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.
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About the Author
Gershom Gorenberg is a historian and journalist who has been covering Middle Eastern affairs for more than thirty-five 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.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters xi
The Mediterranean Theater (map) xx
Author's Note 1
Curtain Rising: Last Train from Cairo 3
Act I All Quiet on the Nile
1 "Report for Duty, in Accordance with the Instructions You Have Received" 17
2 The Seductive Curves of the Dunes 29
3 Next King of the Nile 41
4 The Machine Is the Future 59
5 The Flaw in the Machine Is the Man 81
6 The Oracles 93
Act II The Wager
1 The Keystone in the Arch 107
2 War of Shadows 123
3 Sandstorm 135
4 Half-Shared Secrets 153
5 The Lady Who Spied on Spies 177
6 The Oracles Speak Gibberish 189
Act III A Particularly Reliable Source
1 The Woman of Daunting Intelligence 217
2 Mare Incognitum 237
3 Spies, Everywhere 253
Act IV "The Matter Becomes of Extreme Urgency"
1 Compromised 271
2 Inside Information 291
Act V Line in the Sand
1 El Alamein 309
2 Unknown Soldiers 337