Calling at Colditz
I decided that I would take advantage of having the car and drive to the remote Colditz Castle, which is famous for being used as a POW camp during the Second World War. It was deemed to be inescapable by the Nazis due to its high walls and steep drop and was home to captured escapees and the crème de la crème of British, US, Canadian, Polish and Dutch officers; a veritable melting pot of the brains of a generation.
What is often overlooked is that it was initially used as a camp for those Germans who resisted Nazism. The two-hour tour and its numerous stories are a fascinating testament to human determination and resourcefulness. I also had an insight into the then code of gentlemanly behaviour between Germans and prisoners. The Germans had a great deal of respect for those who did manage to escape and even sent their belongings on to them. In the same vein, sometimes officers were allowed outside the castle gates to go for a beer in the village on a sworn oath that they would return and they did. These gentlemanly types were gradually replaced by hardliners towards the end of the war though I never heard any tales of torture or cruelty. Indeed the German guards, in true German style, followed the Geneva Convention to the letter and allowed the prisoners a larger exercise area, which served as the scene of so many escape attempts and ingenious acrobatic antics. The creativity of the escape attempts is what really grabs you. And there are so many! How on earth did they store a radio hide and a glider plane inside the castle? Even today, they have not fully completed their tooth combing of the castle so many more gems could yet be unearthed. I am now going to be tuning into the re-runs of the 1970s series …. (see photos of Colditz)