Monday, March 4, 2013

Stalag Luft III: The Great Scape

Stalag Luft III was a prisoner of war camp built in 1942 and it was directly controlled by the High Command of the Luftwaffe. It was part of the network of Zagan camps. It was the last one established in the adjacent area to Stalag VIIIC, in the East. At first, most of the prisoners were from the British Royal Air Force and American pilots but they were gradually arriving pilots of various nationalities. They became a total of 10,494 prisoners.

 Prisoners in a small plantation in front of the barracks.

Stalag Luft III was famous for the escape attempts. The biggest one was organized by a secret committee "X" established by the prisoners in the spring of 1943 and led by the Commander Roger Bushell. They built three tunnels, "Tom", "Dick" and "Harry". Tom was going to be the main escape tunnel, Harry and Dick the plan B in case the Germans were able to learn their plans. Tom was discovered 5 months later so they had to escape through Harry. The flight took place the night of March 24, 1944. Eighty prisoners managed to escape from the camp through the 111 meters tunnel. When it was discovered what was happening and the alarm was raised, four prisoners were caught inside the tunnel. They began an exhaustive search throughout the country and managed to hunt down another 73. Only three of the prisoners managed to escape and return to their countries. In retaliation, under direct orders of Hitler, 50 of the escapees were shot.

tunnel harry

In 1963, this story was filmed by John Sturges with Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough, among others. If this movie fascinates you as much as me and you want to visit what remains of the Stalag here are some tips for your trip.


The Stalag Luft III is in Zagan , a small town in southwestern Poland, where there are no tourists and no one speaks a word of English. It's convenient that you bring a map printed, the accommodation booked if you want to stay overnight and the transport cheked before you go. If we go through the day it is best to hire a car from any major city. It is very close to Germany, from cities such as Dresden or Berlin it can be reached in less than two hours. It also has a train station and a bus that communicates with some cities both Poland and Germany, but in general will have to make more than one transfer to reach. Websites of the public transports:

From Wroclaw, 165km away, is easy to get Zagan by public transport. We can return the same day by train or bus:
  • By train   we can catch a train from the main station in Wroclaw ( Wroclaw Glówny ) to Zagan station . There are direct trains that reach Zagan in 2h 20min. If you want to return the same day you will have to check here for the trains schedule.
  • By bus: there are buses from the company PKS (Żary direction) from the main bus station in Wroclaw to Zagan station (some of them has a first stop in Piłsudskiego Street). They depart at 07:40 and arrive at the Zagan station at 11:05. The ticket price is of 36.50 zlotys (about 9 euros) round. If you want to return the same day by bus, in the same station there is one bus at 17:20 that leaves you back in Wroclaw at 20:15. You can check here the route and schedule. These services may not travel every day of the week. You'll have to check in advance. Bus schedule:

From Poznan, 200km away, there are buses that take you to Zagan (no trains) but you will have to spend the night there because of the schedule. There is one train that departs at 15:30 and arrives at 19:25. Another one leaves at 17:50 and arrives at 21:40. Both of them depart from the main bus station . The ticket price is 43 zlotys (about 11 euros). Check here to check routes and schedules.
Once in Zagan to reach the camp: in front of the bus station you can take the local bus (to Gozdnica or  Iłowa direction) and get off at the stop "Modernbud", 300 meters away from the camp. You can also catch the local bus (to Wesola direction) and get off at the stop Staszica, about 250 meters away from the camp. From the train station to the camp,  you can take a taxi (I don't know if there is any bus that takes you to the camp). If you want to walk the camp is 4 km away. See route .


You can check here the list of hotels and hostels. In general both the accommodation and food are cheap in Poland so the prices per night are quite affordable.


Location: here .
Closed from 25/12 to 01/01.
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 10:00-16:00
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00-17:00
Monday: closed
Admission: 5 zloty (1.2 euros). Free admission on Tuesdays.

It was founded in 1971 on the former site of Stalag VIIIC to commemorate the victims of the POW camps Zagan. The museum displays personal belongings of prisoners (photos, letters, documents ...), models of the fields, recreations of the interiors of the barracks, one of the tunnels, a watchtower ... Furthermore, we find memorials to victims.

Interior room of the museum.
Model of Stalag Luft III.
Memorial entrance.
Tunnel and turret model in front of the museum.

Surrounding the museum there are the few remains of Stalag Luft III. Also, you can find a memorial to those killed and a memorial plaque that stands through the tunnel Harry.

Former site of the barracks.

 Memorial to the 50.

 In the remains of Harry there is a stone with the inscription "Prisoners of Stalag Luft III Allied pilots who participated in the Great Escape", along with a plaque with the names of all participants.

Harry's exit.
Harry's entrance.
Plaque with names.


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