Zagan - Stalag Luft III

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Europe » Poland
August 17th 2007
Published: September 3rd 2007
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Sign to Stalag Luft IIISign to Stalag Luft IIISign to Stalag Luft III

An exciting surprise to see this sign to the actual prison camp
Today we packed a picnic lunch and headed off vaguely in the direction of the Museum, which we worked out to be about a four kms out of town. The walk was pretty, and I was excited to find a couple of apple trees along the way where I delighted in the satisfying taste of a few stolen apples, wild and fresh and cool… Not long after I had eaten a few of these delicious treats, we saw a sign that appeared seemingly out of nowhere pointing, not to the museum that we had come all this way to see, but to Stalag Luft III - Grandpa’s actual POW camp! We were both very excited to find the sign, and so we snap-changed our trajectory and headed towards the remains of Stalag Luft III. We walked down this empty and isolated road, bordered by ominously dark pine woods, alone. It was quite eerie. Eventually we arrived at a place, amongst the woods, with a sign and memorial to the “Great Escapers” and the tunnel “Harry” that was used by a group of prisoners to escape from the camp. So we were in the right place, and for the first time, we
The ThinkerThe ThinkerThe Thinker

Hero lost in thought, sitting on a fragment of wall coming up from one of the foundations of the countless ruined buildings...
were seeing the place where my grandpa had been held captive by the Nazis from May 1944 to January 1945. I immediately felt like crying, though I am not sure why. Grandpa had never expressed sadness or anger about his time there, and the stories he had told us were always funny, like the time he and his navigator took bets with the other POWs about who would have the guts to have a shower (cold-water only of course) on Christmas day. Grandpa and his navigator, Ted Chatfield, were the only ones game (or stupid!) enough to do it, so they ran from the sleeping quarters, naked - in the middle of winter - to the open-air showers in the middle of the grounds, only to turn the taps on and find that the water had frozen in the pipes so they couldn’t have a shower anyway! So stories like that had always made me think that perhaps Grandpa’s time there had not been that bad… although looking at how the “Great Escapers” were treated, I wondered how easy and peaceful his time would really have been there.

being there brought up a lot of emotions, and it all
Tunnel HarryTunnel HarryTunnel Harry

A memorial to the Great Escapers constructed over the site of the tunnel 'Harry'.
felt quite mixed up, good and bad, i knew it was amazing to be there, the place is eerie and old and feels like it contains so many stories... but the ruins of Stalag Luft III are just that - ruins. There are no explanations, no labels, no grandpa to tell me what the old concrete foundations and broken down brick walls I was looking at used to be… and so while being there felt intensely significant, I felt as though too much of the specific meaning had been lost with grandpa… and I regretted no asking more questions. I regretted not getting him to draw a plan for me of the site, I regretted not knowing the details. I wanted to walk through these ruins with him. I wanted him to tell me about it, but instead we just walked through the ruins alone, only being able to guess what had happened there. I wanted to know where he slept, where he walked, who he talked to, what the guards were like… all those things that you can't guess by looking at the remains of buildings. As I walked through it, I was just left with so many questions
Prison hospital doorwayPrison hospital doorwayPrison hospital doorway

Hero standing in the doorway of what we later worked out to be the prison hospital.
unanswered, overwhelmed at times with the reality of not being able to get answers. I felt the same about my grandma too, because even though she was never in this place, her life would have been so intimately connected with it… and so I was reminded of all the other things I didn’t know about grandma’s war-time experiences and had never asked. But despite these unsettling feelings of regret and loss, I felt simultaneously so proud and happy to be walking in grandpa's foot-steps, and to honour the memory of both my grandparents. Being able to walk those grounds felt amazing and I am so happy that keira and I made the effort to get out to that beautiful little town.

Additional photos below
Photos: 6, Displayed: 6



The site of Stalag Luft III was massive, but all that is left are ruins. It was frustrating that as we walked through the grounds we couldn't fully comprehend the meaning of it all.

7th October 2009

stalag luft iii
hello, I too had a grandpa who stayed there around that time and wanted to go visit the camp. I am currently studying in Prague in the Czech Republic but was planning on going to Krakow tomorrow night. I was wondering if there is any way or how you traveled to this camp? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Nate Ellis
14th October 2009

we remember
August 17th 2007 by Hero and Keira long ago you visited in Zagan, thanks for that. By 2009, much has changed in Museum and area camp. Your visit was a special (POW in Stalag Luft 3, father-uncel been) or only for tourism? I might not be exactly at the museum in the day. I greet and invite you back to Zagan
14th October 2009

we remember
August 17th 2007 by Hero and Keira long ago you visited in Zagan, thanks for that. By 2009, much has changed in Museum and area camp. Your visit was a special (POW in Stalag Luft 3, father-uncel been) or only for tourism? I might not be exactly at the museum in the day. I greet and invite you back to Zagan
15th October 2009

Nice pics & story
Hello Keira and Hero I was googling "Stalag luft III" seeiking information about the great escape and location of those events Your account about your visit there and your Grandpa wartime experiences is captivating. My Grand pa was a french war prisoner in Germany. Captured during the "phoney war" he spent 2 years there . I think I have heard the RAF will build a replica camp around the ruins of Sagan. A couple of barracks, Mirador and barbwire. So the story of the "Great escapers" will not, hopefully, be forgotten.
1st December 2009

Where did you stay in Zagan?
I am planning a trip to Zagan and would love to know where you stayed. How was it?
27th January 2010

Thank you
Thank you for posting the pictures of Stalag Luft III. My Uncle Bruce Baker was taken there in April, 1943 and endured the life there until the march across Germany at the end of the war. So interesting to see from your pictures what remains of the camp. We are from Canada and will never see the ruins, so thank you for sharing. Gail Baker Wasson
18th February 2010

Hi Gail Thanks for the message that you sent :-) We're really glad that our photos give meaning to others as well as ourselves, especially Hero. I'm sorry to hear about your uncle's experiences - judging by the time he was there, perhaps he and Hero's grandfather (Ian Stewart Horatio Sidney Macdonald - long name, I know!) knew each other? I can't remember anymore, but we may have added a few extra photos of Stalag Luft onto our flickr site than we did the blog site. Here is the link just in case: Cheers Keira and Hero
31st March 2010

At New Eccles Hall School in Norfolk England we host the museum to the 96th Bombardment Group who were part of the Eighth Airforce. Some of the aircrew shot down over Europe were imprisoned in S.Luft3 I have visited the site some years ago (2005) and we now have a section on SL3 in our museum.
22nd April 2010

Stalag Luft 111
Hi my father Anthony Graham Sadler (100Sqd, pilot of Lanc. EE183) was there from 1944 to the end in 1945. I too wish I had spoken to my father about his time there. I would also like to visit the site, thanks for posting the photos cheers Mike Sadler
29th June 2010

Gail - My Dad may have known your uncle Bruce Baker
My father, Albert Wallace, was shot down in May 1943 (RCAF, 419 Squadron) and lived at Stalag Luft III until the camp was evacuated for the great march across Germany at the end of January 1945. Thank you for the pictures. I am writing about my Dad's PoW experiences and am blessed that he is still living in good health. I have asked him a few times if he would like to visit what's left of the camp, but he shows little interest. To Gail Baker Wasson: My Dad may have known your uncle Bruce Baker, both from home in Toronto before the war and from the camp. It's, of course, always possible that there were 2 Bruce Bakers and there is one discrepancy. I have all the letters that Dad wrote to his Mom from the camp and in one of the first ones he wrote (May 26/43) he says, "Phone bible class and tell them that Bruce Baker is here." (Dad lived on St. Clarens Avenue in downtown Toronto. I know my Dad went to bible class at Dufferin Presbyterian Church.) In another letter (Sept. 15/43) he says "I see Baker every day and we walk around the camp a lot." In a postcard (Feb. 3/44) he says, "Bruce Baker has moved to another camp." This last is the discrepancy I referred to earlier. Your comment said that your uncle was at Stalag Luft III until the march (end of January 1945).

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