Stalag Luft III Newsletter – May, 2016
Greetings POWs, Families, and Friends of SLIII POWs,
Air Force Academy Fellowship
Congratulations to Marek who has been awarded the Clark-Yudkin Fellowship by the Air Force Academy allowing him to visit next June to do extensive research in the Stalag Luft III Clark Collection. Marek will be leaving his post at the SLIII Museum in Zagan for over a week and will be researching the Eagle Squadrons when he visits the A.F. Academy. The Eagle Squadrons were comprised of Americans who flew with the British early in the war and some became POWs at Stalag Luft III.
Many have asked me how to donate money to the museum in Poland, which can be difficult because money has to be wired, with the wiring bank taking a portion of it, and checks are not used in Poland. For anyone still wishing to donate, Mike Eberhardt and I are making arrangements so that Marek can receive donations while he is in the U.S. Anyone wanting more information, please email me before June 1st.
Spring in Poland has brought out the native red squirrels at the old camp. One might wonder what these squirrels have to do with the patch of the Polish Black Division tank unit that can be seen on many of the soldiers who wear the Polish Army uniform. The soldiers often attend events in the camp and can be seen in many of the newsletter pictures.
The patch of Black Division is a tribute to the Polish Hussars, XVII century knights. The beautiful picture below shows the large wings attached to the back of their armor. During the gallop, the wings made a special noise to frighten the enemy’s horses. The biggest Hussars’ victory was The Battle of Vienna in 1683 when Polish King Jan III Sobieski stopped the Muslim invasion over Europe in XVII century. The nickname of the Black’s Division’s logo is “squirrel,” and if the fur on top of this spring squirrel’s head is any indication, the patch is aptly named. See patch below.
Polish Squirrel in Zagan
The Battle of Vienna 1683
Restoration of 1908 Monument – West Compound
On April 13th, Marek had a meeting regarding a French 1813 grave in the West Compound. Province authorities plan to sponsor a full reconstruction of the grave’s monument, and Marek has met with an artist who will prepare the plans and drawings. The first time I returned to Zagan, Lt. Gen. “Bub” Clark asked me to look for the monument to see if it was still there. From the northwest corner of North Compound, Lt. Col. Clark could glimpse beyond the wire from his window in barrack #106. Off to the left, on the south side of the road, he noticed a tall monument at the edge of the woods. He told me he had taken great interest in it and took some comfort each day from its familiarity outside the wire. While there, he convinced a German to copy down the monument’s inscription. Unfortunately, when I got to the camp, I found the monument was no longer there.
According to Marek, about 120 of Napoleon’s soldiers died in Sagan in 1813 on their way back home from Moscow and were buried in the mass grave where Stalag Luft III was later built. The monument was erected in April, 1908, by Bonifacius Reichsgraf von Hatzfeld–Trachenberg, the grandson of Napoleon’s adjutant. Exhumation was conducted in November, 2015. Just as with many POW and military burials during the war, the bodies were naked. Two women were found to be in the grave also. They had all died of typhoid, known as “brain heat” at that time, in Sagan’s Lazarette (hospital) there.
Dorothea Hospital in Zagan Where the Victims Died
This 1914 postcard gives an idea of what Lt. Gen. Clark’s view could have been, although some of the surrounding areas likely were gone by WWII.
Remains were reburied in proper caskets in 2015. Note French flags.
During his imprisonment, Clark sketched the monument and wrote its inscription in his Log Book. A chapter from my book, Rhapsody in Junk, shows the inscription, and the picture that Clark drew is from From Interrogation to Liberation, which Mike Eberhardt and I wrote.
Clark’s Log Book sketch and inscription in German and French
According to the sketch, Clark estimated the height of the monument at five feet tall. With thanks from Marek and the builders of the new monument, it will be exactly five feet tall, determined by Clark’s notes.
One side of the monument was inscribed in German and the other in French.
Translation of the French side:
of French soldiers
who perished in Germany
this monument is reverently erected
by the grandson of Marshal de Castellane
Count Boniface of Hatzfeldt
Translation of the German side:
Dedicated in devout memory
to those soldiers
of the Great Napoleonic Army
who died here of
on the retreat from Russia.
May the passer-by
pray for you.
The monument was destroyed by the Polish Army in the 1970s or 1980s. After the war, the Soviets ruled there, and the Polish government started to rebuild a “Slavic identity” – today’s western Poland. Marek remembers a huge slogan on the outskirts of Wroclaw (formerly Breslau): “Welcome to Wroclaw – Town of Piasts.” Piasts were an old dynasty of Polish kings. As a result of the new identity, all German monuments and cemeteries were destroyed with many churches sharing the same tragic fate. The cemetery in Lubin, Poland, where POW Lt. Sconiers was first buried was also destroyed for the same reason. The French grave in Zagan was damaged shortly after the war. Local historians stated that the memorial was still there but in very bad shape. It is likely the Polish Army just finished the job. A construction certificate was found underneath the monument. The certificate was taken by a Polish colonel, and a local Polish historian, who had seen it, was able to rewrite it. Until recently, the casualties from Napoleon’s Army and the monument, itself, were casualties to the sands of time. But the new restoration will once more pay tribute to those who died and restore the view that Lt. Gen. Clark knew so well from his window behind barbed wire in his room so far from home in block #106.
Woytek the Polish War Bear
News to report on Woytek, the Polish soldier bear, whom I had written of previously: Zagan has a statue of him, and now their sister city, Duns, Scotland, has received a statue from Zagan. A film has been proposed to tell the bear’s fascinating story. Duns became the sister city of Zagan in 1994 because of General Maczek who formed his 1st Armoured Division near Duns in February 1942. After the war, in 1946, Wojtek was stationed with his unit at Winfield Camp near Duns. To learn more of the bear’s story, click here:
Wojtek with corporal Wojtek Zarebski who looked after the soldier bear during the war. Corp. Zarebski is a professor today. Wojciech is an old Slavic name. The correct spelling is with a ‘j’. Woytek is the modern version created by the English. The name Voytek is now used also.
Maj. Gustav Simoleit’s Grave and Book – Ingo Hauck – Germany
Before becoming Commandant von Lindeiner’s adjutant at Stalag Luft III, Maj. Simoleit had been a professor of history, geography, and ethnology in civilian life and had served on the staff of an anti-aircraft unit before reporting for duty at Stalag Luft I in Barth in 1940. An intelligent man, he spoke English as well as other languages. Simoleit suspected his linguistic ability lent itself well to his selection to work in a prisoner of war camp. In fact, he later found, when it came to mail censoring, that he was the only man in camp who could censor the mail of the Polish, Czech, and Russian prisoners. He often spent his evenings censoring their mail, finding the Russian and Polish letters easy to read but requiring a grammar book and a dictionary to understand the Czech letters.
The adjutant eventually accompanied the SLIII prisoners to Moosburg, Germany. It was Major Simoleit who supervised the surrender of the German personnel at Stalag VIIA. An American officer, Lt. Col. James W. Lamm, Commander of the U.S. Army 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, approached, and camp Kommandant Simoleit outstretched his hand. Lamm refused it and only saluted. Lamm accepted the surrender, and Simoleit agreed to hand over his men, collected and disarmed by a specified time to Group Captain Willet, the Senior Allied Officer in the camp. Simoleit accomplished the task in an orderly manner and then joined his colleagues who had been crowded into trucks and taken away to serve their terms as prisoners of war. Simoleit fared very poorly after the war. His nominal membership in the Nazi party kept him from gainful employment for several years, and he and his family lived in abject poverty for quite some time.
Liberation – Simoleit on the left surrenders
Stalag VIIA to the British Senior Officer
In 1965, Simoleit attended a Stalag Luft III reunion in Dayton, Ohio. In 1976, when Maj. Gen. Delmar Spivey took a group of former POWs back to Germany, he was met by Professor Simoleit who escorted the group to tour Dachau and what remained of Stalag VIIA. He later accompanied them to Berlin to meet with Hermann Glemnitz and to talk with Albert Speer, the architect and later Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich, who had just been released from prison, after serving twenty years.
Col. Dick Schrupp, “Wings” Day, Gustav Simoleit,
Maj. Gen. Dick Klocko in a reunion skit
Grave of Gustav Simoleit, Adjutant
to Commandant von Lindeiner at Stalag Luft III
in Osterholz Cemetery in Bremen, Germany
“Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe”
German researcher, Ingo Hauck, just defended his master thesis: “The Great Escape“ – An Analysis of the Authenticity of the Film by John Sturges, receiving high marks for his defense and final exam. He is the one who located Simoleit’s grave and the book that the former adjutant wrote. Many thanks to him for sending.
Sentencing for Museum Burglar
Marek has received additional information from the court on the burglar of the museum who it last appeared was getting probation. The man was sent to prison for three months, but the case is not closed. Because of the other crimes he has committed, he could be sent to prison for ten years. Marek recently added another security camera and will install new motion detectors.
Marek has found this advertisement from 1936 for a barracks-building company:
Hut #109 – North Compound
South Compound – Barracks diagram in Clipped Wings
POW Leonard Spivey’s Notes on Liberation Day – Leonard Spivey – U.S.
April 29, 1945, marked the joyous liberation of Stalag VII in Moosburg, Germany, by Gen. George Patton’s Third Army. Leonard’s thoughts were recorded in a bible:
“The first photo shows my entry on the back leaf of the bible on the day of our liberation. The second photo shows the fly leaf showing its source. Note also the German censor’s stamp. This is one of the bibles available to prisoners in Stalag Luft III and which was given to me by fellow prisoner and squadron mate 1st Lt. Ed Frost. I do not remember when or under what circumstance. In any case I had it on April 29, 1945, a particular date which hardly ever goes by without remembering.”
B-24 Tribute – Karl Duggin – U.S.
Karl Duggin just flew on the Collings Foundation’s B-24, Witchcraft, on April 28th. Karl’s high school music teacher was Oran Highley, who conducted the Messiah at SLIII in 1944, and Karl is a strong advocate for all our POWs. I was honored to learn that on his flight, Karl took a photo of my father, Lt. Thomas Jeffers, and that of Lt. Leroy Mead. Below, Karl sits in the bombardier’s compartment where my father used to sit in B-24 Rhapsody in Junk.
Below – Karl with Lt. Mead on the left and Lt. Jeffers on the right
Bomb bay doors open – My father once was dangled by a rope to kick out a bomb that was stuck in the shackle.
Many thanks to Karl for this flight when he was accompanied by what he calls two “Hero Angels” on his shoulders.
B-17 Tribute – POW son, Robert Hermann – U.S.
“I swear that I could feel the presence of my father near the end of the flight. It was great to fly over the ocean with no flak or fighters in view.” (California)
Prolific WWII Researchers and Authors – Colin Heaton – Anne-Marie Lewis
WWII historian, Colin, and his wife, Anne-Marie, have interviewed, among many other notables, many German fighter pilots, and have written two books about them. They have also written, The Star of Africa, about German fighter pilot, Hans Marseille (French version shown). As television and film consultants, they have had the opportunity to meet some fascinating people in their efforts to share the stories of WWII legends. Visit their website below to see all the other books they have written.
Memorial at Buchenwald – Bernd Schmidt – Weimar, Germany
POW James Stewart’s diary held in the Weimar museum
Memorial to Levitt Beck who did not survive to go to Stalag
Luft III with the others
Memorial arranged by Mike Dorsey, producer and director of the
Lost Airmen of Buchenwald documentary – dedicated previously
Rare German Pictures – Capture of the Semradek Crew – Germany
The pictures below were taken in July 1944, sometime after noon, between Munich, Solln and Neuried, where the plane named, Big Time Operator, went down. The crew was 15th Air Force. They were shot down around noon after the bomb run on their way back to Italy, and the 460th BG, 763rd Bomb Squadron out of Spinazzola, Italy. The plane crashed between Großhadern, Neuried and Fürstenried. The pilot – Joseph Semradek, Co-Pilot -Richard R. Winkler, Engineer – Edward Sissano, and Assistant Radio Operator – William K. Thread, were killed or died because of the raging fire in the ship. Their remains were burned beyond recognition. The remains were removed after two or three hot summer days by forced French or Polish slave laborers. The surviving six were taken POW: Alfred J. Hackbarth (bombardier), Charles B. Rose (armorer/gunner), Henry P. McDonough (radio operator), John R. Larr (armorer/gunner), Wordener B. Crowe (flight engineer), and the navigator, Richard C. Theis. The four deceased were previously buried abroad, and are now buried at Arlington National Cemetery in one grave.
The pictures were taken by a young boy, then 17, and member of the flak unit. He was a witness to the capture of the crew. His commanding officer, Oberleutnant Echt, ordered his soldiers and the young boys in the unit to keep the airmen separately in the barracks of their unit and ordered the soldiers not to let some of the “crazy town folk” run after them. The man who offered Officer Richard Theis medical care (See third picture.) worked on the ambulance of the German flak unit. Theis was very badly burned. The first picture shows Richard Theis, in his parachute. The second picture shows Theis, Crowe? and Charles B. Rose. The person sitting in the forefront is Henry P. McDonough. The pictures were taken at the flak unit’s barracks. In the second photo, you can see the wooden boxes where the ammunition was stored.
Below is Theis coming down, between Solln, Forstenried and Neuried, near the flak squad:
The man in darkness in the back could either be Gerry Walters or John Larr.
Richard Theis receives medical care.
POW Don Casey – So many knew Don, a man who attended so many SLIII Reunions. In 2012, he and Marek spoke to children at a local school near Dayton, Ohio. Don was a successful attorney in Chicago for many years and wrote about his war years and time at SLIII, To Fight for My Country, Sir!
Don was very young when he flew and was captured, and he once told me that he was so young that his feet were still growing when he was a POW, and he never could get shoes that fit correctly. As a result, he said he had problems with him feet the rest of his life.
Our condolences to his family. We will miss him greatly
POW Zbigniew Gutowski
Zbigniew Gutowski died in Montreal last week. He was 99. He was born in Warsaw December 3rd, 1916. He was Class 1939 (Promotion XIII) of the Polish Air Force Academy, “The School of the Eaglets,” in Dęblin. In 1940, he went to the Flight Training Center in Blida (North Africa) and then to No. 56 Operational Training Unit in the UK. In June 1941, he became part of the No. 302 Polish Fighter Squadron. He was shot down on November 8th, 1941, escorting a bomb raid over St. Omer, France. Gutowski became a POW and was sent to Stalag Luft I and then to Stalag Luft III, becoming POW No. 698. When Stalag Luft III was evacuated on January 27th, 1945, the RAF POWs (including Poles) were moved to Stalag IIIA Luckenwalde (near Berlin). After liberation, in April 1945, he went to Canada. Another brave man fighting for his homeland is gone and will be missed.
Gutowski – third from left at Stalag Luft III
Note on Singer Olivia Newton John – POW son, Peter Mayor – Australia
Olivia was mentioned in the last newsletter. “Brin Newton John (Olivia’s father) was a code breaker during WW2 in England. He was something like Vice Chancellor at Newcastle Univ. here in New South Wales when I was there.”
POW Ray Rayner – POW son, Hugh Carter – U.S.
One of the many men of talent from the camp–
Link below is from Hugh Carter – son of SLIII POW John Keith Carter It is his father’s story. It is Word version of first 43 pages of “Pilot Missing.”
Also included are copies of the flight log of the German fighter pilot credited with shoot down of “The Old Standby.”
Stalag Luft III POW Book –
Kaiser Wilhelm Church – Berlin, Germany
POW son, Jim Pearson, recently showed me a postcard his father, Clifford Pearson, had showing the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in Berlin before it was bombed. Compare the magnificent structure to the two pictures of it I recently took in Berlin. The Germans have left the church “as is” as a constant reminder of war.
For Anyone Interest in a Second Kriegie Kid March
In January, 2009, I was among fourteen other “Kriegie Kids” who replicated the 52-mile Forced March out of Stalag Luft III in January, 1945. Since then, I have heard from many who ask if another group would be doing this. If you are interested in walking the route the POWs took from Sagan to Spremberg to board the boxcars, send me an email, and I will compile a list so that those interested can get in touch with each other.
Author, Bruce Wolk, has crafted a unique book regarding the service of Jewish men in the war. The book is much more “universal” than the title might convey. As he interviewed the veterans, he said he realized they were among the last interviews with any veterans of the air war, so he expanded his questions. Wolk interviewed 12 men who were POWS (110 men and women in total). As the project wore on, he decided to honor the vets by donating 100% of his royalties to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C.
Fourth Building Opens in June at WPAFB AF Museum – John Lanza – U.S.
The Museum of the U.S. A. F. is expanding:
Wonder Where the Name Gestapo Came From? – HC Scharff – U.S.
GEheime STaats POlizei (Secret State Police)
Stalag Luft III Alum – Ernie Sands – Lt. Governor of South Dakota – Darin Scorza – 458th BG – U.S.
Click on link above to see Ernie Sands (leaning over, 2nd from left) on the book cover. He was with the Klusmeyer Crew, 458th BG, later in life he was South Dakota’s Lt. Governor. The picture was taken at Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany.
Successful Escape from Auschwitz – Marek Lazarz – Poland
Marek recently told the story of a prisoner named Kazimierz Piechowsk who is still alive. He is 97. He and two others successfully escaped from Auschwitz in a daring attempt. They broke into the uniform storage and stole German uniforms and guns. Then they stole the Kommanant’s car, a Steyr 220, and passed the gate without any papers. It was possible because Piechowski spoke fluent German.
Katy Carr is a British singer of Polish descent. She wrote a song about Kazimierz Piechowski. See the video and read description: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqvhgS00UdA
WWII from Space – Ross Greene – U.S.
Warbird Exchange Website
Be sure to watch full screen.
Animation Van Gogh – Pam Whitelock – U.S.
KLB Data Base – Airmen Held at Buchenwald
Until next time,
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers