The Accidental Captives
The Story of Seven Women Alone in Nazi GermanyBook - 2011
In April 1941, a passenger ship was attacked and sunk by Nazi Germans. This is the story of seven Canadian women survivors detained in Germany.
In April 1941, seven Canadian women became prisoners of war while on a voyage from New York City to Cape Town. Their aging Egyptian liner, the Zamzam , was sunk off the coast of South Africa by the German raider Atlantis . The passengers were transferred to a prison ship and eventually put ashore in Nazi-occupied France. As "non-aliens," all 140 Americans were released after five weeks in captivity, and with the help of the Life photographer in their midst,the news of their narrow escape became an overnight sensation.
The hapless Canadians were taken to Bordeaux and became part of a group of 28 women and children interned in various German detention camps. By a stroke of luck, the Canadians eventually received permission to travel to Berlin where they were left to fend for themselves and adapt to life among "the enemy." As prisoners-at-large, they established contacts with American journalists and diplomats, an elderly Jewish professor, and even with Nazi propagandist P.G. Wodehouse. Finally, in June 1942, an exchange was arranged and the Canadians were able to board a special diplomatic Freedom Train bound for Lisbon, and from there they got back across the Atlantic to New York and new-found freedom.
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"The new dawn brought with it a perfect sunrise ...but ... through the arc of a perfect rainbow came whizzing those awful shells, with a screeching tearing noise and a blinding flare of light. One volley had passe clear over us ... Perhaps I wouldn't have realized [the bombardment] ... had not one of the tobacco men .. sprung from his hammock and with a low growl of 'Christ, they're shelling us!' leapt past me on the run. That gave me impetus and I followed into the companionway ..." (p. 24)
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