Simon ParkinMar 18, 2023
The Island of Extraordinary Captives
A Painter, a Poet, an Heiress, and a Spy in a World War II British Internment Camp
The Island of Extraordinary Captives: A Painter, a Poet, an Heiress, and a Spy in a World War II British Internment Camp (Scribner, 2022 is the “riveting…truly shocking” (The New York Times Book Review) story of a Jewish orphan who fled Nazi Germany for London, only to be arrested and sent to a British internment camp for suspected foreign agents on the Isle of Man, alongside a renowned group of refugee musicians, intellectuals, artists, and—possibly—genuine spies.
Following the events of Kristallnacht in 1938, Peter Fleischmann evaded the Gestapo’s roundups in Berlin by way of a perilous journey to England on a Kindertransport rescue, an effort sanctioned by the UK government to evacuate minors from Nazi-controlled areas.train. But he could not escape the British police, who came for him in the early hours and shipped him off to Hutchinson Camp on the Isle of Man, under suspicion of being a spy for the very regime he had fled.
During Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s, tens of thousands of German and Austrian Jews like Peter escaped and found refuge in Britain. After war broke out and paranoia gripped the nation, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered that these innocent asylum seekers—so-called “enemy aliens”—be interned.
When Peter arrived at Hutchinson Camp, he found one of history’s most astounding prison populations: renowned professors, composers, journalists, and artists. Together, they created a thriving cultural community, complete with art exhibitions, lectures, musical performances, and poetry readings. The artists welcomed Peter as their pupil and forever changed the course of his life. Meanwhile, suspicions grew that a real spy was hiding among them—one connected to a vivacious heiress from Peter’s past.
Drawing from unpublished first-person accounts and newly declassified government documents, award-winning journalist Simon Parkin reveals an “extraordinary yet previously untold true story” (Daily Express) that serves as a “testimony to human fortitude despite callous, hypocritical injustice” (The New Yorker) and “an example of how individuals can find joy and meaning in the absurd and mundane” (The Spectator).