The 1963 film The Great Escape ends as the majority of the re-captured World War II prisoners from Stalag Luft are shot in cold blood by the Gestapo. Simon Read’s Human Game commences at the beginning of the intensive three-year search for the Nazis who murdered these fifty Officers of the British and Allied Forces.
On the night of 24 March 1944, seventy-six airmen, whose duty was to harass, confuse, and confound the enemy, escaped from the prisoner-of-war camp in Sagan, then part of Germany. The hunt for them occupied 100,000 German military personnel. Perhaps if they had known before the break-out that escaping had now become a deadly game, it may not have happened. As the Allies penetrated further onto German soil, the Nazi regime became even more barbaric and Hitler had made a secret decision to execute the escapees when caught.
In September 1945, amid the post-war chaos of a divided Germany, a RAF investigation team started to track down many of the Gestapo murderers. With limited resources they had to deal with the inefficient French and obstructive Russians whose zone, which now included Sagan, was closed to British and American forces.
Escape stories permeate both world wars. In Human Game, it is what happened afterwards which makes for chilling reading. Meticulously researched, Simon Read has written a book of ‘faction’, a drama documentary which it may become, skilfully told and totally compelling.