Of the fate of Australian prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese during World War II, the literature – memoir, fiction, history – is voluminous. There were 21,652 of them, of whom thirty-five per cent, or 7780, perished. A good deal has also been written of enemy prisoners – Japanese, German, Italian – who were held in camps in this country, and in particular of the mass breakout at Cowra on 5 August 1944, when 231 Japanese and four Australians died. Less attention has been given to the 8500 who returned to Australia after having been prisoners of the Germans or Italians, or of the 242 of them who died in Europe. These ‘Australian prisoners of war in Hitler’s Reich’ are the subject of Peter Monteath’s vivid and expansive study P.O.W..
Your daily bread
P.O.W.: Australian Prisoners of War in Hitler’s Reich
by Peter Monteath
Macmillan, $34.99 pb, 429 pp, 9781742610085
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