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Striking Back: A Jewish Commando's War Against the Nazis Hardcover – September 23, 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Masters, an Austrian-born Jew originally named Peter Arany, has an unusual war story to tell, one that has not been told before. Masters was one of 87 Jewish refugees from Hitler who volunteered for military service in Troop 3, No. 10 Commando, an elite unit of the British army. Troop 3 was unusual in that almost all of its members were Austrian and German Jews, men who spoke German fluently and who would be trained in the ways and means of the German army (to the extent that, Masters notes wryly, they probably knew more about German weaponry and organization than most German soldiers). For these men, some of them concentration camp survivors, this assignment represented a unique opportunity to fight back against the Nazis. Ironically, nearly all of them had previously been interned by the British as ``friendly enemy aliens'' when the war broke out. When they were recruited for ``special and hazardous duty,'' they were required to assume new identities, with elaborate cover stories to explain their oddly accented English. Thus, Arany became Masters, Geiser became Gordon, Abramowitz Arlen, and so on. Masters recounts their grueling training with wit and gusto, leaving readers with little doubt that these men were ready for combat. And with the Normandy invasion, they saw plenty of it. Masters and other members of Troop 3 fought in Normandy for three long months; he would return to action in the Netherlands and participate in the final invasion of Germany. His narration of his combat experiences is vivid yet low-key. He never sugarcoats the reality of the violence he witnessed, but the book is leavened by a goodly mix of humor and a warm feeling for his compatriots. An admirable war memoir from a man who was neither a professional soldier nor a professional writer but who has acquitted himself nicely in both roles. There is a foreword by noted historian Stephen E. Ambrose. (32 b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press; First Edition edition (September 23, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891416293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891416296
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,478,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have read this book about seven or eight times. When I finally met the author, Peter Masters, he asked in his usual humble style, "Why?" Here are my answers. It tells a largely ignored story in a literate, humane, and humble way. It tells how people who were victimized in outrageous ways were able to strike back and help defeat their oppressors. It also tells a story of which I (and all of the other World War II history buffs of my acquaintance)was totally igonorant. Finally, it is a story of courage in the face of outrageous horror that stands as a model of how we should react to terror today. In a nutshell: 87 young Jewish refugees were formed into an elite, secret Commando unit of the British Army; all spoke fluent, idiomatic German; all were required to hide their real identities and take on native British personas and names;they were trained in intelligence, reconnaissance, prisoner interrogation, and German tactics; they landed at D-Day, performed courageously thorughout the European war; 19 of the 87 died; the survivors lived to see the defeat of their tormentors. This is a fascinating story of human courage in the face of outrage. And the good guys win! Now my question: why hasn't this book become the subject of a movie or mini-series? In any event, order it now and read it, perhaps seven or eight times -- and tell all your friends to do the same.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the best written books about the invasion and the training leading up to it, from the aspect of Jewish teen refugees who were formed into a commando unit of the British army. No histrionics,just good writing.
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Format: Hardcover
Wonderful, real-life story of war and all its vagaries. This fellow wanted to strike back at the Nazis, and he certainly did by volunteering for the British army and becoming a parachute commando.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure why it took me 12 years from the publication of this book to hear about it. This book is a great read, the kind that you don't want to put down. This is the story of a young Jewish man, who was tormented in his hometown(in Austria}, by Nazi bullies, in the years before WW II began. He fled to England to escape the inevitable horrific treatment by the Nazis. Throughout the book are stories of what happened to his and other families, during the war and the years leading up to it. This story is told from a perspective that most have never heard. I am amazed that a movie has not been made of this book. During their commando training they were housed in local families houses, and the stories are great. Read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
If you've decided to read this book, you might want to skip my review and only read it later since I intend to reveal some of the things that happen in it. However I'm hoping that learning these things in advance won't spoil your appreciation of them in the book but maybe give you more reason to read it.

I read books like this partly as war/adventure stories but also and particularly as stories of fighting back against evil. I like to read about the oppressed turning on and defeating their oppressors, of Jews shooting at Nazis. Masters and his comrades did that and did it well.

Masters, born Peter Arany in Austria, escaped Vienna to England in 1938 with his mother and sister, his divorced father escaping separately, also to England. He was 16 and Jewish.

At the start of the war he and his father were interned as "enemy aliens." After all, they had come from a land that was then part of Germany. Eventually he was able to get out to join the army, but only in an unarmed "Pioneer" labor battalion. In 1943 he was finally selected for advanced commando training in a unit of mostly Jewish native German speakers. They underwent extraordinary physical training, running, mountain climbing, parachuting, hand to hand combat, as well as training in all kinds of weapons. Finally on D-Day he went ashore in Europe and fought on the front lines, usually in reconnaissance right up to the enemy lines, in attacks, and in prisoner interrogations. After a short rest in England his unit was back fighting in the Ardennes, the Rhine crossing, and the conquest of Germany.

Although M was 75 when this book was published it was written with much clarity and insight and a considerable appreciation of the viewpoint of his youth.
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