Poets must have designed the Stalag Luft III museum near Zagan, now in Poland but during the war in Germany’s Lower Silesia.
Side-by-side with the POW camp famed by The Great Escape, there was Stalag VIIIC. Nothing memorializes its existence except for a large sculpture of a dying human nearest public view from the road. Without protection of the Geneva Convention, underfed, denied medical attention, forced to do hard labour, Stalag VIIIC’s Russian POWs died by the hundreds, a truck collecting corpses each day.
My father was one of thousands of Allied air-crew officers favoured by Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring as his personal prisoners in Stalag Luft III. I saw the fire pool where Dad spoke on Canada Day in 1943, and concrete floors of the cells where he did solitary confinement for two unsuccessful escapes. Only six of Stalag Luft III’s airmen died of natural causes during the war.
For all of Museum Director Marek Lazarz’s engaging staff and voluminous files of the camp’s history and its prisoners, all these years later, in the silence of a national forest, Stalag Luft III illumines humanity’s enduring struggle to be human.
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