Stalag Luft III Newsletter – March, 2016
Greetings, Stalag Luft III POWs, Families, and Friends,
There is much to report, but first some POW humor:
For the B-17 Boys – POW daughter, Kip McVey – US
From Marek – Poland
In reference to the Augustiner Garten Restaurant, the building mentioned in the last newsletter, where YMCA representative, Henry Soderberg, had an office, Marek’s assistant, Mirek, has found this plate from the restaurant. It was found at a private home in Zagan. There was a Masonic Lodge in this building before 1935. In 1935, Hitler banned all Masons in Nazi Germany. So Marek thinks the restaurant, Augustiner Garten, was set up after 1935. On old German maps, the building was marked as “Lodge.”
From the author of German Boy, Wolfgang Samuel, who spent time in Sagan as a young boy before evacuating as a refugee, commenting on the pictures of the restaurant in the last newsletter: “Marilyn, My mother would take me and my sister for Sunday supper at the Augustiner Garten – and in the summer they would have open air concerts there; usually an army band would be playing. The evangelische Kirche (church in a photo in the last newsletter) is where we went to church. Thanks for taking me back to my childhood.” Wolf
RAF Finishes Long March
Once again, members of the Royal Air Force visited Zagan to participate in the annual Long March. The Royal Air Force website coverage of the Long March:
71st Anniversary of the Forced March from the Enlisted Men’s Camps
Stalags IV and VI were the enlisted men’s camps. While most officers and enlisted men on a crew went to the same interrogation center near Frankfurt, Germany, they were separated after interrogation going to their permanent camps. IV and VI were far worse than Stalag Luft III. Many American officers met up again with their enlisted crewmembers at Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany, where they were all liberated together. The enlisted men’s march, also known as the true Death March, or the Shoe Leather Express, put the men on the roads for months until they finally ended up in Moosburg. Not all survived. The columns were sometimes strafed by the enemy and also received friendly fire. Some men died of exhaustion and disease. Their march, and the brutality they endured at the camps, was mentioned in the U.S. Congressional Record.
The Polish Army, guests, re-enactors, and people of Tychow walked the symbolic 3 km distance from the camp site to the train station. Special guest was – US Air Attache Lt. Col. Eric A. Tramel. See the link below for pictures of the recent ceremonies at Stalag Luft 4 Gross Tychow:
See link below to read of the notorious Heydekrug Run (from the train station) at Stalag Luft IV, specifically mentioned in the Congressional Record:
A good book on these camps is Candy Brown’s, “What I Never Told You” – firstname.lastname@example.org
Winter Comes to Zagan
Replica hut #104 next to the museum
The Battle for Sagan
Marek has photographed an historic area near Zagan (then Sagan) where Commandant von Lindeiner fought the Russians who had arrived from the east. Later, he was taken POW by the British. The words below are taken from the book Mike Eberhardt and I wrote about Commandant von Lindeiner, From Commandant to Captive. The words are von Lindeiner’s words from his memoirs. Just weeks after the POWs evacuated SLIII in January 1945, Commandant von Lindeiner returned to Sagan to defend the town. A man already wounded many times in World War I, he was to receive additional wounds fighting for Germany, his homeland, and as he believed, not for Hitler’s causes.
“In the early hours of 12 February, I made a reconnaissance trip on motorcycle into the northern battle section accompanied by another officer. When the early fog lifted, we could see occasional Russian guards on the eastern shore of the Bober. Approaching the village of Greisitz, situated on the river, believing it occupied by German troops whom we had telephoned before our departure, we received Russian fire at close range. I was hit in the shoulder and foot causing me to fall. The Russians thought me dead and pursued my escort officer. By crawling through a barn, a stable, and a deep iced-over trench, I was able to reach the edge of the woods, cross through them, and reach Sagan with my last strength after a three-hour grueling march. The bullet was removed from my right foot, and I was properly bandaged. In the evening, a high staff officer took over my command. A heavily-damaged armored scout brought me, on 13 February 1945, via Soran [sic] Sorau-Kalau-Luckau-Torgau and Eilenburg to Leipzig to Reserve Hospital IV St. Georg. On 5 April, I was transferred to the Reserve Hospital at Blankenburg in the Harz and became there a POW of the Americans and then of the English.”
“Unfortunately, there are only a few houses left.”
Village of Greisitz (today Gryzyce) – six miles from SLIII
There was a German Hydroelectric Power Station in the center of the village.
Hydroelectric Power Station today in Poland
The village restaurant in this old picture no longer exists.
International Tourism Fair – Wroclaw 2016
For three days, Marek and Mirek attended the Tourism Fair in Wroclaw, Poland, which received over 14, 000 visitors. The town of Zary, formerly Sorau, Germany, near the camp, also shared the booth. After the war, all former German names of the towns were changed. A special team of linguists worked on the renaming. Sometimes they made a direct translation, and sometimes they created completely new names. For example: Wroclaw-Breslau, Zary-Sorau, Poznan-Posen. After the war, communist propaganda stated that Silesia was finally returned to Poland, but that was not exactly so. Silesia was under control of the Kingdom of Poland in medieval times. However, Sagan was always independent as the Duchy of Sagan as far back as possibly the 14th century.
POWs in SLIII saw the bombers fly over on the way to bomb the FW-190 assembly plant in Sorau, on April 11, 1944, when the 303rd Bomb Group sent 33 crews to bomb there.
The Tourism Fair was organized in Centennial Hall in Wroclaw. The Hall, which I wrote of in a previous newsletter, is one of the most interesting monuments of Wroclaw, which is the former German town of Breslau. The Hall was built in 1912.
The Hall was designed by Max Berg, an outstanding city architect, and recognized as one of the top masterpieces of the 20th century architecture. The designer assumed that the Hall would serve citizens of Wrocław (formerly Breslau) and visitors to Lower Silesia’s capital city, and it continues to perform this function successfully. Multi-purpose space, unusual structure, and unique and spacious location represent just a few of its strengths. Centennial Hall complex is currently one of the most desired venues among domestic and foreign organizers of major exhibitions, conferences, cultural, sport, and congress events. The Hall’s inscription on a UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006 emphasized the rank of this facility. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most characteristic flagships of Wrocław on the international scale, and an exceptionally magical site in the city where history records its multi-generational use.
Mirek and Marek at the Fair
Great Escape Cross Country Run and Great Escape Remembrance
“Meanwhile we are working on the 72nd anniversary of the Great Escape. On March 20th, the camp will be filled with runners participating in the Cross Country Run for the Great Escape Cup. The route of the run encircles the Stalag VIIIC and Stalag Luft 3 camp sites. For the first time, the run will be part of the championship of Poland. There are currently 500 runners signed up for the open run for 10 km (adults). There will be also special category for the kids.”
The BLACK DIVISION (Polish 11th Armoured Cavalry Division) will help Marek arrange a display of their equipment. The official Great Escape ceremony will be held on the 24th of March at the museum. On March 23rd, local school students will participate in The Great Escape Historical Contest.”
After all the publicity Marek has garnered for Zagan and the museum, more and more locals are coming forward with artifacts in their possession. That was the case Feb. 21st when a local man presented Marek with two items. The first is an old wooden suitcase he found in his attic in Sprottau which is very near the Wiechlice Palace hotel many of us stayed in last year, a palace where Napoleon and his troops stayed when that area was still Germany. Although it has no direct link with the camp or POWs that we know of, one wonders if it once belonged to one of the refugees on the roads with the POWs during the evacuation in 1945. Could it have fallen from one of the creaky wagons carrying old men and women and children fleeing the Russians during the frigid winter of 1945? Some things we will never know.
The second is a truly spectacular find! It is a German Luftwaffe belt buckle made in the camp by a POW. Buckles like these were only made for escape purposes.
It was found near the village of Kunzendorf, not so far from the old barn that was there. According to Marek, it is composed of two pieces. The round emblem with an eagle is mounted on a buckle. Only the round piece was made (cast) from tin cans. The buckle was made from a rough and heavy unidentified piece of metal. Kunzendorf is just few kilometers south east of Kupper Airfield. RAF POW F/Lt Walter Morrison, along with RAF POW Lorne Welsh, left from the camp for the airfield during an unsuccessful escape attempt. Morrison returned to the camp in 2003, and with historian, Howard Tuck, walked the exact escape route, which led to the old barn that no longer exists. The buckle was found in the small forest right near the barn, and there is no other reason that it would be there unless connected to that escape. The men were photographed after they were captured, wearing the uniforms they had made, minus the belts and buckles. The story of this escape is a very interesting one.
Welch and Morrison Wanted Poster
Excerpt from Walton/Eberhardt book, From Interrogation to Liberation, on this escape:
“Both POWs spoke German and attempted to steal a German aircraft to fly to Sweden. Welch was an engineer and later an engine test flight observer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in England. He also learned to fly gliders at the London Gliding Club and took up power flying, becoming an instructor in 1939. Exceedingly accomplished, he moved on to multi-engined aircraft and later trained pilots on Wellington bombers. After his capture and imprisonment, Welch assisted in the “Great Escape” by building the ventilation pump for Tunnel Harry. Planning to utilize his knowledge of flight, he and Morrison made a getaway during a delousing break, carrying fake German uniforms with them. Once safely in the woods outside the camp, they donned the uniforms and went to the nearby Kupper airfield after a week of living primitively. Once there, they picked the lock at the gate and strolled onto the airfield where they found a small training aircraft, a Junkers W34. They scrambled into the plane but found it had to be started by an external handle. Just as Welch jumped out to use the handle, a crew appeared. The two RAF airmen saluted the Germans, and the rightful crew decided Morrison and Welch were simply ground crew. The German pilot ordered them to start the aircraft, and the crew got in and taxied away. Greatly relieved, Welch and Morrison ran off only to return the next day to find a small bi-plane. As they tried to start it, they were finally apprehended. A few hours later, they were back in Sagan to spend six weeks in the cooler. Attempting yet another escape, they were re-captured and sent to another prison in Germany, Colditz Castle, Oflag IV-C, the supposedly escape-proof 700-room castle sitting atop a cliff in Saxony. Up in the attic of the castle, other like-minded escapers were already working on a wooden glider called, “The Colditz Cock.” Welch performed vital stress calculations to see if it would withstand the force of being launched by a catapult powered by the five-floor drop of a concrete-filled bathtub. The glider was completed, but the war ended before it could be launched from an obscured section of the castle’s chapel roof.”
Remembering the Evacuation and the Polish Deportations
A recent ceremony was organized by Marek and the Mayor of Zagan on General Maczek Square:
“Yesterday’s [February 16] ceremony in Zagan. People of Zagan commemorated the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Zagan and the evacuation of POW camps Stalag VIIIC and Stalag Luft 3. During the ceremony, there was also a commemoration of the mass deportations of the Polish population from the territories occupied by the Red Army in September 17, 1939. Deportations started on 10th February 1940. About 140, 000 Polish people were sent to work camps (gulags) in Siberia. There were four mass deportations between 1940 and 1941. Total number: 340, 000 sent to gulags. About 100, 000 died because of diseases and maltreatment and low temperatures. The primary goal of the deportations: destroy Polish nation and at the same time provide slave workers for the communism.”
Maczek Square – Note old city wall in the background
School children in Zagan participated. Their school was named to remember the Stalag VIIIC victims. Another school is in Ilowa, formerly the town of Halbau, where the Christ the King Catholic (formerly Lutheran) church was located and where Center Compound slept during the Forced March. The school is now called the Allied Airmen Primary School. The Polish people are determined to make sure that their children never forget the sacrifices of the Allied airmen who were confined in Poland.
School children from the Johannes Kepler school. Kepler, a former German resident when the town was Sagan, Germany, discovered the elliptical orbits of planets. Kepler’s restaurant in town is named for him also, and it is a great place to eat!
Very sad news from the grandson of POW Norm Ulrich, Matthew Ulrich, that his grandfather has passed away in Chicago. The former B-17 pilot, and last remaining man on his crew, folded his tired wings Jan. 14, 2016. Condolences to his widow, Ella May, who enjoyed 70 years of marriage to him. Norm was 95. The logo that is posted at the top of these newsletters was designed by Norm when he was a POW at SLIII. The SLIII patches we wear on our clothing are a result of his talent as well. He was an incredible artist in the camp, and his talent carried him a long way. His obituary below indicates how far those talents took him.
Norm’s artwork kept up morale in the camp and brought joy to his fellow POWs. He lived in South Compound. Some of his work is displayed below:
Norm’s family shares quite a phenomenal photo below. As they gathered by his bedside at his home before he passed, the family looked out the window to see a single cloud shaped like a B-17 that appeared 20 minutes before Norm died. They were able to capture it before it disappeared.
On a more personal note, Norm had been a friend of mine for many years. I recall being stuck at O’Hare Airport a few years ago on the way to a SLIII reunion when flights were being cancelled rapidly. Norm and his wife were there also. We finally all got to our destination about 11 that night, and as our tired trio walked up to the entrance of the hotel, I fondly remember having an Ulrich on each arm. I will cherish that memory.
Godspeed, dear Norm, with gratitude for the way you enriched so many lives.
POW Harold Alexander’s ID card – POW son, Gary Alexander – US
How young they were!!
“Harry” flew P-38s. He was shot down in the Mediterranean Sea opposite Bosa, Sardinia, and bailed out over the bay. He inflated his life boat and was determined to row to North Africa. The Italian Navy picked him up after a couple of hours.
TOC H – Soliciting information on the SLIII TOC H document sent by POW son, Arthur Tabe,r in the last newsletter, brought a reply from Claudius Scharff, son of the Master Interrogator of Germany, Hans Scharff:
“I met a TOC H member in South Africa when as Boy Scouts we were hiking through Natal Province. We spent the night at his abode and he told us all about TOC H. I remember he had a pet piglet which squealed and ran all over the place all excited to meet the three strangers. I seem to remember that TOC H was a British thing.”
2nd Air Division Photos – Evan Thomas – UK
The 2nd Air Division Memorial Library is in Norwich, England, is a wonderful repository of the Air War. Most American stations encircled Norwich. Tony North, who recently died, worked there for decades and accumulated thousands of photos. More will appear on this website:
Be sure to visit Evan’s website also:
Evacuation Medals – Marilyn Elrod – Marek Lazarz – Barry Schoen
Note the circle of towns the POWs marched through on the back of the medal. When the POWs arrived at Spremberg, Germany, near the end of their march, to board the box cars, they were herded into a building for a meal of barley soup. In order to get them all in, they marched in a spiral pattern like the one seen here, coiled tightly to be served the soup. Marek has several of the medals. Others report they have them too, but not much history is known about the medals that commemorate the march.
If anyone knows the history of these medallions, please weigh in.
POW James Vaughter- South Compound – Sue Moyer – US
POW and former President of SSMA [Second Schweinfurt Memorial Assoc.], James Vaughter, describes his time at Stalag Luft III and Stalag VII-A:
Part 1 beginning on page 3: http://306bg.us/Echoes%20files/80apr52.pdf
Part 2 beginning on page 3: http://306bg.us/Echoes%20files/80jul53.pdf
1st Lt James V. Vaughter was the bombardier on the Ralph T. Peters crew (306thBG/369BS) shot down 14 Oct 1943 – Black Thursday.
Military Brats – POW son Hugh Carter – US
The book, Military Brats, by Mary Edwards Wertsch, was published in 1991. The book was the basis for movie “Brats: Our Journey Home,” released in 2006, narrated by Kris Kristofferson, himself, a military brat. The late author, Pat Conroy, also a military brat, once wrote of those of us who grew up as such: “We spent our entire childhoods in the service of our country, and no one even knew we were there.”
100 Drone Synchronized Airshow – POW Leonard Spivey – US
This spectacular display of drones is technology created by Intel Corporation (USA) involving 100 small aircraft being launched skywards in formation. Controlled on the ground by a crew using PCs with Intel software, the mass of drones lit up the night sky in sync to a live performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and executed a stunning light show resembling a fireworks display. “Drone 100” took place at Flugplatz Ahrenlohe, Tornesch, Germany, in November 2015.
Names in a Box – POW son, Michael Scott – US
This British cigarette box belonged to American POW Lt. John J Scott. A list of names was with the box if anyone recognizes them. Two officers, and all the rest staff or technical sergeants, are listed, some of which were at least temporarily in South Compound.
SLIII Catholic priest, Fr. Wilf Coates, with POWs Joe Ostermann (correct spelling) and John Scott
In a past newsletter, there was a picture of the religious medal that Marek found in Center Compound, and we tried to find its owner. It is likely that it belonged to John Scott. According to his son:
“In reading a posting from November 2015 about the Catholic medal found in the Center Compound. This might have belong to my father, John J Scott, Prisoner number 3113, who was in building 39, room 2. His brother’s sister-in-law lived in Royal Oak, MI. My father along with the rest of the family were devout Catholics and sending the medals is exactly the kind of thing that Bob’s wife, Kathleen, would do. I know that Kathleen sent items to my father while he was a POW. I have his YMCA ‘Wartime Log Book’ where he pasted pictures of Kathleen and their new born baby. This is only a possibility though.”
Pictures from Kiel – Ernie Hasenclever – Canada
Former German flak battalion member, Ernie, sent the following pictures he recently took in Kiel, near his former flak battery.
Ernie standing where his former battery commander (picture on the right) stood during the war across from the Laboe Monument.
“Our Battery was just above on top of the step coast. The picture was taken just below the location of the actual gun placement on top of the steep banks overlooking the Kiel harbor entrance. The guns were located approx. 200 yards from the coastal bank. The battery was located so it could be used against sea target as well.”
Marine History and the Navy Memorial in Laboe in naval memorial:
The Laboe Naval Memorial (aka Laboe Tower) is a memorial located in Laboe, near Kiel, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Started in 1927 and completed in 1936, the monument originally memorialized the World War I war dead of the Kaiserliche Marine, with the Kriegsmarine dead of World War II being added after 1945. In 1954, it was rededicated to commemorate the sailors of all nationalities who died during the World Wars. The monument consists of a 72 m (236 ft) high tower topped by an observation deck. The deck stands a total 85 m (279 ft) above sea level. A hall of remembrance and World War II-era German submarine U-995, which houses a technical museum, both sit near the foot of the monument, and the site is a popular tourist venue. U-995 is the world’s only remaining Type VII U-boat. The tower was designed by architect Gustav August Munzer, who stated that the form was not meant to represent anything specific but was to inspire positive feelings in those who look at it. It is frequently associated with the stem of a Viking ship or the conning tower of a submarine.
Photo Identification – POW daughter, Ursula Long – UK
The man standing near the window is Sub Lt Richard Long, SLIII POW. His daughter would like to know if anyone can identify any of the others in the picture, probably taken in East or North Compound.
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Living History Film Series – WPAFB – Doolittle Raider Richard Cole – John Lanza – US
The Mystery of Hermann Goering’s Brother – POW son, Tyler Butterworth – UK
Follow up reading:
A Pilot and His Trumpet – Barry Schoen – US
(Might be slow to load)
Emergency Redtail Landing – Dallas – Barry Schoen – US
Two P-40 Pilots’ Heroic Pearl Harbor Battles – Ross Greene – US
New Book – Imperial War Museum – Marek Lazarz – Poland
Drones over D-Day Beaches – Barry Schoen – US
P-40 Pilots at Pearl Harbor – POW son, Hugh Carter – US
Last Flight from Da Nang – Ross Greene – US
Interactive 1944-2014 map – scroll right to left on each picture to go back in time:
Civil War Sites Then and Now – Ross Greene – US – POW Leonard Spivey – US
100th Bomb Group – POW Camp Pictures – Marek Lazarz – Poland
Tour of All Air Museums – John Lanza – US
Tribute to the 384th Bomb Group – Grafton Underwood – Evan Thomas – UK
Until next time,
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers