When Hitler ordered the north of Nazi-occupied Norway to be destroyed in a scorched earth retreat in 1944, everything of potential use to the Soviet enemy was destroyed. Harbours, bridges and towns were dynamited and every building torched. Fifty thousand people were forcibly evacuated – thousands more fled to hide in caves in sub-zero temperatures.
High above the Arctic Circle, the author crosses the region gathering scorched earth stories: of refugees starving on remote islands, fathers shot dead just days before the war ended, grandparents driven mad by relentless bombing, towns burned to the ground.
He explores what remains of the Lyngen Line mountain bunkers in the Norwegian Alps, where the Allies feared a last stand by fanatical Nazis – and where starved Soviet prisoners of war too weak to work were dumped in death camps, some driven to cannibalism.
With extracts from the Nuremberg trials of the generals who devastated northern Norway and modern reflections on the mental scars that have passed down generations, this is a journey into the heart of a brutal conflict set in a landscape of intense natural beauty.