The London Cage: The Secret History of Britain's World War II Interrogation Centre, by Helen Fry
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. Pp. x, 346. Illus., append., notes, biblio., index.. $26.00. ISBN: 0300221932.
Eavesdropping on Nazi War Criminals
Fry, author of such works on covert activities as Spymaster and The M Room, gives us a look at the workings of Britain’s special detention center for select German personnel imprisoned in a building in the posh Hyde Park district of London. Under the aegis of Military Intelligence Section 9 (MI-9), this facility was Initially used for the routine interrogation of prisoners likely to posses especially useful information, such as U-boot personnel, particularly officers, as well as pilots, spies, and similarly well connected people.
Fry then explains that in 1944 the facility was turned into a center to house and process several some dozens of senior personnel at a time, from generals, admirals, SS commanders, party officials, down to NCOs and apparatchiks suspected of war crimes, to a total of some 3,000 men in the four years it was in use. As befit their rank, these men were housed in comfort, as can be seen from some of illustrations. Unbeknownst to the prisoners, however, the whole place was bugged, not just the housing facilities, but even parts of the garden. As the German prisoners talked, British intelligence personnel, often Jewish refugees from Nazism, were able to listen in on and record their conversations, which often yielded useful intelligence, and frequently incriminating evidence as well. Of course, these prisoners were also subject to intensive interrogations. Surprisingly, some of the most notable war criminals who were often remarkably open about their “achievements”. The facility was closed in 1948, having made important contributions to the trials of many war criminals, and also left a mountain of interesting material for historians to sort through.
Fry includes many profiles of the people involved, such as SS commanders Kurt Meyer, Sepp Dietrich, and Reinhold Bruchardt, recounts often chilling testimony or impressive war stories, and addresses charges of brutality and torture raised by some prisoners, albeit most of them had inflicted worse on others during their careers in the Third Reich.
The London Cage is a little disjointed, as the narrative jumps back and forth in time, and is somewhat repetitive, but worth a read for those interested in intelligence in the European War.
Note: The London Cage is also available in several e-editions.
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor
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