Patrick K. O’Donnell explores one of the most intriguing stories out of World War II – clandestine operations led by ex-German Jews against Nazi Germany – in his book They Dared Return: The Untold Story of Jewish Spies behind the Lines in Nazi Germany.
The book generally describes the planning and execution of several operations conducted by the American Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency) against the Nazis in German-occupied Austria and Yugoslavia. The operations centered around a group of Jewish soldiers who were German expatriates and who wanted to help the Allies defeat Nazi Germany – most of them had family members in the concentration camps. O’Donnell focuses mainly on Operation Greenup – an effort to find out about and try to thwart the Nazis’ plan to build a heavily fortified area for their last stand against the Allies.
O’Donnell tells a gripping story about how the Jewish soldiers, local Austrian resistance members, and captured German soldiers who volunteered to help the Allies (these men went on the missions even though there were some doubts about their loyalties) went deep behind enemy lines to thwart the Germans. The story is well-researched and supported by materials from the National Archives, confidential documents, and personal interviews.
The book is a fine tribute to a group of men and women who risked their lives to stop one of the cruelest regimes in modern history. Other than showing gratitude to their adopted country, the Jewish soldiers wanted to bring an end to the war and possibly save the lives of their families and friends.
At 156 pages, the book is an easy read. In addition, the book has several appendixes, including debriefing reports on some of the operations. There are eight pages of black and white photographs of the main participants in the operations and the areas in which the operations occurred.