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From the co-author of The Zhivago Affair, a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award, comes the dramatic story of a South Carolina heiress who joined the OSS and became the first American woman in uniform taken prisoner on the Western front—until her escape from Nazi Germany.
Gertrude “Gertie” Legendre was a big-game hunter and from a wealthy industrial family who lived a charmed life in Jazz Age America. Her adventurous spirit made her the inspiration for a Broadway play, Holiday, which became a film starring Katharine Hepburn. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Legendre, by then married and a mother of two, joined the OSS, the wartime spy organization that preceded the CIA. First in Washington and then in London, some of the most closely-held United States government secrets passed through her hands. In A Guest of the Reich, Peter Finn tells the gripping story of how in 1944, while on leave in liberated Paris, Legendre was captured by the Germans after accidentally crossing the front lines.
Subjected to repeated interrogations, including by the Gestapo, Legendre entered a daring game of lies with her captors. 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. After six months in captivity, Legendre escaped into Switzerland.
A Guest of the Reich is a propulsive account of a little-known chapter in the history of World War II, as well as a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary woman.

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.

Praise For…

“I read A Guest of the Reich breathlessly, 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 8-foot tiger Legendre shot in Vietnam.”
—Lisa Birnbach, author of True Prep and The Official Preppy Handbook
"Thrilling! A Guest of the Reich is an intimate spy story, as though a dear friend is taking us along on her misadventure behind Nazi lines. A first-rate journalist, Peter Finn employs careful reporting and compassion, bringing to life Gertie Legendre, an independent woman of many resources.
—Bill Dedman, author of Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

“An intrepid American heiress, already a world traveler and big-game hunter, tumbles into World War II, ending up a prisoner of the Gestapo as the Nazi regime begins to collapse. This is a true adventure story, a story of spirit and courage told wonderfully well.”
—Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
“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
Product Details
ISBN: 9781524747336
ISBN-10: 1524747335
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: September 24th, 2019
Pages: 256

A Guest of the Reich: The Story of American Heiress Gertrude Legendre's Dramatic Captivity and Escape from Nazi Germany (Hardcover)