A Guest of the Reich is the incredible true story of Gertrude “Gertie” Legendre, an American heiress taken prisoner by the Nazis. Born into a wealthy family, Legendre lived a charmed life in Jazz Age America. But when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she joined the OSS—the wartime spy organization that preceded the CIA—and headed to Europe. In 1944, while on leave, Legendre accidentally crossed the front lines along the Luxembourg–Germany border and was captured. The Nazis treated her as a “special prisoner” of the SS and moved her from city to city throughout Germany, where she witnessed the collapse of Hitler’s Reich as no other American did, before escaping into Switzerland. A gripping portrait of a multifaceted and deeply fascinating woman, A Guest of the Reich is a propulsive account of a little-known chapter in the history of World War II.
About the Author
Peter Finn is the national security editor at The Washington Post and the co-author of The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction.
“Gripping. . . . As well-paced and exciting to read as a good thriller.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A vivid chronicle of the waning days of Nazi Germany, when a country answered for its own hubris and one American woman witnessed the nightmare. . . . Finn tells [this] story with irony, humor and detail.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] blend of factual precision and tense storytelling. . . . Finn’s book occupies some of the same terrain as Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. Yet, just as Legendre herself was a unique figure in history, her saga is like no other that has so far reached us out of the belly of the beast.” —The Washington Post
“A story of spirit and courage told wonderfully well." —Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
“Beautifully paced. . . . An entertaining picture of a remarkable woman. . . . Finn’s own writing shines in his description of pre-war American high society.” —The Economist
“Thrilling!A Guest of the Reichis an intimate spy story, as though a dear friend is taking us along on her misadventure behind Nazi lines.” —Bill Dedman, author of Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
“[A] riveting account. . . . Legendre was anything but the average rich society hostess; she possessed an unquenchable desire for adventure.” —Library Journal
“A captivating historical yarn and a unique addition to the cultural history of World War II.” —Booklist
“I read A Guest of the Reichbreathlessly and found myself amazed by the pluck, guts, and courage of Gertrude Legendre. She wouldn’t have won any awards for being a mother, but her life was one enormous adventure. As a real card-carrying socialite(before the term was degraded by television’s “housewives”), Gertie’s social prowess made being even a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany seem like a continuous, madcap escapade. Peter Finn brings her story to life as energetically as the eight-foot tiger Legendre shot in Vietnam.” —Lisa Birnbach, author of True Prep and The Official Preppy Handbook
“[Finn] has crafted a taut, cinematic story that could’ve been a black-and-white high-society hijinks film from Hollywood’s golden era, a comedy of manners in a hostile land.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“A little-known chapter of World War II history with an intriguing American intelligence agent in the leading role. . . . Finn combines solid research and good storytelling skills to bring [Gertrude Legendre] and her era to life.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Gertrude Legendre was a glamorous New York socialite, a world-class adventurer, and a crack shot with a rifle. During World War II she joined Wild Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services, working in one of the spy agency’s most sensitive jobs. She also ended up as a prisoner in Nazi Germany. With thorough research and skillful writing Peter Finn brings to life her dramatic story. It’s better than anything Hollywood could invent.” —Douglas Waller, author of Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage
“[Finn] keenly draws a portrait of the wartime derring-do. . . . Legendre was an extraordinary woman whose “journey through Hitler’s collapsing Reich' will appeal to anyone equally enamored of glamour and wartime.” —Publishers Weekly