SLIII Newsletter – Special Edition – New Finds and Support for Marek
Dear POWs, Families, and Friends of Stalag Luft III,
Periodically, my co-author of two books, Mike Eberhardt, and I have initiated fundraisers in the last few years for Marek Lazarz, Director of the SLIII Museum in Zagan. Thanks to many POWs, families, and friends of Stalag Luft III, the first and second fundraisers resulted in contributions totaling almost $17,000 that Marek used to renovate the exhibition room of the museum and make other needed improvements. Those initial contributors were able to designate one or more POWs , depending on the size of the donation, whose names now appear on the plaques below that hang prominently on the donation wall of the museum.
In our estimation, Marek has proved himself to be one of the hardest-working men around when it comes to honoring our fathers/uncles/loved ones who were POWs at Stalag Luft III during the cataclysmic days of the Third Reich. If it were not for these POWs, we would not be enjoying the freedoms we do today. Marek’s work has inspired me to write the newsletters sent out monthly, and I can hardly keep up with him! His Polish enthusiasm is exceedingly contagious. His creativity is boundless when it comes to ideas for the museum. When Marek is not working inside the museum, he spends his days outside taking care of all that needs his loving touch–the grounds, or escorting visitors while taking all the time they need to stand on that hallowed ground where “their POW,” spent years of his youth. Due to his diligent work in that place where 50 RAF POWs murdered by the Gestapo once lived, they will always be remembered in special ways. After decades of communist oppression in Poland, Marek has emerged as the right man at the right time to restore and update the neglected museum.
Below, please read about his recent work to locate the tunnels in South Compound.
Search for Tunnels in South Compound
Marek initiated exploration in South Compound (July 2nd and 3rd) looking for tunnels that were reported to be there. Using the map drawn decades ago by POW Mitch Cwiek, three tunnels were found but not excavated. The Polish History Channel accompanied Marek and the workers and filmed it all for a program to be broadcast in September. Ground Penetrating Radar confirmed that at least three tunnels were dug in South Camp. He made only one mistake on his drawing. They did not find the tunnel from hut #138 but found one from #137. According to Cwiek’s map tunnels were discovered in March 1944.
“It was a very hot and busy weekend but it was worth it. We found three tunnels dug by the Americans. The hut #135 tunnel was 80 meters long and about 7 meters deep. No tunnel from hut #138, but we found one in hut #137. (Jerry Sage wrote in his book that Davy Jones started the tunnel in his own block – Jones was in #137). The tunnel was about 60 meters and the same depth as #135.The third tunnel was in the shower house. Only GPR [Ground Penetrating Radar] was used to map the tunnels. The exploring is over for now, but we need to do this again. Now I’m going to clean the foundation of #135, especially the shower room, as the trap door was located in the drain (the same as Tunnel Dick).”
POW Mitchell Cwiek’s map of escape attempts in South Compound showing the location of those escape attempts and of the tunnels
Aerial Recon Map of South Compound
“I’d like to put new information signs, and clear the site, etc. As we have many new artifacts, I’m going to also update the main exhibition (new display cases etc.). The previous big donation helped me to renovate the room. Now it would be good to develop the exhibition. I brought a lot of new ideas from the U.S. (WPAFB and the Air and Space Museum) — now it’s time to bring some of them to life.”
Filming with the Polish History Channel
Marek’s projects always garner much attention from the media:
Diggers find an artifact and examine part of a Kodak film reel buried for over 70 years.
Part of Kodak Eastman 16mm reel found in South Compound, apparently delivered by the YMCA for the camp’s cinema.
Picture of an original made by the company
Marek’s Recent “Finds” in South Compound
All artifacts were recently found in South Camp. One of the most interesting items found is the WW1 German helmet–very rare! The square on the right, which looks like a belt buckle, is, in fact, a small stove’s door. The large, black, metal, object in front is an exterior camp lamp – seen in many old pictures and installed around the perimeter of the camp. There is an ice skate on the right.
“We’ve found a lot of artifacts during the last search but this one was my number one. It is a hand-made French-style button made from lead. The button is heavy. Marked on its face is POW 1299.”
Marek found that #1299 was POW William H. Scheil. After giving me the name, I was able to locate Mr. Scheil’s family to give them the good news. It is this kind of work that is so appreciated by all of us in the Stalag Luft III community.
Information Marek found on the crew and the plane: B-17F shot down 4/17/43 Bodacious Critter 306 Bomb Group , 368th Squadron
“Some time ago I came up with an idea. As you remember, I already have an original Luftwaffe double bunk bed, original German wooden locker, a few lamps and the stove found under the fallen tree. Last year I found also original TROLL briquettes etc. I’d love to make a very professional replica (mock up) of the POW room (of course, not the whole room, just one corner) in the museum. As you know we have something similar inside the replica of the hut. As all of the currently- mentioned items are 100% originals, I don’t want to display them in the hut (for safety reasons). That’s why I’m going to reconstruct a small part of the room filled with original stuff. I saw something similar last year in the WW2 Museum in New Orleans.
I have lot of items to put into the room–old books, pictures on the walls, and mannequins in uniforms. I have all this in my head. I think I’ll be able to prepare a kind of visualization for the newsletter to exemplify my idea.
Time frame: The best time for building the model is January and February as we don’t have many visitors at that time. The official premiere of the new display would be 24th March 2017 – 73rd Anniversary of The Great Escape. 5000 USD would be enough to build that kind of model, and I think some other displays.”
Marek has now accumulated other authentic artifacts that he would like to place into the transformed Kriegie room. He will, as he always does, do much of the work by himself if he receives some funding. For those of you who would like to contribute to this project, your name, or your designated POW’s name, will be placed on a plaque inside that room recognizing you as valued supporters who facilitated this very important project to its completion.
original gramophone German wardrobe
Anyone wishing to contribute to this current project can send a check made payable to me or Mike, marked for the museum, between now and Dec. 15th. We are asking for $100.00 donations (or more) for each name on the plaque, (donor or the donor’s POWs) but any amount is welcome. Our goal is the requested $5000.00. We will wire the donations to Marek to use in the coming year. We will then have Marek send us photos of the contributors’ plaque and the new Kriegie room.
Mike and I, and Marek, thank you in advance for your consideration of this project when you contemplate your charitable contributions this year.
1275 Fareharm Drive
New Albany, OH 43054
6006 Club Oaks Drive
Dallas, Texas 75248