about home. I’ve got a satellite now and listen to German music – not news or politics, but the lovely songs.’
- A POW’s Diary – 70 Years On February 16, 2015
Eberhard Wendler was conscripted into the German army in January 1944, at the age of 17. His unit was in combat against American forces in Normandy shortly after D-day, and he was taken prisoner on 26 July. He finished up at High Garrett prisoner of war camp near Braintree, Essex, where he kept a journal about everyday life as a POW in Britain.
Now his diary entries are to be revealed here – many for the first time. They are a fascinating blend of the mundane and the extraordinary, as shown by these two consecutive entries from early 1945:
- 5th January: it snowed here for the first time. In this weather, with the ground frozen hard, we had to cut sugar beet. In the evening I bought [from the camp shop] two handkerchiefs for eight-pence.
- 6th January: at 2100 hours two V-2 rockets exploded near our camp with a terrifying din.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more of Eberhard’s diary entries 70 years (to the day, in many cases) after they were written, leading up to the end of the war with Germany in May 1945.
- The Mike Read Show February 14, 2015
Yesterday I joined Mike Read on his BBC Radio Berkshire show to chat about Hitler’s Last Army.
We talked about prisoner of war camps in Berkshire, and I mentioned that German POWs were at one time housed in the former winter quarters of Bertram Mills’ Circus near the race course at Ascot. Accommodation for some prisoners was found in what had once been the elephant house!
Mike also asked about escapes: we’ve all seen movies such as The Great Escape which depicts the mass breakout of Allied POWs from a camp in Germany. On the whole, there were relatively few escape attempts by German prisoners. Luftwaffe pilot Franz von Werra – subject of another film, The One That Got Away – jumped from a moving train in Canada, made his way back to Germany, was decorated by Adolf Hitler himself, and flew again in combat. (It was a short-lived return to action, as his plane crashed into the sea soon afterwards, and his remains were never found). But as Hitler’s Last Army reveals, von Werra was not the only German to escape, or even the first …
- Sue Dougan : Radio Cambridgeshire January 28, 2015
Yesterday I joined Sue Dougan on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire at mid-day.
We talked in particular about how the German POWs were gradually accepted by most members of the British public. I’ve always felt that this says a great deal for the Germans themselves: they are generally remembered as reliable workers who were respectful towards British civilians. After five years of war, the Brits – understandably – had a bad opinion of Germany, and the prisoners had to make positive efforts to overturn that opinion.
The British, too, showed remarkable generosity and forgiveness. One former POW told me how he was invited into an Englishman’s house not long after the war had ended, and was warmly received. And the first thought to enter the prisoner’s mind was, “Why did we fight?”
- Amazon Review January 20, 2015
Delighted to see that a reader has given Hitler’s Last Army a five-star rating on Amazon, together with a nice review!