Given Up For Dead: American POWs in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga is the latest book by Flint Whitlock. It tells the story of Americans captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.
Whitlock’s book revolves around the story of American POWs who were mistreated by the Germans after being captured during the Battle of the Bulge. Whitlock chooses to avoid discussing the intelligence failures and the like that lead up to the Battle itself. Instead, he focuses on the inadequate training that many of the soldiers and their units received prior to deployment. After the Battle commences, he shifts gears to discuss what happened to the men captured by the Germans. In short, the Germans treated the POWs only slightly better than they did Jews, Gypsies, and the like. They generally didn’t kill them outright, but they didn’t go out of their way to prolong the life of the Americans either. None of that comes as any real surprise, however. That the Germans mistreated people during WWII is practically a given. It almost would have been more surprising to learn that they treated prisoners of war well.
Whitlocks seems to be hamstrung by a lack of material in this book. It’s almost like he took a subject that could be easily serialized in a magazine and stretched it to book length. Several times while reading the book, I found myself mentally urging Whitlock to move on already as he had covered this particular bit of ground before. Once you read about how the Germans made bread with sawdust and served it to the captives, you don’t need to read it again and again and again. Sawdust bread. Got it.
Ultimately, any compelling story hidden in Flitlock’s writing is buried beneath what feels like pages and pages of filler. Given Up for Dead lacks much of what made Whitlock’s previous novels memorable. This particular book is perhaps best suited for those trying to flesh out their collection of WWII history books.