Luft Stalag 3 - The Real Great Escape (Poland)

In the south west corner of Poland, close to the borders with Germany and the Czech Republic is the town of Zagan, the home of Luft Stalag 3, the stalag from where the Great Escape took place.

For those not familiar with the story, in March 1944 76 Allied POW Airmen escaped from this Luftwaffe-run prisoner of war camp through a tunnel dug over many months. Three escaped to safety but the remaining 73 were recaptured with 50 being executed by order of Hitler as a lesson to other prisoners.

 IT WAS VICTORY IN EUROPE DAY WHEN WE VISITED SO A MEMORIAL CEREMONY HAD TAKEN PLACE EARLIER THAT DAY

IT WAS VICTORY IN EUROPE DAY WHEN WE VISITED SO A MEMORIAL CEREMONY HAD TAKEN PLACE EARLIER THAT DAY

The story was immortalised in the 1963 film The Great Escape with Anthony Hopkins, Steve McQueen and a stellar cast. And while Hollywood did take some poetic licence with the story the real tale is no less remarkable.

 RECREATED GUARD TOWER

RECREATED GUARD TOWER

Today there is a museum, gallery and reconstructed buildings at a site just outside the town. The museum is particularly impressive. A relatively new extension was paid for by an American ex-POW (there were nearly 11,000 POW s held across the various sections of the camp) and it houses a range of displays including items used to build the tunnels, models to explain where the tunnels were located and an extensive collection of sketches done by a POW at the time of prisoners, guards, buildings and even guard dogs.

 TWO OF MANY SKETCHES DONE BY ONE OF tHE POWS

TWO OF MANY SKETCHES DONE BY ONE OF tHE POWS

There are also reconstructed barracks and guard towers next to the museum.

 recreated baracks

recreated baracks

 

The actual tunnel site is a couple of kilometres down the road off a side dirt track. Once located it has interpretation signs and is an interesting place to wander about.

 interpretation signage at the site of the tunnels

interpretation signage at the site of the tunnels


Originally the prisoners dug 3 tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry with Harry being the tunnel used for the escape.

 HARRY

HARRY

Harry is marked with a path to show where it went and the names of the escapees are also marked on it's surface along with their nationalities.

Some remnants of the camp can be seen amongst the thin forest including the foundations of the old hospital.

 Foundations of the old hospital

Foundations of the old hospital

There is a small entry cost to the museum but the tunnel site itself is free.

A fascinating place to spend a couple of hours if you happen to be in that part of the world.

Ken