Lipmann Kessel was a military surgeon who served with the First Airborne Division at Arnhem. This memoir largely focuses on the period after the hospital he was operating in was captured by the Germans, his escape from captivity and his repeated attempts to cross back to the Allied side of the front line. Each section of the story is different in tone. First we follow Kessel's attempts to keep his patients at the hospital at Arnhem and avoid the risk of having wounded men transferred to distance alternatives. In this period he was forced to try and work with SS doctors, a great trial for someone with a Jewish background. When the hospital was finally evacuated he was taken to a Prisoner of War camp, and a short escape story follows.
The final, and largest, part of the book covers Kessel's time on the run in Holland. During this period he was sheltered by the Dutch resistance, along with a very large number of other Allied servicemen, including fellow escapees from Arnhem, Allied airmen and agents for various organisations. This gives this part of book a rather different feel to other escape stories, where the escapees were normally part of much smaller groups. The geography of the situation was also different - in most evasion stories the escapees have to make a long journey to a neutral frontier (Switzerland or Spain normally). Here the target was very close at hand - the Allied front line had pushed up to the Rhine in places, and wasn't much further to the west elsewhere. As a result Kessel and his fellow escapees were able to make repeated attempts to cross into Allied territory, but their task was of course made much harder as they had to cross the German front lines and at least one major river.
The time Kessel spent with the resistance means that he came to realise just how much danger they were in, and how uneven their fates would be if he was caught with a resistance member - he would be returned to a POW camp, they would probably be executed. This sense of risk counters the adventure story elements of the memoir, to produce a compelling account of life on the run in the last days of the Nazi occupation of Europe. Combined with the earlier accounts of medical work under such difficult situations and with Kessel's compelling writing style this produces a very high quality memoir.
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Author: Lipmann Kessel
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2011 edition of 1958 original