Greetings Stalag Luft III Friends and Families,
Hoping all of you had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah. To start the New Year, we’d like to provide a few updates regarding Stalag Luft III.
Donations for SLIII Plaque
Mike Eberhardt and I would like to report to you on the success of the project to fund the museum at SLIII. Your generous donations totaled $11,933.84, and the money was wired to Marek Lazarz, the director of the museum on January 4th, 2013. Marek will use the money for improvements to the museum and for the recognition of our POW relatives and friends, whose names will be inscribed on a plaque to hang in the museum. We can’t thank everyone enough for your participation in and enthusiasm for this project. Beyond honoring our POWs, the money will greatly enhance the museumbuilding by adding new displays and display cases, improving lighting, repairing walls, painting, heating, and updating the main exhibition room of this former Communist administration building. Below is a copy of Director Marek Lazarz’s response to your generosity.
RAF EX POWs’ Improvements in the Camp
The RAF EX POW Association is again active in the camp. They are working with Marek to build a replica goon box on the recently-discovered original goon box foundation, where the Great Escapers passed by to escape into the woods. In addition, the memorial garden at Tunnel Harry’s exit in the woods will have new plants added in the spring. New gravel has been put around the historic memorial to The Fifty. The young RAF airmen have already arrived at the camp to re-enact the Long March as they do every year. Air Commodore Clarke and Andy Wiseman, both former POWs will return once more. On a sadder note, RAF POW Alfie Fripp, who was the oldest surviving and longest-serving POW at SLII, and who attended the march for many years, passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 98. He will be greatly missed.
Camp Director Honors Arnold Wright
Below is a picture of Arnold Wright who transcribed the secret ledgers recorded in South Compound by POW Ewell McCright. These ledgers were taken on the Forced March, and the originals are held at the Air Force Academy. Marek will design a display honoring Arnold Wright for the years Wright spent transcribing the ledgers that were written almost microscopically, and also for Arnold’s use of them to obtain eighteen Purple Hearts for SLIII POWs, including that of Tuskegee Airman Alex Jefferson, whom many of you met at the reunion. When military records burned at the fire in St. Louis years ago, the only documentation for injuries many POWs had came from their own words dictated to and recorded by McCright in the camp shortly after the men arrived. This documentation, alone, was sufficient to secure the Purple Hearts these men deserved. Arnold was recently awarded a certificate from the Stalag Luft III museum, which is displayed below, complete with a Gepruft stamp! Congratulations, Arnold! The Air Force Academy is in the process of posting Arnold’s collection on their website, and when it is posted, we will let everyone know.
SLIII POW’s Play to Be Performed in Zagan
During his time incarcerated at SLIII, POW Joe Consolmagno, was very involved in theatre productions. In 1948, Joe wrote the account in Clipped Wings of South Compound’s experience during the Forced March. He continued to write long after the war, including two 1-acts plays for the SLIII reunions. “Strictly From Hunger” was presented at the Chicago reunion with a cast of kriegies who attended playing the parts. For the 40th SLIII Reunion in Denver, Colorado, in 1985, he wrote a play entitled, “Tunnel Bierstein,” with local University of Denver students playing the parts of SLIII POWs. I recently sent the DVD of that reunion to Marek in Zagan. He asked me to find the script of that play as the community theatre production group from Zagan would like to perform the play. Joe has sent it to him, and I’m sure that Joe never could have dreamed that after six decades one of his plays would be performed in the town where he had once been imprisoned.
POW Daughter to Present Father’s Sketches to Museum
Daughter of POW Carl Holmstrom, Susan Kohnowich, will present her father’s many sketches to the museum in Zagan. Holmstrom, a renowned artist at SLIII, living in South Compound, sketched POW portraits and camp life at SLIII, Stalag VIIA and Oflag XX1-B in Schubin. The sketches were taken on the march where many were lost. Holmstrom drew his pictures on any kind of paper he could locate. A presentation of the sketches will be made by Susan on March 24th, 2013, on the anniversary of the Great Escape. Several dignitaries will be in attendance. A room at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania will also be devoted to the display of POW Holmstrom’s artwork.
New Great Escape Documentary Made in Zagan
A new movie about SLIII is being made in Poland, and Marek, who has acted in other movies, will play the part of successful escaping Dutch pilot Bram van der Stok of the No. 41 Squadron RAF. The new documentary, “The Great Escape to the North,” primarily focuses on the two successful Norwegians, Per Bergsland, Norwegian pilot of No. 332 Squadron RAF, and Jens Müller, Norwegian pilot of No. 331 Squadron RAF, who both escaped to Sweden. The museum is co-producer, and the film, in English with Polish subtitles, will premiere August 2013. See if you can identify Marek in the trailer below coming up through the exit of Tunnel Harry.
Yesterday and Today
Recently, Marek examined several pictures from the A. F. Academy collection taken at SLIII early in the war. The pictures show some American and RAF officers being taken on a “parole walk” near the Bober River to a local restaurant 8000 feet from the old camp. That restaurant and another restaurant nearby are both now private residences. He sent pictures of himself and friends standing exactly where the POWs, including Americans Col. Goodrich, Lt. Col. Clark, Lt. Col. McNickle and Major Hal Houston stood near that restaurant. After The Great Escape, no more parole walks were allowed.
Ed Carter Edwards Medal
Ed Carter Edwards, one of the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald POWs, recently was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal presented to him by Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) the Honourable Laurie Hawn, MP, PC, CD, at the Air Force Association of Canada Annual Awards Banquet. Carter-Edwards, a survivor of Buchenwald and Stalag Luft III, flew 22 missions with 427 “Lion” Squadron before being shot down. Today he serves as one of the Air Force Association’s greatest ambassadors, devoted to the association’s mission to inform new generations of Canadians of the importance of their country’s Air Force. For this work Carter-Edwards was presented the medal
Some of you may have met Gary Hill at the SLIII reunion. We are sad to report the loss of his beloved father, Harlan R. Hill, West Compound, who died on Nov. 10th, 2012. Condolences from the entire SLIII family go out to Gary and his family on the loss of this patriot.
Marilyn Walton Mike Eberhardt
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers Son of POW Charles M. Eberhardt