How the Allies used Monopoly sets to smuggle escape equipment into Nazi POW camps

During World War II the British Secret Service filled Monopoly sets with escape maps, files, compasses, and real money, and the Red Cross delivered them to Allied prisoners of war. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story behind this clever ploy, which may have helped thousands of prisoners escape from Nazi camps.

We'll also hear listeners' thoughts on Jeremy Bentham's head, Victorian tattoos, and phone-book-destroying German pirates, and puzzle over murderous cabbies and moviegoers.

Show notes

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Notable Replies

  1. Just to note that these were NOT part of the official Red Cross parcels...

  2. I was wondering about that. I would imagine that the Red Cross would've been pissed to have an intelligence service put humanitarian programs at risk like that. Beyond that, still pretty slick.

  3. This is complicated. I read a book out of the library, so title forgotten, that having
    noticed in WWI that escaped prisoners used up resources, there was a deliberate
    effort before WWII to cause escapes. Officers were given some lessons in evasion
    and escape, and effort was made to get needed items to the POWs.

    That scene in The Great Escape where James Garner is in effect blackmailing the
    guard, that was deliberate, not something the character thought up. The luxury items
    like chocolate and coffee were sent in part to be used as bribes, to get minor things,
    and once a guard was hooked, their "helping the enemy" was leveraged for much
    bigger things, like that camera. If the guard turned in the prisoners, the guard could
    be imprisoned or shot for helping the prisoners.

    I thought the book said there was help from the Red Cross. Certainly boxes
    themselves were used to hide items, in the actual cardboard. Compasses would
    be noticed, but pieces could be hidden in the cardboard and assembled at the camps,
    maybe some of those lessons helping them.

    The escapees were creative, but they did get help from home.

  4. At least it's good for something.

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