Through Hitler’s Back Door: SOE Operations in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria 1939 – 1945.
By Alan Ogden (2010), Pen and Sword Military.
UK ISBN 978 1 84884 248 9
Alan Ogden has produced a timely well-written and researched book covering SOE operations in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. These countries experiences and history of the Second World War has quite often been sidelined due the deceitful decision by Britain and the United States of America to cede these countries to the Soviet ‘zone of influence’ and the subsequent Cold War. Perceived to be the ‘enemy’ throughout the duration of the war major events have largely lacked the recognition they deserve, for example the Slovak Uprising in 1944 or the DAWES mission led by the OSS team in southern Slovakia. Ogden’s book provides not only detailed accounts, but also a compendium of references and testimonials for readers’ further research.
Each country had ‘allied’ itself to the Nazi regime even though there is significant evidence of resistance to the collaboration. While some politicians, the military and security services supported and embraced the Nazi ideology; Gestapo and Abwehr units were also active in counter-insurgency to ensure these countries were not destabilized by SOE operations. For the SOE operatives there was a political dimension and operational limits in the field where Soviet hostility hampered the effectiveness of many missions. Additionally, the SOE operatives were not alone. In the field Soviet insurgency units infiltrated remote rural areas, partisan bands roamed the mountains, forests and marshland while the SIS, MI9, OSS and also Polish secret service ran covert operations - all working to bring down the Nazi regime.
The book is split into Part 1: Hungary and Slovakia, Part 2 Bulgaria and Part 3 Romania. Ogden opens each with a contextualized history and then a pre-war summary to set the background to SOE operations and the strategy for the mission. Each mission lists the personnel involved before the narrative sets out a sequence of stories. Few missions reported the type of success we might want to read, but details the limitations of these operations and the sheer selfless bravery of many facing almost impossible odds. Dropped deep behind the enemy lines the SOE agents had limited resources and worked in appalling conditions not knowing when or if there would be a re-supply drop or radio contact and faced the constant threat of betrayal. Orders were sometimes ambiguous. Many were killed in the field or caught, interrogated and some transferred to the concentration camps in the final days of the war. For those who survived, many continued working for intelligence services after the war.
Alan Ogden reveals many fascinating stories of men and women who inspired courage and bravery whom were gifted in their ability for carrying out these dangerous missions without little question for which future generations should be thankful.
Julian Hoseason, editor polandinexile.com