STALAG LUFT III: The Secret Story by Arthur A. Durand

STALAG LUFT III: The Secret Story

Email this review


An absorbing account of the WW II prison camp for Allied airmen, which was made famous by Paul Brickhill's The Great Escape (1950). Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Durand (a serving Air Force officer, and a historian) makes a masterful job of re-creating the quotidian realities of life as a POW. Located about 90 miles south and east of Berlin in Germany's heartland, Stalag Luft III housed but a couple of hundred prisoners at its opening in the spring of 1942. Nearly three years later, when the camp was hastily evacuated in the face of a Russian advance, it had over 10,000 inmates, mainly Americans, in a sprawling six-compound complex. Wisely treating escape as but one aspect of the POW experience, Durand recounts in fascinating detail how captured fliers adjusted to incarceration. As it happened, most adapted comparatively well, helping to create self-governing communities with education, entertainment, and sports programs. Despite their confinement, moreover, the prisoners managed to establish communications with London and Washington (via coded messages in letters home) that contributed to the war effort. Indeed, in scores of ways ranging from routine harassment of Luftwaffe guards through escape attempts that tied German troops to the home front, the POWs proved their war didn't end when they went behind the wire. A fine and fitting tribute to the quietly brave men who displayed considerable grace under nontraditional wartime pressures. The engrossing text has illustrations (not seen).

Pub Date: June 17th, 1988
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press