The Second Battle of El-Alamein, alongside Stalingrad and Midway, is taught in schools the world over as one of the turning points of the Second World War—or, depending on who you talk to, the turning point.
But what led to that battle? How did Rommel’s army push so far across North Africa? And why, perchance, did he push one time too many? What were those in Egypt and the Middle East—and not just their British overseers, thinking about the coming invasion. Gershom Gorenberg’s War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East tells the story leading to the British Army holding off the Nazis at El Alamein: a battle not just of soldiers and tanks, but spies and codebreakers.
In this interview, Gershom and I talk about the years preceding the Battle for Egypt: those who broke Enigma, the spies who unlocked their enemies’ secrets, and the troubled relations between nominal allies.
Gershom Gorenberg’s previous books are The Unmaking of Israel (HarperCollins: 2011), The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 (Macmillan: 2007), and The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount (Oxford University Press: 2002). He also co-authored The Jerusalem Report’s 1996 biography of Yitzhak Rabin, Shalom Friend, winner of the National Jewish Book Award. Gershom is a columnist for The Washington Post, and has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, the New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and in Hebrew for Ha’aretz. He can be followed on Twitter at @GershomG.