The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe by Stephen Harding is certainly a part of WWII history I’ve never before heard. Who knew that there was even a brief alliance between the sworn enemies of the U.S. military and the German Wehrmacht?
Castle Itter was set up by the Nazi government to be a lush prison, earmarked for high-value inmates who might be useful in the future. French prime ministers who fell out of favor or were against the Vichy government, French military commanders, and resistance fighters with high connections found themselves at Castle Itter where they were given sumptuous rooms, relatively good food considering the rationing and shortages going on, and free time (that wasn’t spent in forced labor—lucky them).
However, as the Germany military wanes, the prisoners are either very useful or very expendable. The Allied forces along with German troops that surrendered must breach the castle’s defenses before a few diehard Nazis decide on extreme measures.
I thought this was an interesting book, but it tried to create more drama than there probably was. The prisoners were interesting, not only described in detail but their relationships with each other were delved into. Some of the prisoners were political enemies on the outside, but inside formed a sort of friendship (sometimes) that helped them in the end. There were also a few American soldiers who were major characters and important in the context of the battle. They were my favorite characters because they had that good-American-boy thing going.
A battle in World War II where Germans and Americans is allied is worth reading about, but I’m not sure it was worth the focus of an entire book. The story didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
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