The Mascot by Mark Kurzem
Part thriller, part psychological drama, part puzzle with a strange twist, The Mascot is one of the most astonishing stories to emerge from the Second World War. It tells the remarkable true story of how Alex Kurzem unravelled the shocking secrets of his wartime past. With the support of Mark, his son, Alex began to recall how he evaded the German-led execution squad that decimated his village, but witnessed the murder of his Jewish mother and siblings. He scavenged amongst the trees and protected himself from wolves, before falling into the hands of a Latvian police battalion. The soldiers adopted him as their mascot and Alex accompanied the unit everywhere as it changed its identity and duties to those of an SS unit on the rampage. He even appeared in propaganda films and newspaper articles, riding into Riga in a military parade... yet he was Jewish.
At the age of five, was Alex Kurzem a collaborator or just a lost little boy? Caught up in a world of war-crime hunters, former war criminals and security agents with unclear agendas, he has since been threatened by many who believe he has betrayed them.
Vietnam by Christian G. Appy
In Vietnam, Professor, Christian G. Appy has created a staggering and monumental oral history of the type that is created only once in a generation. The vivid accounts of 135 men and women span the entire history of the Vietnam conflict from its murky origins in the 1940s to the chaotic fall of Saigon in 1975.
The testimony in this book, sometimes detached and reflective, often raw and emotional, allows us to see and feel what this war meant to people on all sides - Americans and Vietnamese, generals and guerillas, policy makers and protesters, CIA operatives, pilots and doctors, artists and journalists, and a variety of ordinary citizens whose lives were swept up in a cataclysm that killed three million people.
A remarkable, eye-opening and essential read for anyone with even a passing interest in one of the twentieth century's defining conflicts.
Prisoner of War by Charles Rollings
'For you, the war is over.' These famous words marked the end of the Second World War for nearly half a million allied servicemen, and the beginning of a very different battle in captivity. Waged against boredom, brutality, disease, hunger and despair, it was a battle for survival, fought without the aid of weapons against fully armed enemy captors.
Based on interviews and correspondence with ex-POWs and their relatives over the last 30 years, Prisoner of War is a major survey of allied POWs from all walks of life. Extraordinary stories of extremes: courage, hope and desperation are revealed in the words of those that were there.
Arranged chronologically, the book follows those involved from capture, through interrogation, imprisonment, escape, to final liberation and homecoming. POWs and, in particular, those who broke free, have become a post-war cultural icon; a symbol of the will to survive against the odds. Rich with incident and emotion, Prisoner of War is a compelling look at the lives of extraordinary individuals trapped behind the wire.
Clara's War by Clara Kramer
On 21 July 1942 the Nazis invaded Poland. In the small town of Zolkiew, life for Jewish 15-year-old Clara Kramer was never to be the same again. While those around her were either slaughtered or transported, Clara and her family hid perilously in a hand-dug cellar. Living above and protecting them were the Becks.
Mr Beck was a womaniser, a drunkard and a self-professed anti-Semite, yet he risked his life throughout the war to keep his charges safe. Nevertheless, life with Mr Beck was far from predictable. From the house catching fire, to Beck’s affair with Clara’s cousin, to the nightly SS drinking sessions in the room just above, Clara’s War transports you into the dark, cramped bunker, and sits you next to the families as they hold their breath time and again.
Sixty years later, Clara Kramer has created a memoir that is lyrical, dramatic and heartbreakingly compelling. Despite the worst of circumstances, this is a story full of hope and survival, courage and love.
The World's Greatest 20th Century Battlefields by Peter and Dan Snow
In this riveting book, political journalist Peter Snow and military historian Dan Snow bring to life the most intense and bitterly fought battles of the 20th century - from the apocalyptic terrain of the Western Front to the desert landscape of Iraq. Punctuated by powerful eyewitness testimony, their compelling and often shocking narrative highlights the strategy of military commanders as well as the experience of men on the frontline. 20th Century Battlefields looks back at the most violent century in history and examines the challenges facing armed forces in the future.