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Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal (5/5)
The second spy novel I’ve read within the last 7 days. Another one of Ben Macintyre’s. Simply quite a remarkable story (and another true one).
It’s about Eddie Chapman a master thief who gets imprisoned on Jersey just before the onset of the war. Unfortunately Jersey becomes the only English territory to be occupied by the germans during the war, he therefore finds himself with German jail masters. After an unsuccessful attempt at escape, he decides he will try and get his freedom via another route: he offers his services to the Nazi regime as a spy. This doesn’t go down too well initially and he gets shipped to a hostage camp near Paris. According to Macintyre, German bureaucracy is quite good a slowing things down, this is why he gets he only gets interviewed some months after his initial offer. The Abwehr (German secret services) decide he is fit for purpose and start his training in Nantes…
I particularly enjoyed it as it tied into another story from the second world war that I’m quite fond of, that of the codebreakers at Bletchley park and Enigma (The Imitation Game). The point being that the British had a considerable advantage as they could decipher many German communications, the trick was to not let on that they had they knew so much.
Interesting fact, Eddie Chapman, codename Fritz, codename Zigzag, is the only British to have ever received the red cross for bravery from the Nazi regime. After his career as a spy he thought he would go back to his habits as a professional swindler. I again don’t want to spoil the book although his codename might give you a hint as to where his true loyalty lied.
Another book I thoroughly enjoyed and gave 5 stars on Goodreads. Tin Eye Stephens, commander of camp 020 (where Eddie Chapman was first interrogated by the British intelligence services), has some good words for agent Zigzag’s story: “Fiction has not , and probably never will, produce an espionage story to rival in fascination and improbability the true story of Edward Chapman, whom only war could invest with virtue, and that only for its duration”.
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