Rommel’s army is a day from Cairo, a week from Tel Aviv. The SS is ready for action. Espionage brought the Nazis this far. Espionage can stop them – if Washington wakes up to the danger.
As World War II raged in North Africa, General Erwin Rommel was guided by an uncanny sense of his enemies’ plans and weaknesses. In the summer of 1942, he led his Axis army swiftly and terrifyingly toward Alexandria, with the goal of overrunning the entire Middle East. Each step was informed by detailed updates on British positions. The Nazis, somehow, had a source for the Allies’ greatest secrets.
Yet the Axis powers were not the only ones with intelligence. Brilliant Allied cryptographers worked relentlessly at Bletchley Park, breaking down the extraordinarily complex Nazi code Enigma. From decoded German messages, they discovered that the enemy had a wealth of inside information. On the brink of disaster, a fevered and high-stakes search for the source began.
War of Shadows is the cinematic story of the race for information in the North African theater of World War II, set against intrigues that spanned the Middle East. Years in the making, this book is a feat of historical research and storytelling, and a rethinking of the popular narrative of the war. It portrays the conflict not as an inevitable clash of heroes and villains but a spiraling series of failures, accidents, and desperate triumphs that decided the fate of the Middle East and quite possibly the outcome of the war.
Gershom Gorenberg is a historian and journalist who has been covering Middle Eastern affairs for over 35 years.
His latest book, War of Shadows, began with a conversation in Jerusalem that set off years of searching through archives for long-secret documents, though attics for lost papers, through streets in Cairo, Rome, London – endless days and nights of seeing facts unravel and new ones take shape in place of them, of following one lead to another to find someone who remembered the mysterious woman at Bletchley Park who discovered Rommel's source in British headquarters in Cairo – an obsessive hunt that led to the real story of how the Nazis came within an inch of conquering the Middle East.
Gorenberg was previously the author of three critically acclaimed books – The Unmaking of Israel, The Accidental Empire, and The End of Days – and coauthor of Shalom, Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin, winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
Gershom is a columnist for The Washington Post and a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. He has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, the New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and in Hebrew for Haaretz. He will return to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in 2021 to teach the workshop he created on writing history.
He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, journalist Myra Noveck. They have three children – Yehonatan, Yasmin and Shir-Raz
"A solid analysis of how espionage impacted an important theater, this book should appeal to anyone interested in World War II history, particularly intelligence operations."
“The story grips you so much that it’s hard to put aside: the extraordinary spying in both directions, the vivid characters, the huge stakes, and all of this on a World War II front that American readers know surprisingly little about.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost
“With the pacing of a spy thriller… War of Shadows takes us to the brink of disaster as the Allies and Axis powers vie for control of the Middle East…. Gorenberg belongs to a unique cadre of journalist historians.”
—Sarah Wildman, author of Paper Love
“A dazzling and groundbreaking portrait of a crucial moment in WWII… Gorenberg has produced a vital new account of one of the key episodes of the last century.”
—Matti Friedman, author of Spies of No Country
“With an eye for detail and personality quirks, Gorenberg reveals the complicated interplay between codebreakers, diplomats, and soldiers to provide a fresh account of the battle for control of Egypt in World War II.”
—Meredith Hindley, author of Destination Casablanca