The Accidental Captives

Overview

In April 1941, a passenger ship was attacked and sunk by Nazi Germans. This is the story of seven Canadian women survivors detained in Germany.

In April 1941, seven Canadian women became prisoners of war while on a voyage from New York City to Cape Town. Their aging Egyptian liner, the Zamzam, was sunk off the coast of South Africa by the German raider Atlantis. The passengers were transferred to a prison ship and eventually put ashore in Nazi-occupied France. As "non-aliens," all 140 Americans were released after five weeks in captivity, and with the help of theLifephotographer in their midst,the news of their narrow escape became an overnight sensation.

The hapless Canadians were taken to Bordeaux and became part of a group of 28 women and children interned in various German detention camps. By a stroke of luck, the Canadians eventually received permission to travel to Berlin where they were left to fend for themselves and adapt to life among "the enemy." As prisoners-at-large, they established contacts with American journalists and diplomats, an elderly Jewish professor, and even with Nazi propagandist P.G. Wodehouse. Finally, in June 1942, an exchange was arranged and the Canadians were able to board a special diplomatic Freedom Train bound for Lisbon, and from there they got back across the Atlantic to New York and new-found freedom.

Reviews

Gossage's book is one of a handful to show it wasn't only male soldiers who spent some dangerous times behind enemy lines.

Maclean’s magazine (May, 2012)

About the Author

Carolyn Gossage

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Carolyn Gossage photo

Carolyn Gossage

Carolyn Gossage is the author of books on Ethiopian icons and crosses. She has also published a number of historical titles, including Greatcoats and Glamour Boots and The History of the Frankfurt Book Fair. She lives in Toronto and has taught history and English in Canada and abroad for over twenty years. She is also the author of a number of books including: A Question of Privilege, Canada's Independent Schools (1977).