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The 100-Year Secret: Britain's Hidden World War II Massacre Hardcover – October 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"Jacobs's understated tone conveys all the more forcefully the daily horror of camp life." Publishers Weekly, on Mr. Jacobs's first book, Dentist of Auschwitz

"Jacobs reveals the relentless and senseless brutality of concentration camp existence and--finally--the miracle of survival." Booklist, on Mr. Jacobs's first book, Dentist of Auschwitz

From the Back Cover

It's the story no one would tell.
On May 3, 1945, the Royal Air Force attacked a fleet of ships carrying more than seven thousand survivors of the Neuengamme concentration camp. The war was nearly over, and the survivors had endured one of history’s most hellish ordeals, only to die at the hands of their allies.
The bodies, in the striped white-and-black uniforms of camp prisoners, were soon washing ashore on the beach by the town of Timmendorf, near the Baltic port of Neustadt. Benjamin Jacobs, then twenty-five, survived by escaping the hold and clinging to wreckage. He was one of only 350 survivors, and one of the last of those. Days before, Jacobs had boarded the Cap Arcona, along with thousands of other prisoners. A commandeered luxury liner, the Cap Arcona was a dilapidated wreck. Nearby, the freighter Thielbek, in similar condition, was also attacked.
There is reason to believe the Germans were intending to sink the Cap Arcona themselves. Though they claimed the prisoners were headed to Sweden, the ships may have been nonfunctional. The Royal Air Force believed the ships contained escaping SS officers. Tragically, British intelligence may have known who was on the ships, which may explain why the RAF has sealed the records until 2045.
In The 100-Year Secret Benjamin Jacobs collaborates with writer Eugene Pool to describe his miraculous escape from a burning transport ship that was once one of the most glamorous ocean liners of the early twentieth century, and investigates why the incident, which will have its 60th anniversary in May, 2005, appears in no history books. The governments of Germany and Great Britain continue to refuse either to discuss it or to release pertinent records,
The 100-Year Secret is the first complete account in English of this horrific and suppressed tragedy. It is also the first book-length description by an actual survivor. Furthermore, it contains new information about the incident, its participants, and its perpetrators not found in previous accounts. It is both the riveting personal story of a man who refused to give up, no matter what the circumstances, and an important revision of both Jewish and world history.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: The Lyons Press (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592285325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592285327
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,254,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Neal Bellet on December 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The 100-Year Secret is the tragic story of how thousands of concentration camp inmates, mostly Jews, were killed when the RAF mistakingly attacked the ships that they had been forced on by the SS. What makes this even more of a tragedy is that this happened hours before the British occupied this section of Germany. The survival of one of the authors, Benjamin Jacobs, and his brother, as well as the others who made it to shore is the true miracle of the story, which is one that had to be told. My only criticism is that the book could have been a bit better written as I found it hard to follow in certain spots. That is the reason for a rating of a four as opposed to a five. However, the story is such a compelling one that any short comings in style are more than overcome by its substance and I highly recomend this book. If the reader is interested, a more complete and, in my opinion, better written story of Benjamin Jacob's experiences is available in The Dentist of Auschwitz, A Memoir.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Feld on December 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Like other classic Holocaust accounts (Art Spiegelman's Maus books and Ilona Karmel's An Estate of Memory are 2 that come to mind), The-100-Year-Secret brings to life the torture and misery concentration camp inmates endured at the hands of the Nazis. Unlike other Holocaust accounts, this book tells what--if it were not true--would be an almost unbelievable story of the death of thousands of concentration camp survivors at the hands (or airplanes) of the British.

The story of the sinking of inmate-filled ships in Neustadt Bay on May 3, 1945 is simultaneously riveting and heartbreaking. The authors vividly describe the events leading up to the tragedy, both from the point of view of the inmates (of which Mr. Jacobs was one) and that of the British fighter pilots who flew the tragic mission that sunk the ships.

How Jacobs and Pool were able to recreate this story when the official records of it remain sealed for another forty years is beyond me. But recreate it they did, powerfully. You will not be able to put this book down until you have finished it, and once you finally do put it down you will continue to see the images of that frightful night in Neustadt Bay for a very long time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Henry Berry on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jacobs (d. 2004) was a part of the awful World War II episode written about--namely, the bombing of ships filled with Jewish concentration camp victims trying to flee from Germany in the closing days of World War II. Pool, a graduate of Harvard, is a writer and English teacher. The episode took place in the Baltic Sea. Jacobs' account moves smoothly from experiences of him and his brother, including their separation and eventual reunion, to the larger picture of how the Jews from the camps came to be on the boats, were caught between the desperate Germans and the advancing British Armies (with the possibility the Germans meant to sink the boats once they were at sea), and British Royal Air Force operations and decisions which led to the bombing of the ships and deaths of more than 7,000 persons. Jacobs and Pool lean toward the position that the "R. A. F. sacrificed the prisoners" in its effort to prevent German officials from escaping by sea to Denmark or Sweden. The authors see the British government's sealing of records relating to the episode until 2045 as lending support to this deduction. This tragic WWII episode is not unknown, and questions about it have been previously raised. But these two authors give the most thorough account of it. Jacob's first-hand experiences and the authors' inspection of the limited official and historical records which are available make this work stand out.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nachtjager on January 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're contemplating purchase of this book, odds are, you already know something about the Cap Arcona tragedy. This book won't teach you much more. This was written from one survivor's perspective, and regrettably, a lot of the book deals with life in the camps and the march to the Cap Arcona rather than the sinking or the attack itself. It takes a painfully long time to get to the attack on the ship, and once there, the details are slim and as I stated, from only one rather limited perspective. This one's worth getting if it's on sale, but the photos are poor and this book doesn't do the 5,000 plus victims of the Cap Arcona justice. Both books on the Wilhelm Gustloff sinking are far superior to this much larger volume.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Holloway on March 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I learned so much about the end of Word War ll from this book. The author makes you feel you are walking with him through the horrors of the concentration camps. Then there was the final horror they experienced , first thinking they were finally going to be set free only to discover death was still in their face. This part of history was never in any history book I read or in any classroom that I experienced. I could not set the book down once i started it. I will buy copies for my grown children.
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