cover image Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee’s Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis

Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee’s Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis

Eric Lichtblau. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-328-52853-7

The title is a giveaway in this gripping WWII tale by Pulitzer Prize–winner Lichtblau (The Nazis Next Door) about Freddy Mayer, a Jewish refugee who fled Hitler’s Germany only to return as an American spy. In chilling detail and skillful prose, this deeply researched narrative recounts Mayer’s family fleeing Freiburg for Brooklyn in 1933. Although the U.S. Army initially rejected Freddy as an enemy alien, after Pearl Harbor “officials came to realize that they would need every able-bodied man,” and he was recruited into a unit of the espionage-focused Office of Strategic Services composed mainly of Jewish refugees, including Dutch-born Morse code expert Hans Wynberg. Their assignment was to go behind enemy lines with a “Mission Impossible mandate... to harass the enemy.” Along with Franz Weber, an Austrian POW they convinced to defect, in February 1945 Mayer and Wynburg were dropped into the heart of Nazi territory. Things, unsurprisingly, got hairy: Gestapo officers demanded to see their papers, and Weber was recognized by a teenage girl. But before long, everyone at HQ was impressed with the intelligence the trio sent back. Despite his best efforts, the Nazis arrested Mayer, and he was summoned to meet with “the most powerful Nazi in Tyrol,” regional party leader Franz Hofer. No spoilers on the rest—readers will devour Lichtblau’s fresh and masterfully told WWII story. (Oct.)