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We Die Alone: A WWII Epic Of Escape And Endurance Paperback – June 1, 2007
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Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It is a simple tale of escape and those brave souls who helped him make his way from Norway to neutral Sweden. In March 1943 Jan was part of group of 11 other men who travelled secretly to German held Norway in order to sabotage an airbase. However through an extraodinarily bad coincidence the contact they made there was with a man who betrayed them. Their boat was ambushed by the Germans the following morning, 30th of March. Interestingly there is the German news account of this ambush in the appendix at the back of the book and it does not tally well with the real event. Only Jan managed to escape from the ambush. The fate of the rest of his crew, which is only known in sketchy detail was horrific so his decision to try flee rather than surrender proved the right thing to do. However this left him alone on a bleak tiny island in the Norwegian Sounds with his toe shot off in the freezing arctic spring. The next two months he swam through icy seas, got caught in blizzards and avalanches and finally too injured to carry on himself, was carried by partisan Norwegians to Sweden. I don't know what is more incredible about this story or this man. His will was astonishing. For one week he was left alone on a deserted plateau alone with almost no food, frost bitten feet and wet clothes.Read more ›
I first read _We_Die_Alone_ some thirty years ago, in the first paperback edition, and I know that certain of its scenes and events will stay with me so long as I live. Howarth recounts the story simply, and lets the facts provide the drama.
I found this to be an intriguing true story. Jan Baalsrud, the sole survivor of a foiled commando mission in German-occupied Norway cheated death about half-a-dozen times before eventually escaping to neutral Sweden (from which he had been expelled years before). The man's travails are extraordinary: surviving three days of wandering in the far north completely snowblind; amputating nine of his own toes with no anaesthetic; being literally buried under a blanket of snow for a week and thus - ironically - surviving the blizzard which raged above it. The story takes so many turns for the incredible that one begins to understand why author David Howarth prefaced his book with the assertion that he made every effort to verify the details of Baalsrud's account.
The even stranger thing is that Baalsrud is arguably not even the hero of the book. The real heroes are the ordinary rural Norwegians who took him in, cared for him, and ran enormous risks for him - because for much of this story Baalsrud was incapacitated. Each Norwegian he met after the initial Quisling who betrayed his team risked their own lives and that of their families in order to ensure that Baalsrud made it to safety. This sequence of events is even more remarkable in view of the fact that there was nothing the locals could have gained from Baalsrud's survival even by proxy: one crippled soldier, after all, could mount no resistance to the Germans who persecuted them. So the denizens of Norway's far north were not helping Baalsrud so that he would help them: What they did for him was done from motives of purest solidarity.
~~~~~~~~ AGAINST: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There are, however, two things which vitiated this reading experience.
1.Read more ›
An expatriate Norwegian, Baalsrud and his fellow commandos were attempting to establish a resistance cell in northern Norway that would disrupt the operations of a major German airfield nearby. Betrayed, the commandos were ambushed by German soldiers, with only Baalsrud escaping. The bulk of the book described how over the next several weeks, regular citizens in remote villages attempted to keep him alive while arranging for him to get to Sweden. This was greatly hampered by the frostbite that made walking or skiing impossible for him. It's an excellent glimpse into the mundane details of how regular people did their best to resist the Germans with the knowledge that they and their families would be killed if their plotting was uncovered.
Ultimately though, the book is a tribute to Baalsrud's incredible physical and emotional endurance-he was buried alive for days under snow, left by himself for days at a time unable to move and in excruciating pain, and had to contemplate self-surgery-all while knowing that his discovery could mean the deaths of many innocent people. Think you're tough? Read this and think again! It would have been nice if the publisher had included a map.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Terrific story of perseverance both individually and as a team.Published 3 days ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent book. True story. Amazing, amazing story of human will and human compassion.Published 17 days ago by Shirley T
One of my top 5 favorite books. Howarth isn't the best writer, but the story is so compelling it doesn't really matter.Published 2 months ago by Robert Blake
A real intense well written page turner. I loved it & passed it on amoung friends that raved about it also.Published 2 months ago by Robert Robertson