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We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,094 Ratings  ·  478 Reviews
A World War II chronicles of Jan Baalsrud's escape from Nazi-occupied arctic Norway.

We Die Alone is an astonishing true story of heroism and endurance. Like Slavomir Rawicz's The Long Walk, it is also an unforgettable portrait of the determination of the human spirit.

Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Lyons Press (first published November 18th 1954)
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Are you depressed? Are you sick of people? Have you just read a book that has put you in the dumps? Then you must read We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance. I am sure you will like it. It works like a tonic. People are not all creeps! People do help others. This book is non-fiction, it is true and I dare you to read this book and not feel happy at the end. G-o-o-d book!

It is about events that occurred in Norway during the German occupation of WW2. The story begins in March 1943. He
Dec 26, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was not even aware the Nazis had occupied Norway in WWII (that far north??). This book tells the true story of a group of expatriate Norwegian commandos who sailed in a fishing boat from northern England to arctic Norway, with the aim of organizing and supplying the Norwegian resistance. They were betrayed soon after arrival; the Nazis ambushed them and only one man, Jan Baalsrud, survived (though wounded) and escaped. The book tells the story of his flight across Norway to exile in Sweden. Ba ...more
A.L. Sowards
I loved this book.

It’s about Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian. He begins WWII as a courier between Stockholm and Oslo, gets caught by the Swedes, imprisoned, and then manages to make his way to England and join a group of other Norwegians being trained to return to their country and fight the Nazis. That’s where the book begins, with Jan and the other men on his mission approaching the Norwegian coast. Their plan is to hide their sabotage gear, train local groups to resist the Nazis, and then attack a
Erik Graff
Nov 14, 2014 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Norwegians
Recommended to Erik by: Fin Graff
Shelves: history
Throughout childhood books along the lines of "Norway and the Norwegians" were recommended to me by parents, grandparents, collateral relatives and friends of the family. This was particularly the case when I was in Norway itself, visiting Mom's parents.

Fin Graff, Mom's dad, had been born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. When his dad, Dr. Harald Graff, committed suicide by shoving a amputation blade into his heart, his mother, Olga, lacking the means to support her three children, sent Fin and his sist
Sarah (Presto agitato)
We Die Alone is the story of a Norwegian named Jan Baalsrud who, along with a team of Norwegian commandos trained by the British, sailed in a disguised fishing boat from the Shetland Islands to Norway in a mission to sabotage German forces during World War II. Unfortunately, things go horribly awry, and Baalsrud, the only surviving member of his team, is forced to make a desperate escape through Arctic terrain crawling with German soldiers. In a series of horrific experiences that reads like a c ...more
Anything with endurance in the title gets my attention, especially when it's a tale of survival. Add that to the fact that I was planning a winter trip to Norway, and this was the perfect winter read.

The tale begins 1943, in Nazi-occupied Norway, with a group of young men of the Norwegian resistance planning a mission to attack of German air base. The mission comes to a bad end, and three of the resistance fighters are killed, leaving the central character, Jan Baalsrud, injured and fleeing the
Dec 31, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Erik Graff and Bettie
The movie takes place during World War II and depicts the true story of Jan Baalsruds amazing escape from the German army from the coast of Northern Norway and across the border to the neutral country Sweden. Jan Baalsrud is on a sabotage mission from England to Norway together with 11 other soldiers in the winter of 1943 in a fishing boat when they are attacked by a German patrolboat. Jan Baalsrud is the only one who manages to escape and sets off towards Sweden through the enormous amounts of ...more
Kristine Bagnara
Sep 16, 2007 Kristine Bagnara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers to Norway, WWII buffs
Shelves: adventure
Loving world travel, the experience is always enhanced by good airplane reading that helps me learn more about the destination. Named after my Norweigan great-grandmother, I know the source of my stoicism -- yet this book taught me so much more about Norway during WWII and how herioc individuals fought and resisted occupation while the allied leaders deployed troops elsewhere. A fictional account of endurance like this would not be believed. This book -- and these people -- are worth reading and ...more
An amazing story, truly, how Jan Baalsrud survived is beyond my comprehension. It was one thing to be on the run, to be hiding, dodging the Germans - but to be virtually entombed for weeks on end! How? How was he still sane at the end, nevermind alive?! I can't help but think that he had a strength of mind beyond the usual. Just amazing. And the people who helped him - so interesting how war affects people, some it brings out the worst, and others it unites and draws out hope and courage otherwi ...more
Paul Donahue
Jun 19, 2014 Paul Donahue rated it really liked it
"If Jan had stopped to think, everything would have seemed hopeless. He was alone, in uniform, on a small bare island, hunted by about fifty Germans. He left a deep track as he waded through the snow which anyone could follow. He was wet through and had one bare foot, which was wounded, and it was freezing hard. The island was separated from the mainland by two sounds, each several miles wide and patrolled by the enemy, and all his money and papers had been blown up in the boat."

That is the firs
Jun 30, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, history
If this weren’t a true story, no one would buy it as fiction. The book opens in the spring of 1943, as Norway is suffering under Nazi occupation. Four ex-pat Norwegian commandos are heading to the coast with the intent of recruiting and training saboteurs – their ultimate goal is a German airbase, as the Allies desperately need a sea route to Russia. The mission is compromised, and young Jan Baalsrud is left on a tiny, snowy island in the Arctic Circle, drenched, shot, bleeding, unarmed, with on ...more
Jun 26, 2007 Roberta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like war stories
This story was amazing! It was recommended by my friend Martha as a book club selection and because I'm not that into non-fiction, much less war stories, I was kind of hesitant to read it. I'm glad she recommended it and I'm glad I read it - I've recommended or talked about this book so much since then!

This guy's story is so unbelievable that if it were fiction, or a Hollywood movie, you'd turn it off b/c it would seems like total bullshit. But he went through some impossible odds in the snowy w
The sheer physiology of this story is mind-blowing! That and the fact that never before had I thought about this nomadic people who live with Reindeer (Santa's village excluded)- the Lapps. (Though the author gets low marks for cultural competency since they come off as, essentially, subhuman.)

I had trouble connecting with this book fully though. I got it as a kindle daily deal, and the ebook has all of the pictures at the end and I wish I had seen them earlier- it may have helped me picture thi
Dave Gaston
Aug 18, 2010 Dave Gaston rated it it was amazing
"We Die Alone" had been on my "To Read" shelf for, oh..., about 10 years! I originally pulled the title from a National Geographic list showcasing their, "Top 100 Adventure Stories." I think I took a pass on it because of the desperate title. "We Die Alone" sounds like such a guy-guy, survival book cliche'! I can just picture the park bench conversation, “Hey Dave, what’cha reading?” With my brow furrowed, I’d grit my teeth and half whisper, half growl, “...WE DIE ALONE!!!” Please don't let the ...more
May 14, 2015 Dolly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: WWII history buffs
This is a remarkable story! It's devastating, inspiring, and almost unbelievable. Jan's sheer strength of spirit and survival instinct, not to mention his ability to withstand extreme cold temperatures is beyond comprehension. And the lengths to which people went to save his life, despite the danger to themselves and their families was truly heartwarming. I never knew about the extent of the Nazi occupation in Germany, so this was a good history lesson for me as well. Amazing!

I read this book wh
Dec 31, 2014 Xanthi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a non-fiction story of survival during WW2, in occupied Norway - the cold, sparsely populated far north of Norway. To be honest, I don't know much about Norway's experiences during WW2, other than that they were occupied by the Germans, so this book was a bit of an education.
This account centres around a Norwegian man, trained in England, as an agent to help raise resistance and insurgency against the Nazis occupying their land. The plan went awry from the get go and the book covers his
Suzanne Krueger
An extraordinary story of courage,determination and survival. Taking place in Norway during WWII, not the usual locale. Learned so much about life in Norway, the rugged land, the people, the culture.
Written in a very straightforward manner. An easy read...I couldn't put it down.
Nathan Albright
Jan 19, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge
Upon reading this book, one of the first thoughts that goes through my mind is that this would make a great WWII movie [1] of survival and endurance. Lo and behold, when I looked it up, it had been made into a movie called Ni Liv in its native Norwegian, or Nine Lives in English, that it had been entered into Cannes and been nominated for the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and that it had been declared by Norwegian television audiences as the best Norwegian film ever made in ...more
Rowena Hoseason
Jan 13, 2016 Rowena Hoseason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This true-life story of human endurance is genuinely gripping, a factual account which is as riveting as any fictionalised adventure tale. Every chapter rings with the echo of authenticity. It’s as grim and as gritty as any noir novel, but does ultimate justice to the inner strength of an indomitable human spirit.

We Die Alone is a detailed account of a military operation which went horribly wrong, back in WW2 when Norway was occupied by Nazi forces. A Norwegian resistance unit sneaks from the Br
Ben Garrison
Feb 04, 2013 Ben Garrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this down. This is the true story of Jan Baalsrud who, in 1943, escaped the Nazis in the far northern reaches of Norway. Jan was the sole survivor of a group of Norwegian patriots trained in England to return to their homeland with explosives to destabilize the Nazi strongholds and recruit other Norwegians to fight to regain their country. Their boat was sunk by Germans. They had to swim to shore. Many of his comrades were killed. Those who survived were captured, tortured and exe ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished listening to this on a long drive home from vacation. Wow. There were several points where I had to pause my iPod and simply marvel at this story. Some of the things that Jan Baalsrud experienced are completely beyond belief. In fact the author knew this, which is why he opened the book stating that it is a true book, that he visited most of the locations with Jan, and that the supporting characters collaborated the story.

But what made this story really ring true for me, and what I
One of the best escape stories of World War-II, period. I couldn't suspend my disbelief at the resilience shown by Jan Baalsrud in each and every adversity. If this book was a work of fiction, no reader would have accepted that a guy could go through such torments and survive. But as they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

And as it happens, this is an amazing true story of survival in which the guy not merely beats but scoffs-off all the worse hardships imaginable in the Arctic tundra of
Feb 24, 2012 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, scandinavia
Getting ready for Hurtigruten cruise of Norway's north coast by finding out about its strategic importance during WWII. We Die Alone is an as-told-to memoir of Jan Balsrud, a Norwegian trained as an agent provocateur in England who sails from Shetland to Norway's northern coast with his 12-man contingent. Jan like the guerrillas in VietNam was easily able to outwit his German pursuers, and though his trek to freedom had no direct military effect, it did mobilize like-minded Norwegians to acts of ...more
Mar 13, 2010 Lynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people willing to stick it out through murderously dull prose
Amazing story, badly written. Howarth takes what should be a fascinating account of a man's survival and manages to make it almost unbearable to read because of the book's lack of organization and sloppy sentence structure. I admit that I was also only able to read it a bit at a time because Jan's story is so painful to read. I rated the book only three stars because the story deserved better treatment than Howarth gave it. If you liked books like Slavomir Rawicz's The Long Walk you'll want to f ...more
Though Howarth's writing voice comes off a bit stilted at times, his narrative of the survival attempts of Jan Baalsrud after his sabotage mission to Nazi occupied Norway failed, leaving him the only survivor, is thrilling and compelling enough to counter this. Though Howarth probably takes more time than is needed in fleshing out the incidents -- all of which are historical and have been clarified by the actual persons involved -- one easily sympathizes with Jan, a Norwegian exiled from his hom ...more
Dec 13, 2015 Sheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jan Baalsrud was the only survivor of s group of a dozen men who came on a fishing boat from England to Norway to help with the resistance movement in the war against the Germans. Jan was Norwegian and anxious to do his part.
The vessel landed on the beach and they were to contact a villager sympathetic to their cause. The man, unknowingly, had died and another with same name lived there. He was apprehensive and turned them in.
Wounded and alone, Jan was the sole survivor. This is a truly incre
One of the most outstandingly and extraordinary escape stories I've ever read. And very, very, well written. By the time I had reached approximately half way through reading this riveting account, I was unable to put the book down; and so read it through the night, to the finish. Unforgettable.

It’s seriously worrying to compare the practical helplessness and selfishness of present-day urban society in Britain. This book ought to be compulsory reading on the 11-16 school curriculum.
May 20, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched history of a little known survival story from World War II. Tells the story of Jan Balruud and his race to survive against the pursuit of the Germans and the harsh arctic environment of occupied Norway. He had an incredible will to survive. It's also a story of selfless sacrifice of the many that participated in the attempts to save him. You know you're on the very edge of survival when doing surgery on yourself becomes a viable course of action.
Jul 09, 2008 Devowasright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: owen
Shelves: history, world-war-2
i can't believe i forgot about this book!
one of the most vivid and heroic personal histories from the Second World War.
A Norwegian special forces agent, trained in Britain, is inserted behind the German lines in Norway, and the strangest group of coincidence and random chance lead to the teams discovery, and his attempt to escape back to friendly or at least neutral lines...
you will never, ever think you are tough after reading this. Ever.
Aug 15, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an incredible tale! It is the true story of Jan Baalsrud and his unforgettable struggle for survival in the arctic regions of Norway. He, and three other expatriate Norwegian commandos, sailed from the Shetland Islands to Nazi-occupied Norway in March of 1943 in order to aid and supply the Norwegian resistance. Unfortunately, they were betrayed and they were subsequently ambushed by the Nazis. Only Jan Baalsrud survived, and this book tells the heart-wrenching tale of his escape and ult ...more
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Review 5 41 Jan 10, 2015 09:03PM  
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David Armine Howarth was a British historian and author. After graduating from Cambridge University, he was a radio war correspondent for BBC at the start of the Second World War. Howarth joined the Navy after the fall of France. He became involved in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and ultimately in the Shetland Bus, an SOE operation manned by Norwegians running a clandestine route between ...more
More about David Howarth...

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“...But he had great faith in the idea that if you are ready to give up everything to the solution of any problem, you will always find an answer.” 2 likes
“In a person of strong character, hope for the future remains separate long after the past and present are confused.” 0 likes
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