Camps (POW) in Zagan
Stalag Luft III
The site of the former
Stalag Luft III
Stalag Luft III

In addition, a P.O.W. camp for pilots named Stalag Luft 3 - was built in the vicinity of Zagan, controlled directly by the High Command of Luftwaffe.

It was the last camp established in the Zagan region, built in May 1942 on the area adjacent to Stalag VIIIC in the East. At first, the majority of the prisoners were British RAF officers and American pilots. Only later, in June 1942 some other nationalities would show in the camp, being French, Polish, Belgian, Dutch, Canadian, Australian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, New Zealand, South African, Greek and Czechoslovakian pilots. In 1944 Luft 3 camp accommadated 10.494 people.

Stalag Luft 3 camp was famous for the number of attempted escapes. The biggest of them was organized by a secret "X" Committee established by the prisoners in spring 1943 and lead by Major Roger Bushell. It took place in the night of 24 March 1944. Eighty prisoners made it outside through a 111-meter tunnel 10 meters deep. After the escape was revealed and alarm was raised, four prisoners were caught by the tunnel outlet. A big hunt began on the whole territory of the Reich. Consequently, only three of the prisoners managed to avoid the traps and chases, whereas the remaining 73 were caught by the Nazis. It was the biggest escape ever from the Zagan camp. In pursuance of Hitler's personal order called "Sagan Befehl", 50 of the unsuccessful fugitives were put before the firing squad.

In 1947 eighteen executioners who followed the order were put before the English Military Tribunal in Hamburg. Fourteen of them were sentenced to death (in the end, thirteen of them were executed), while the rest received heavy imprisonment sentences.

The escapes from the Zagan camp came back as movie "The Great Escape" produced in the sixties,starring Steve Mc Queen and Charles Bronson.

To commemorate the tragedy of the Allied P.O.W's Museum of Allied Prisoners of War Martyrdom was founded in 1971 on the grounds of Stalag VIIIC.

The Englishman, Rob Davis, has written an excellent 26 page history of Stalag Luft III:




By Hugh G. Bruce

The Second World War witnessed the most massive aerial warfare in the European theatre that the world had ever seen. Thousands of operations were flown by the Allied Forces over Europe and aircraft were shot down progressively at greater and greater frequency as the war progressed and the raids increased. The majority of aircrew survivors who were taken prisoner in the earlier part of the war shared camps with the Army and the Navy prisoners, but as losses increased the German authorities decided to isolate the Air Force prisoners in a separate camp guarded by men of the Luftwaffe.

In 1941, at the direction of Herman Goering, Stalag Luft III was constructed. It was not long before it was filled with young men with a zest for life, and escape activities soon reached a scale which was hardly ever equalled by any other camp in Germany. Eventually this camp held several thousand RAF officers and aircrew, and increasingly as time went on, many American Air Force personnel were brought here too. Literally hundreds of tunnels were built from the first camp in the East Compound, most of which were discovered long before they were brought to fruition. Almost every individual in the whole camp was involved, and this stage of affairs continued right to the end of the war, or certainly until mid-1944 when the Germans decided no longer to honour the terms of the Geneva Convention and instead adopted a ruthless and illegal policy of shooting almost without exception all re-captured POWs. At this point escaping was essentially brought to an end.

The Camp has been made famous by several notable escapes - "The Wooden Horse" early in 1943; the Delousing Party Escape later in that year, and several other individual escapes which included impersonation of German civilians, foreign workers and of German guards in uniform. Escape by the technique of 'mole tunnelling' was invented and audacious schemes were conjured up which involved direct assaults on the wire perimeter. The last major escape which took lace in March 1944 was a shattering episode which was known as the "Great Escape. It involved the construction of a 336ft tunnel - the longest ever built in Germany during World War Two. Seventy-six of icers escaped. All but three were re-captured and of these, upon the order of Hitler, fifty were turned over the Gestapo and were executed by shooting. Of the remaining survivors, three were set aside, only to be sent for special purposes, to the extermination camp at Sachsenhausen north of Berlin, but unbelievably all three survived the war The handful who remained and somehow were luckily spared, were eventually returned to Sagan.

In due course the ashes of all those who had died were returned to the camp at Sagan, each urn bore the name of the victim and his date of execution.
A Memorial of stone was built in the cemetery at Sagan by their brother officers in which their urns were entombed. In the trials of war criminals in 1946 and 1947 the German culprits were brought to book. Of those who had survived, many were caught and tried on charges of murder. Most suffered the ultimate fate which they deserved.

That evil and gruesome story has been recorded in several books and in a film entitled "The Great Escape" which bears testimony to the honour of these courageous men.


Facts and Documents


The topic of this documentary monography is a crime committed by the top authorities of the Third Reich upon 50 Royal Air Force POW on March and April 1944. At that time 80 Royal Air Force Officers escaped from the POW Camp Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan through a tunnel of 100 m length digged at a level of 7-9 m below the surface, a tunnel they had nicknamed "Harry". Four of the fugitives were seized immediatly after having left the tunnel, three of them were lucky and made it for their fatherland. 73 fugitives got captured at different places of the Third Reich and places occupied by Hitler during an organized chase in which took part not only the Armed Forces and the Police but also more than 70 000 members of different associated organizations. According to Hitler's command given in the presence of Himmler, Goring and Keitel, 50 fugitives were shot by the Gestapo at different places with the helping hand of local members of the Criminal Police Force. Under Himmler's order the then head of the Third Reich's Security Departament (RSHA) E. Kalten-brunner put down this decision in writing. In the history of the Second World War this command got known as ,,The Sagan Befehl", that means "Sagan Command". The direct responsibility tor this mass murder and for keeping it secret lies with the Chief of the Security Department IV (Gestapo) H. Muller and the Chief of the Security Department V (Criminal Police Force) A. Nebe. 50 Royal Air Force Officers, among them 6 Poles, were trickishly shot at different places in Germany and in occupied territories from Moravska-Ostrava to Strasbourg to Kiel. The mortal remains of the victims were immediatly cremated and the ashes in urns sent to the POW Camp Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan.

This crime committed upon prisoners of war one of the most un-famous crimes of the last years of the Second World War — was among others subject of the trial before the International Army Tribunal at Nürnberg. Evidence of this crime was submitted to the Court on the 26th of February 1946. The International Army Tribunal out of necessity restricted its investigations to the defendants role in the murder, the war criminals Keitel, Göring and Kaltenbrunner. The general character of these investigations finds its expression in the verdict of the International.

Army Tribunal. During the trial at Nürnberg neither the direct executors of this criminal command were known nor the 50 fugitives tragic fate.After having obtained a full record about prisoners of war at Sagan a British Army Court in Hamburg sat in session. From the 1st of July to the 3rd of September 1947 this Court heard the case against 18 members of the Gestapo and the Criminal Police Force, who shot the captured fugitives. The defendants were proved to having taken part in the shooting of eleven among fifty murdered officers and the details of every separate crime were revealed. Fourteen defendants were sentenced to capital punishment. On the 26th of February 1948 the execution of thirteen of them took place, the verdict of the fourteenth defendants was changed to long-term inprisonment. The fate of the RAF Officers from POW Camp Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan became the topic of a non-fiction book "The Great Escape" by Paul Brickhill, a former prisoner of war of this camp. The book became a best-seller in Great Britain and a screen-play and is a noble proof of memory for the murdered.

Till to-day the documents of this crime have never been published and this is the reason why some publications on that topic, even encyclo-paedical ones, are not entirely exact or even give false informations. During an investigation by the OKBZH of Zielona Gora, a Forum investigating Hitler's crimes, about the extermination at the hand of the German Armed Forces of several thousands of prisoners of war — in the main Russians and Poles — at the Sagan POW Camp from 1939 till 1945, a microfilm of all documents of the Hamburg trial was obtained. A decision was made to select and publish the most important documents of the Nürnberg trial by the International Army Tribunal and the Hamburg trial, not published in Poland up to now, in order to reconstruct all circumstances of the crime. The course of the Hamburg trial and its preliminary investigations were published for the reader, because they were a model of efficient, effectual and severe, but just prosecution and punishment of Hitler's war criminals by the Administration in Great Britain, in this case, where the officers were British citizens.

The publication with a preface by Professor Dr Tadeusz Cyprian, an expert on the topic and an introduction toy the author contains ten chapters. The first chapter introduces the reader into some of the problems of organizing POW Camps in the Third Reich. A harder look was taken at the administration of POW Camps in the eighth Army-District (District of Silesia), where the POW Camp Stalag Luft 3 of Sagan was situated. The author also shows connections between the administration of the POW Camps in the Third Reich and its Security Department. In chapter II the reader finds the results of the reconstruction according to accessible sources, the location of the camp Stalag Luft 3, the quartering of POW and some links of the camp's administration.

Chapter III "Camp Stalag Luft 3 from April 1943 till to the 5th of June 1944" contains a description of the preparations for the escape, the escape itself and the first news at the camp about the shooting of the fugitives. The author quotes the evidence given before the Hamburg Court by Major of the Royal Air Force H. C. Marshall, who was one of the plotters of the escape and took part in it. The chapter ends with a summary by Gabriel Neville on the 5th of June 1944, who as a member of the Swiss Legacy in the Sagan Camp tried for the first time to get at the roots of the crime. Chapter IV contains unpublished in Polish documents of the Nürnberg trial by the International Army Tribunal about the shoting of 50 RAF Officers from the POW camp Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan. In chapter V the reader learns about the discovery and detaining of the direct perpetrators of the crime. In this chapter a member of the Gestapo in Brno (F. Kiowsky), seized by the Security Police of Czechoslovakia, is the first to disclose the circumstances of the shooting of RAF Officers Kidder and Kirby Green. The next chapters contain selected documents from the trial before the British Army Court in Hamburg. Chapter VI is devoted to the judicial principles of the trial in general, while chapter VII presents the structure of the Court, the defendants, the defence and the bill of indictment. Chapter VIII describes the crimes committed upon the POW at the camp Stalag Luft 3 by members of the Wroclaw (Breslau) Gestapo together with members of the Criminal Police Force and chapter IX tells about the crimes committed by members of the Gestapo at Saarbrücken, Strasbourg, Karlsruhe, Munich, Kiel and Brno. Chapter X — the last — contains with indispensible abridgements the final speech of Prosecutor Halse, a summary of the evidence toy Judge Stirling and the verdict. An appendix gives the names of the 50 murdered officers.

A detailed investigation about the individual fates of more than six millions Poles, who lost their lives during the Second World War - in the main in the course of a planned extermination of the Polish People - is not possible of course. But even proved and documented crimes committed by the Nazis upon numerous groups of Poles went unpunished till to-day, because the Western Allies do not respect the regulations of extradition.

The material of this publication in confrontation with the practice of prosecution and punishment of the Nazis War Criminals shows a striking disproportion as to the personality of the victims. Many perpetrators culpable of crimes upon the Polish People avoided punishment or were not even called to account before a Court ot the Federal Republic of Germany. During the Hamburg trial Judge Stirling declared, that the prosecutor is guided "not by vengeance for the victims but by justice for the living". And these words became the inspiration to this publication.

The Tunnel to Fredom

“Harry” - The Tunnel to Freedom

In March, 1943 The Committee X was established within the area of North Sector of Stalag Luft III in Sagan and S/Ldr Roger J. Bushell was chosen to be the commander. The task of the committee was to prepare and undertake a mass escape of 200 prisoners of war. Works concerning digging three tunnels: “Tom”, “Dick” and “Harry”, were begun at the same time. One of the most important and difficult tasks was to camouflage the entrances to the tunnels. Tunnel “Tom” started in a room of the barrack 123 and the entrance was built in the base of the chimney. The entrance of “Dick” was made in the sewage system outlet of the bathroom in the barrack 122. The two tunnels were to be built towards the west. “Harry” started in a room of the barrack 104 and the entrance was built in the base of the stove. The tunnel was to be built towards the north. After they managed to get through the layer of concrete and bricks, the digging of three shafts was started. Despite the structure of the soil (bright yellow sand) they managed to achieve the depth of 9 meters. The walls of the shafts and ladders were covered with bed planks. Under the entrance of the shaft three little rooms were bulit, which were used for storing the air pump, dugged yellow sand, sacks for carring the sand out, and all the tools, lamps and wooden planks. The air pump was made of a long wooden bed with a tube (bellows) made of impregnated tarpaulin. The tube was made of sacks used for carring clothes and wire that made it stiff. It was closed at both the ends with wooden lids with automatic valves. The inlet and outlet valves sucked in and pressed the air into the pipes.

 Te pipes were made of empty milk cans (called Klim). The cans were made in such a way that after the bottom was cut out and the lid was opened it was possible to join them with one another. They were air-tighted with thick paper and burried in the tunnel floor. The used air was pressed to chimneys and the fresh air inlet was hidden under the floor. The prisoner who was responsible for operating the pump had an important task, though. The railway along which tunnel carriages were moved was made of skirting-board taken from prisoners rooms. The carriages were made of wooden planks and the weels consisted of three rings. The external ones had larger diameter and kept the carriage on the rails. The internal weels covered with metal (cans) rested on railways and carried the vehicle. At the front and the back there were hooks for ropes which pulled the carriage out and into the tunnel. They served as a means of transport for diggers, wood and sand. At first, the tunnel was lighted with lamps that run on natural fat (margarine). The lamps were made of cans and a thin rope but they smoked a lot and made the air hot very quickly. What is more, they used the air so needed for breathing. In the meantime, prisoners were building the prison radio net and managed to smuggle some of electric wire, which was used later for electricity line in the tunnel. It was connected to the line of barracks and it was used only at night as during the day the electricity was cut off in the entire camp. Tunnel “Tom” was discovered accidently and blown up by Germans. The works over “Dick” were also stopped because Germans started to built a new part of the camp which was exactly over the tunnel. So it was decided that it would be used only as a store for things necessary for the escape. The whole power was focused on “Harry”. Five teams with four diggers in each were created and the works were carried out 24 hours a day. There were two wider and higher places in the tunnel where the carriages could pass one another. They served as places for reloading the sand. They also allowed the diggers to have a rest. They made the transport more efficient as shorter lines did not get entangled. The places were in the distance of about 30 meters from one another. They were named after London undergroud – “Piccadilly Circus” and “Leicester Square”. The tunnel was 54 cm high and 52 cm wide (although little differences might be encountered in writings). When the tunnel was about 111 meters long, they started to bulit the exit shaft. It was a very difficult task as the sandy walls collapsed very often even before they were covered with planks. At the same time the ladder was being made. When they were close to the surface a wooden flap covering the exit was made under a thin layer of soil. In January 1944 the tunnel was ready to be used. It was decided that the escape would take place at night on 24th/25th of March. It was planned that 200 prisoners would take part in the escape but only 80 of them managed to get out because they were spotted by a guard in the morning making further escape impossible. Four of them were caught at the very exit, 76 of them managed to escape away from the camp but soon 73 were caught during the chase. Only three of them were lucky and managed to reach Great Britain. Hitler ordered to shoot dead fifty of those who were caught. They were shot on the spot, without a trial. The event was named “The Great Escape” and it has been already used as a theme of films and publications. In 1963 the first film was made with Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen, and in 1988 a new version with Christopher Reeve was shot. Numerous documentaries have also been made by European, Canadian and American televisions. Within the area of the Museum there is a mock-up of the tunnel. Its dimensions and equipment have been based on the original ones. In order to make it safe for tourists it has been reconstructed just below the surface. The mock-up has been built thanks to the programme European Union’s “M³odzie¿”(The Youth) supported by City Council and City Administration Office of Zagan and numerous sponsors. It was built by the students of Technical High School in Zagan and the workers of the Museum.

 translation Monika Parker

The tunnel DICK

In march, 1943 the committee x was established within the area of north compound of Stalag Luft III in Sagan and s/ldr Roger J. Bushell was chosen to be the commander. The task of the committee was to prepare and undertake a mass escape of 200 prisoners of war. works concerning digging three tunnels: “Harry”, “Tom” and “Dick”, were begun at the same time.
One of the most important and difficult task was to camouflage the entrances to the tunnels. Tunnel “Harry” started in a room of the barrack 104 and the entrance was built in the base of a stove. the tunnel was to be built towards the north. Tunnel “tom” started in the barrack 123 and the entrance was built in the base of a chimney. The entrance of “Dick” was made in the sewage system outlet in the bathroom in the barrack 122. The two tunnels were built towards west.
After they managed to get through the layer of concrete and bricks, the digging of three shafts was started. Despite the structure of soil (bright yellow sand) they managed to achieve the depth of 8 – 9 meters.
Tunnel “tom” was discovered accidentally and blown up by Germans. Tunnel “Harry”, however, was used for “the great escape in march 1944. works over “dick” were also stopped because Germans started to built a new part of the camp, which was exactly over the tunnel so it was decided that it would be used only as a store for items necessary for the Escape and for the sand from “Harry”. Tunnel “Dick” was never discovered by Germans.

                                                                  TUNNEL “DICK”:

ROPE – FT 60

In summer, 2004, the exploration of the area, sponsored by British, where the tunnel is supposed to be located was conducted and numerous items were found. They were exposed in London in Imperial War Museum and currently the items can be seen in Zagan.

Translation: Monika Parker

60th anniversary of the march from Sagan

Evacuation of Zagan POW’s camps

Red Army Offensive, which begun 12th January 1945 from The Wisla side, liberated western Poland from Germans and it invaded on German area.
Nazis began a huge evacuation. The evacuation included abort 3.5 million civil German population, mainly from Pomerania and Silesia areas. The plan also included all POW’s camps, which were in this area.
Zagan POW’s camps were on VIII Military District area. In January 1945, there were about 300 thousands prisoners of war.
In Zagan there were two camps: Stalag Luft III and Stalag VIII C. In January 1945 on the camps registers there were about 60 thousands prisoners of war. These statistics included all prisoners of war, but there is not reliable information about presence POW’s in Stalag VIII C before the evacuation, who in main part worked and lived outside the camp.

Evacuation of Stalag Luft III Sagan

Stalag Luft III was a camp only for pilots from USA and these, who fought in British RAF (Royal Air Force). The camp was on VIII District area, but reported to General Command Luftwaffe in Berlin. In January 1945 there were 10494 POW’s in the camp, including 6831 pilots from USA , 3498 from RAF (in Royal Air Force were fighting Australians , New Zealanders, South Africans, Canadians and lots of different European countries citizens) and 165 The Union Soviet POWs from camp service. In the camp prisoners of war were located in five sectors.
Instruction of evacuation reached Zagan in night hours 27th January and they prescribed that camp had to be left. They described they March route to Spremberg. POW’s were informed of the March about 10p.m., and theatre show was stopped in the south sector.
Prisoners of war were given alf an hour for packing and preparing everything for the March.
The weather conditions were very difficult. It was snowing and there was a strong wind blowing. The temperature fall bellow zero degree. Roads were snowed and snow just melted after a few days.
First POW’s groups set out from the south American sector and a last POW left the camp gate at 11 p.m. In the south camp the senior officer was Colonel Charles G. Goodrich from USAF (United States Air Force).The senior officers were in charge of prisoners of war commanders and they mediated between her colleagues and Germans. Next, at 0.30 a.m. American POWs set out from the western sector, and at 3.45 a.m. from the northern (Col. Wilson from RAF) the central (Col. Delmar T. Spivey from USAF), and at 6 p.m. the eastern.
All groups were in charge by guards. In all camps were about 500 ill POWs .There were looked after by medical staff. In 6th February, ill POWs were taken away and after a few days, they joined with the eastern sector POWs in Stalag XIII D Nürnberg.
At first groups were going in dense columns, which hour by hour stretched for huge distance. At the beginning, the columns were 200 metres length but it changed into 2 km.
In the back of POW’s columns were going tractors with trailers and horse carts, which were taking exhausted people.
The March went through Ilowa (Halbau), Borowe (Burau), Gozdnica (Freiwaldau), Przewóz (Priebus), Potok (Pattog), Leknica (Lugknitz), Bad Muskau, Kromlau, Graustei
and Spremberg.
During the March, the groups were mixing. In the western and southern sectors groups met, and northern and part of eastern and central and rest of eastern sectors as well. During the March, different groups were stopping for a rest accommodation in different places and resorts. POWs also slept in Ilowa Church, barns and utility rooms in Borowe and Gozdnica, and in glass foundry and Muskau Castle and in church and utility rooms in Graustein as well.
In Muskau, all of POWs had a longer rest. A part of them spent 2 nights there. In Muskau, was one of the biggest escapes. Thirty-two POWs escaped from Muskau. They were caught and after 36 hours, they joined with their groups.
After reaching Spremberg POWs were putting in empty garages and stores and in military barracks. There they got warm soup and bread.
During next days, POWs were divided according to sectors, and they were led to railway siding and they were put into tight carriages.
Travels by trains took about 2-3 days. The trains were stopping every 12 hours beyond railway stations. POWs could leave carriages for physical needs. They were also given some water.
POWs from the eastern sector were put in Stalag XIII D Nurnberg, the southern and central in Stalag VII A Moosburg, the northern and part of the eastern in Marlag (Marlrinelager a POWs camp for sailors) Tarmstedt and the rest of POWs from the western sector in Stalag III A Luckenwalde.


Stalag VIII C was the second Zagan camp for the Land Army soldiers.
It reported to VIII District Military Wermacht commander. In January 1945, there were 49.008 POWs in the camp register. The most numerous group was constituted by the French (26.6120 POWs) and Russian POWs – 13.307. There were also Italians (440), the British (5.898),
Poles (101) , Belgians (1.019), Slovaks (913) and 945 Yugoslavians POWs.
According to German data, 32.219 POWs worked and lived beyond the camp. Places of their being there were on the western ¦l±sk area and the southern Wielkopolska. There is no information how many POWs were evacuated from the camp and how many were evacuated from work places.
Evacuation of the camp started 8th February in early morning hours, but all the preparation started at night. According to POWs report, the first group crossed over the main gate at 6 a.m.
It was winter, but the weather conditions were much better than during evacuation of Stalag Luft III. The March route to Spremberg was this same as pilots one, but Stalag VIII C POWs had to march longer. A further way went via Senftenberg, Riesa, Oschatz, Weissenfels, Weimar, Erfurt, Gotha, Eisenach, Neukirchen and it finished 7th March in Stalag IX A Ziegenhain camp. POWs had to negotiate 15-30 km daily and they negotiated over 500 km
in one month.
POWs reports about the March are very varied, particularly about treating POWs
by guards. In the reports, there is information about POWs murder during the March, ill people killing and shouting.
Through period of two first weeks, POWs often slept in forest, sometimes in utility rooms. The food, which was given by Germans, was deficient. It was usually some bread and warm meal.
There were also some attempts to reach the food in villages or by demolishing mounds with vegetables on a field. Guards forbad it strictly and they also shot at POWs.
In the back of a column, horse cart went, which had to pick up ill POWs, but these carts were full of exhausted POWs. ¯agan POWs were moved between camps in central Germany in April and in May 1945 as well.
Jacek Jakubiak

'' A happy homecoming ".

At night 24th March 1944, 80 pilots escaped from Stalag Luft III in Zagan through the tunnel HARRY. Only 3 fugitives, Norwegians Per bergsland (nickname Rocky Rock – changed his name and surname because he was not sure how Germans would treat prisoners of war, who were in RAF and came from Norway) and Jens Mûller, and a Duchman Bram van der Stock were not captured.
Per Bergsland and Jens Mûller after escaping from the camp, they got into a train, which went to Szczecin. They were there 27th March. They got a contact address in this town from Roger Bushell (nickname Big X). For their own security they went in the evening there. Finally, this place was a brothel for sailors. At the beginning, they were thinking that it was a trap. When they were living this place, they met a Pole by accident. Prisoners of war informed him that they wanted to find an old friend, who should arrive from Gõteborg. The Pole brought a Swedish sailor and they told him their true names. Next, the sailor helped them and took them at a land-pier. They should wait for a sign near some boxes and his boat. Unfortunately, the sailor disappeared and prisoners of war did not know how to find way to a harbour. If they had been found they would have be shot. Fortunately Bergsland remembered a name of ship, which they passed and which was still on the harbour. With courage they went to a quart near a gate, who let them went through, because they pretended ship’s workers and one of them spoke German with the Scandinavian accent. They slept in a small hotel and an owner of this place did not question them. Next day in the evening, they arrived to the brothel, where they met two Swedish sailors, who agreed to help them. With the Swedish sailors, prisoners-of-war could go through a post in the harbour without any difficulties and got into the Swedish ship, but only Sweden shown their documents. The sailors hid pilots in a chain chamber.
In early morning 28th March, Germans made control on the ship, but POW were safe. They went at 7a.m. and arrived at 11p.m. to a port in Göteborg. But fugitives stayed on the ship to the end of next day, when ship reached a port in Stockholm. Then pilots went to a British Consulate. After 6 days – 144 hours, when they had left “HARRY”, they were free.
However Bram van der Stok, after escaping from a tunnel, was travelling alone. By train he came to Wroclaw, where bough a ticket to Alkmaar in Holland. During this trip he had to change trains. By first train he reached Drezno. For next connection he was waiting all day. In this time he visited a town and went into the cinema. Then he arrived to a train station.
At 8 p.m. he got into a train. In Hanover the train stopped for 1 hour. When the train was in the neibourghood of the Dutch border it slowed down and stopped in the end. All passengers got out for police control and for customs clearance.
Bram van der Stok spoke German and this fact was very helpful for him, because a policeman let him go. It was 6 a.m., 26th March. From 20 hours he was happy with his freedom. He thought that Germans discovered the tunnel and they know that somebody bought a ticket to Alkmaar in Wroclaw and from his point of view, he expected Germans on his train station. For this reason he decided to get out in Utrecht, one station earlier. He knew this town, because he studied there and had lots of friends, who could help him. Prisoner-of-war visited one professor, who fed him and gave him address of hiding-place in Amersfoort, where van der Stok stayed for next 3 week, referring contacts with resistance movement. Activists of resistance movement did not give him help. From there they went to Belgium.
There, he called his uncle from Antwerpia, who transformed some money for him, and gave him some address in Brussels, where van der Stok stayed for next 3 week. Local activists of resistance movement did not trust him, but gave him a contact address in St.Gaudens in the northeast France. He should go through Pyrenees to Spain. Van der Stok had to accept this longer way to England.
He went by train from Tulia to St. Gaudens. There he found small pub, L’Orangerie” and then he met with resistance movement, which put him in a rural house, where there were also others fugitives including scared 13 the German Jews.
After some days, fugitives came to Spain. Then through Madrid van der Stok was sent to Gibraltar, from where by plane he flew to Bristol in Great Britain.
Biography of Bram van der Stok is very interesting. He was born 13th October 1915 in Sumatra, where his father was an engineer of Shell Company. He also grew up in Holland and the Dutch India.
He finished Lyceum Alpine in Switzerland, and then studied medicine in Leiden (Holland). He did not finish this study, because rowing and hockey were more important for him. In 1936, he came in the Dutch Air Force. In 1937, he was including to squadron of fighters. After one year in the army, he started to study at the University in Utrecht.
From 1939 to May 1940, he fought as a pilot. After Holland’s capitulation, he was let continue his medical study. During this time, he organized a section of resistance movement and tree time he was trying to come to Great Britain, but without any results. Just for fourth time his boat came to Scotland. In June 1941, the Queen Wilhelmina gave him the Dutch Braun Cross. He was taken to RAF. In addition, he became a captain and a commander of squadron.
After arrested him by Germans he worked in hospital in Stalag Luft III. His first and second escape from a camp was unsuccessful. After the Second World War, Bram van der Stock took part in organization of new Dutch air force.
In 1946, he came back to Utrecht, where in 1951 he finished medicine. Afterwards he immigrated to the USA with his wife and three children. As a doctor, he specialized in gynaecology and obstetrics. Next, he began work in air investigative laboratory – NASA in Alabama. In 1970, he moved with family to Honolulu, where he still worked as a doctor. There came in the American harbour guard. In 1987 he published the book”An orange martial pilot”. He was marked out with the British Empire Order and others. He died in 1993 in Hawaii, aged 78.

Text: Elzbieta Ciepiela, A happy homecoming, “Zeszyty Zaganskie", nr 5, 2004, page 25.

"The Ways of Ecsape"

During the preparations for the Great Escape, the prisoners of war took steps to make everything easier, especially moving through Germany. Therefore, they made special clothes, documents, maps and planned three escape routes.
The first route would go through the Baltic Sea (mainly through Szczecin) and then to Sweden. The second route went via occupied Czech to Switzerland and the third via Germany to France and then on to Great Britain.
The prisoners of war were divided into small groups, because then they were not so noticeable. Some of them tried to get out by train from Zagan, the rest on foot. The ones who were going by train, went out first and they had the best clothes, documents and the German money.
There was an air raid at 11p.m. On one hand this was helpful for the prisoners while they were going out of the tunnel, as it distracted the Germans. On the other, trains were stopped until 1 a.m. This was quite important, as the prisoners who were escaping by trains had to reach Wroc³aw and change trains during the night or early the hours of the morning.
Escape on foot was more difficult. Prisoners had to pretend to be workers and had to move only at nighttime and sleep by day. The cold and snow and lack of knowledge of the area was a big problem, and all of it made their escape slower. A big disadvantage for the prisoners was that their escape was detected very quickly. The Germans initiated “Grossfandung” a countrywide search which included the Wehrmacht (army), Kriesesmarine (navy), SS, Luftwaffe (airforce) and all the police. The Germans caught many groups of prisoners, especially those who were on foot.
One of these groups was Jerzy Mondscheina’s group with 22 people. They pretended they were local workers and reached a train station in Trzebow (Tschiebsdorf), from where they went by train to Sulêcin (Boberröhrsdorf) near Jelenia Gora. There, they divided and tried to reach the Czech border. A day later many of them were caught and taken to Jelenia Gora.
This same was with most “walkers”. Denys Street. Les Brodrick and Hank Birkland tried to force their way through the forest for 2 and a half days. They travelled after twilight and because of the snow and the cold, only managed to travel 2-3 km.
Paul Royle and Edgard Humphrey wanted to escape by road in a northwesterly direction. They were found during the second night and put into jail in Parowa (Tiefenfurt). Johnny Marshall and Arnost Valenta, who had pretended Czech workers from a glass factory, were in the same cell. They should have gone by train to Miêdzylesie on the Czech border and then on foot through Czechoslovakia to Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, they missed their train and tried to walk to the Czech border. They were joined by Albert Armstrong. In the morning, the Germans captured them and took them to a police station in Zagan, where in the evening of March 27th they were taken to prison in Zgorzelec (Görlitz). By March 29th, 35 fugitives were in prison.
Sydney Dowse and Stanislaw Krol escaped in different direction. It was impossible for them to reach the train station and they decided to escape by walking in the direction of the Polish border.
After 12 days on April 6th, they were arrested (it was only 3 km to the Polish border) by soldiers of the rural guard and were put into a jail in Olesnica (Oels).
Fugitives, who were escaping by train, tried to leave Zagan behind very quickly. Mostly they escaped towards the east to the French border, via Wroc³aw.
Roger Bushell and Bernard Scheidhauer reach Saarbrücken without difficulties, where police arrested them on the morning of March 26th. A small mistake with their documents was what caused them to be caught. Jimmy Catanach, Arnold Christensen, Halldor Espelida and Nils Walenn, went by train to Kostrzyn (Küstrin), and then through Willenberg to Pi³a, where the Germans captured them while checking their documents. The prisoners were taken to an allied camp under Malbork and then to a prison in Gdansk.
Two Norwegian, Jens Muller and Per Bergsland were on the same train to Kostrzyñ and along with Bram van der Stock, who travelled alone, successfully escaped.
Harry Day and Pawel Tobolski travelled to Wroc³awa and then on to Berlin. There they met a Dane, who did not want to get involved. On March 26th, they attempted to get in touch with some Swedish sailors but did not manage to reach the brothel where they could make contact. They also tried, and failed, to get in touch with Pawe³ Tobolski’s sister, who was living there.
Finally, they reached the French prisoners or war who smuggled them to a hut and gave them food and accommodation. They were arrested 29 March in the morning, because one of the French informed on them. For 4 days, they were in a local prison, and then they were transported to Berlin.
28th March Gordon Kiddlere and Tommy Kirby-Green were arrested in Hodonin on the north of Morawy. They had reached a train to Czechoslovakia. From here they were taken to prison in Zlin.
Dennis Cochran was in the same situation. He was travelling on his own and was captured on March 30th. He was 7 km from the Swedish border. On April 4th Tony Hayter was captured close to the Swedish border. They were all put into prison in Ettling.
Des Plunkett and a Czech, Fredde Dvorak, were going to go via Czechoslovakia. At about 5 o’clock on March 25th, they got onto a train in Zagan, which went to Dusznik (Bad Reinerz). Next, they walked in the direction of Novy Hradek, behind the Czech border, where they got some help from the owner of a hotel. They arrived in Prague on April 1st, where they met with the resistance movement. On April 7th, Good Friday, they travelled by train to Switzerland. Unfortunately, they were arrested in Klatovy. Plunkets pass was incorrect and the Germans arrested him and Dvorak, who tried to help him.
Finally, only three fugitives managed to reach Great Britain. Most of the walkers could not manage the difficult conditions; low temperatures, snowdrifts, difficulties in orientating themselves and travelling by night. Those who escaped by train were under a lot of stress because often they did not know the language of the area they were in. The distance, which the prisoners managed to travel in Middle and Eastern Europe showed their determination and their good preparation for the escape.

Text : Dariusz Downar - A teacher in Secondary School in Zagan.

"The Ways of Escape”, Zeszyty Zaganskie, nr 4, Zagan 2004.

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