Friday, August 10, 2012

Poland/Prague Weekend Day Two - Part Two

Here we are!!  Back to blog posts from Europe!!  I'll see what I can do to get them up and coming somewhat regularly... :)

Here is part one which I posted earlier.

Stalag Luft III

After pottery shopping in Boleslawiec we headed about an hour north to Stalag Luft III.  Famous for the true story of "The Great Escape", it housed many POWs during WWII and was built as a camp of higher security to do a better job of keeping the prisoners in - little did they know what would take place here!  It was in Germany during the war, but since then the borders have changed and it is now part of Poland - thus the name change from Sagan to Zagan.  Though not much of the camp is left today, we enjoyed it very much - how special to be there in person!  The camp is now overgrown by trees that were originally about 30 feet from the fence, and all that's left of the buildings are cement and brick ruins scattered throughout a surprisingly large area of the woods!  The neat thing though is that there are plaques all throughout the area telling you what each building used to be etc. and they have tunnel "Harry" marked all the way along the top (which we got to walk), so that was neat too.  It was a great time of exploration!!! We were originally a little bit nervous about being in the middle of nowhere in Poland, but after we were there for a while we saw more people and realized that it must be a popular walking area now!!  Okay, enough talk.  Must get on with the pictures!!

Okay, it's a little blurry, but have you ever tried to get a picture of a sign from a moving vehicle - especially when you don't see the sign until it's right in front of you?!!!  :)

Lots of trees!!  The forests around here are absolutely beautiful - the pictures truly don't even give justice to the beauty.

We're almost there!!

The road to the camp was quite the adventure - and we thought our country road was bad!!

Sand.  Tons of it.  It really put into perspective just what the prisoners had to deal with while tunneling!!

(I think on this as well as all the other signs below, if you click the picture it should hopefully make it large enough to read!

The train tracks by the camp - probably the same ones that brought the POW's to the camp.

We arrive and unload.

I loved those woods!!

Looking into where the camp used to be.

About the exit

An ariel view of the camp


Painting of a lookout tower

Tunnel Harry looking into the camp

The exit of tunnel Harry looking into the woods.
I stood to take this picture at an estimated point of how far back they would have been from the woods on the night of the escape (obviously the trees are much closer to the exit now than they were then).

Looking down the road.

Memorial and signs around the exit.

Daddy reading them to us before we head off into the woods.

Off we go!


...the "cooler" 

That's where it was!

I don't know what we did to be put in here... :)

Everyone's expressions or positions in this picture are really funny (or at least I found them to be so!)


...the umbrella roof

What the camp looked like then

Some of what it looks like now - lots of ruins all through the woods!
I believe this is the remains of the umbrella roof.


...hut 107 - used by mainly Polish officers

Hut 107

Tunnel Tom!

Tom went west from right here.
(imagine openess, other huts, high fence, guard towers, woods in the distance, etc.)

(these signs might not seem very important, but I thought the old pictures were neat :)

...tunnel Dick!

There were some recent excavations done around it and they marked where the tunnel ran - it was never discovered by the Germans.  We watched a very interesting documentary on YouTube about the excavations, what they found and first hand accounts from some of the POW's who were there during WWII.  I don't remember the name, but I would recommend looking it up (all we did was look up the Great Escape and Stalag Luft Three).!!

"Dick's Hut"


...hut 120
The organizer of the "Great Escape", S/L dr Major R. Bushell, lived here.

Hut 120

An interesting building

Ruins in the woods.


...the kitchen

The  kitchen

Don't fall in the well!!

About the water reservoir.

They used to do sailing races in it!

This is what it looks like today.

It is rather deep (which unfortunately you can't really tell by the picture). 

"Harry's" Hut

Signs about tunnel Harry.

The different escape routes.

The beginning of the tunnel is inscribed with the names of those who escaped.

We prepare to walk the length of tunnel Harry.

There we go!


...the Hospital

About the movie - there are a couple parts we fast-forward, but other than that we really like it - especially after being there in person!!  Keep in mind though that there are some differences to the real account, so be sure to read the actual story as well.

A few of the differences that we learned about include:
  • There were no Americans in the camp at the time of the escape, although a few did help to build the tunnels, they were moved to a different camp a few months before the escape took place.
  • One thing the movie doesn't depict well is the extreme danger that digging the tunnels was.  The men were digging under 30 ft of sand - that was prone to collapse - to escape the German's tunneling detectors - that is really quite the feat when you think about it!!
  • In the movie, there is an air raid the night of the escape that actually helps them get extra prisoners out under the cover of darkness.  In actuality, the raid slowed them down because it got rid of the lights in the tunnel which significantly hindered their progress.
  • There are no tunnel collapses the night of the escape in the movie, but in real life they had a rather large collapse that made them lose quite a bit of time in the fixing of it.

A picture in the woods before we head back.

A little way up the road there is a museum about the escape as well as a life-size representation of Hut 104 (the one tunnel Harry came out of).

A layout of the camp.

What one of the tunnels would have looked like from the top.

The following five pictures were just for fun... :)

By the "Goon" Tower.

This thing was a little too rickety for comfort.

After leaving here, we set out to try and find the memorial to the 50 men who were caught and shot by order of Hitler against the codes of safe conduct provided by the Geneva Convention.  He originally ordered all those who were caught to be killed, but some of his higher ranking officers were able to get the number down to 50.  The German officer in charge of Stalag Luft Three was outraged when he heard of this atrocity and granted the request of the prisoners to build a memorial to their lost comrades.  Unfortunately, we were unable to find the memorial and since it was getting dark we didn't want to be hunting for it in a former eastern block country, in the woods and in the dark!!  It wasn't until we got back to our German house that we were able to actually find an ariel map of where it was located - in quite the different location than you would have guessed!!!  If you ever plan on going to the camp, let us know and we can give you directions!!! :)

What we did find though,  is the cemetery and memorial to Stalag VIII C.

The memorial

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