Out of the Rat Trap

Written by Max Reisch
Review by Tony Hays

In Out of the Rat Trap, Austrian author Max Reisch details his experiences in the German army during World War II. Reisch had been a travel writer before the war, and he found himself a German officer, assigned to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s command in the North African theater. Never a believer in the Nazi cause, Reisch plotted from the beginning to desert from the army, and that provides the central core to the book.

Assuming the translation is true to the original, Reisch, who died in 1985, portrays himself as a sort of real life antihero, vis à vis the fictional Harry Flashman, creation of the late George Macdonald Fraser, and if that was his aim, he doesn’t quite achieve it. He recruits a pair of co-conspirators, and they try, by hook or crook, to create an opportunity to leave the army behind. But the humor is black at best, and while from an Allied perspective his motive is laudable, he seems to be a bit lighthearted about what must have been a serious and dangerous decision.

But the book offers a perspective on the war that’s not seen all that often, and for that reason alone merits a read, particularly if you are a World War II buff.