Stalag Luft III
Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
40Trip End Sep 03, 2013
We reached the autobahn with little difficulty and headed in a southeasterly direction to Poland.
We crossed the border from Gemany to Poland about 10:00 a.m. The contrast was breathtaking. The roads were in poor repair and the car bounced so badly that the maximum speed on the "autobahn" was 80 km/hr or about 48 mph. The few buildings along the highway appeared in disrepair or abandoned.
Somehow we ordered breakfast. I ended up with a bratwurst and roll and Linda got a huge omelette or something similar...and each a cup of tea... for total of 6 euros. After consuming our breakfast, we worked our way toward what appeared to be restrooms and gestured our way in at a cost of 0.50 euros each.
We left a generous tip of 2 euros on the table to do our part to support the local economy, and perhaps (unfortunately) reinforce the perception that all Americans are rich, and were on our way to Zagan.
Following capture by the Germans in Holland, Jim's dad was taken to Dulug Luft in Frankfort, Germany to be interrogated and then transferred to a permanent prison camp. After about a week at Duluft Luft, on October 15, 1942, Jim Billig Sr. was transferred to Stalag Luft 3, a prison camp in what us now Zagan, Poland... about 2.5 hours SE from Berlin. He would remain in this camp until the forced march to StalagVIIA, on January 27,1945.
We spent the next two hours sharing our knowledge of Jim Sr's apparent experiences before, during and after Stalag Luft 3. Jim shared a copy of his dad's prisoner documents, which included his prisoner ID and his photo.
After exchanging the results of our respective research efforts, we accompanied Marek on a walk to the actual site of the South Compound of Stalag Luft 3, where Jim's dad was moved along with all other Amercan airman officers several months before the Great Escape occurred from the North Compound. Even though Jim's dad and other American prisoners actively participated in preparing for the Great Escape, none actually participated in the Escape.
It was now about 3:00 p.m. and Linda and I were emotionally moved and exhausted as were our gratious Polish hosts, Marek and Mirek. We shared our contact information, said our good-byes and parted company. What an extraordinary experience!
Were drove to the actual site of the Great Escape tunnel exit, Harry, then on to the town of Zagan to the train station, where many of the escapees went after exiting the tunnel, and were subsequently re-captured. We were told the station has changed very little since 1943. We took several photos, then reversed our path from Zagan on to Spremberg, Germany.