1944 ‘Great Escape’ from German POW camp commemorated in Poland
PR dla Zagranicy
Hundreds are expected to gather in Żagań, western Poland, on Friday and Saturday to remember the “Great Escape” of Allied prisoners of war from a German camp during World War II.
Memorial to Allied POWs executed after the 1944 "Great Escape" from the Nazi German Stalag Luft III camp. Photo: CSvBibra [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Seventy-four years ago, 76 POWs from various countries broke free from the Nazi German Stalag Luft III camp through a long tunnel they had dug out in a daring exploit dubbed the Great Escape and considered to be one of the best organised mass escapes of World War II.
Only three of those who managed to flee the camp in March 1944 effectively reached safety. Seventy-three were recaptured, of whom 50 were subsequently shot on Adolf Hitler's orders.
The executed POWs came from Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Lithuania, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the Czech Republic and Greece. There were also six Poles among those killed, according to Poland’s PAP news agency.
The two-day observances of the 74th anniversary of the Great Escape in Żagań -- where the former camp was located -- are expected to be attended by a group of officers from Britain’s Royal Air Force, PAP reported.
Żagań was once part of Germany and is now in Poland as a result of postwar border changes.
A delegation of American soldiers currently stationed in Żagań will also take part in ceremonies on Friday, PAP said.
On Saturday, a 10-kilometre cross-country run will be held in Żagań for the 44th time in an annual tradition to honour the POWs and their Great Escape. About 700 competitors have signed up for the event, among them RAF servicemen and American soldiers, PAP reported.
The story of the daring breakout was made into the 1963 film The Great Escape, starring Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen. In 1988, a sequel entitled The Great Escape II: The Untold Story also appeared, with Christopher Reeve in it.