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Submitted to the 17th International Red Cross Conference in August , this report in three volumes documents the activities of the ICRC from the outbreak of the war on September 1 st to June 30 th The second volume of the report deals specifically with the work of the Central Prisoners of War Agency. It notably describes how its research service expanded the scope of its work to cover missing civilians as well as prisoners, at a time when international humanitarian law did not contain any provisions related to the protection of civilian populations during armed conflicts.

The third volume of the report presents the relief operations launched by the ICRC to assist war victims and outlines the technical and operational difficulties faced by the organization in that domain. This report is also available in French and in Spanish. The different editions of this journal published by the ICRC between April and December to document its activities have been reunited in a series of four volumes, available for consultation in the ICRC Library.

International Review of the Red Cross. Her analysis of the relation between Bern and Geneva, however, departs from the traditional thesis that the ICRC was dependent on the Swiss Confederation, rather stressing their very similar viewpoints and values at the time. His articles A man of peaceable intent: Burckhardt, the British and Red Cross neutrality during the Second World War and Expansion, suspicion and the development of the International Committee of the Red Cross: also address part of the criticism received by the ICRC on its position during the war.

That such events were allowed to happen is the greatest failure of Western civilization. The organization remained a prisoner of its traditional procedures and of the overly narrow legal framework in which it operated. Central Agency for Prisoners of War. In , the ICRC published some of the more important documents available in its archives related to its work in favor of the detainees of German concentration camps. The volume also comprises reports of visits to the camps, when the presence of ICRC delegates was in very rare occasions allowed. Finally, the Beate Klarsfeld Foundation published in a collection of sources from the ICRC archives related to the fate of the Jews deported and detained in France.

In , the ICRC mandated historian Jean-Claude Favez to conduct a research study on its action for Holocaust victims, giving him unlimited access to its archives. Nine years later, Favez published The Red Cross and the Holocaust , first extensive study on the topic. To promote transparency and accountability, the ICRC decided in to open its archives covering the period to historical research and the general public. The ensuing literature gives a clear account of the many difficulties faced by the ICRC during this period, though it also brings to light the successful initiatives taken by delegates to help save or protect persecuted populations.

In , the ICRC considered and debated the possibility to publicly denounce the persecution of Jewish populations by the Nazi regime, before finally deciding against it. In , the ICRC conducted an internal investigation on the work of some of its delegates during the war, after the publication of allegations in the press. Statistics about the number of deaths in the Nazi concentration camps falsely attributed to the ICRC. As a humanitarian organization, the ICRC worked to provide protection and assistance to war victims and did not play the role of a commission of enquiry or of a statistics bureau during the Second World War.

It thus never tried to compile statistics on the victims of the Nazi concentration camps, nor certified the accuracy of statistics produced by third parties. The allegations attributing to the ICRC the paternity of an estimated number of victims are thus falsified information and have been categorically and systematically denied by the institution since Website of the Arolsen International Tracing Service. For the duration of the conflict, the Agency was in charge of the centralization of all information related to the fate of imprisoned or missing soldiers and its communication to their relatives.

The publication documents its internal organization, the information it received on prisoners of war and the statistics produced by its various departments on their activities. As the conflict assumed ever-increasing proportions and the number of prisoners of war and civilian internees multiplied, the ICRC carried out large-scale relief actions for their benefit.

With numerous illustrations and photographs, a publication titled Relief for prisoners of war and civilian internees describes the preparation, content and transport of relief parcels by the institution. Audiovisual documents from the ICRC archives related to prisoners of war and civilian internees during the Second World War photos, 7 films and videos. Several German guards, who were openly anti-Nazi, also willingly gave the prisoners items, and assistance in any way to aid their escape. In their plan, of the who had worked on the tunnels only would be able to escape.

Stalag Luft III - Wikipedia

The prisoners were separated into two groups. The first group of , called "serial offenders," were guaranteed a place and included 30 who spoke German well or had a history of escapes, and an additional 70 considered to have put in the most work on the tunnels. The second group, considered to have much less chance of success, was chosen by drawing lots; called "hard-arsers", they would have to travel by night as they spoke little or no German and were only equipped with the most basic fake papers and equipment.

The prisoners waited about a week for a moonless night, and on Friday 24 March the escape attempt began. As night fell, those allocated a place moved to Hut Unfortunately for the prisoners, the exit trap door of Harry was frozen solid and freeing it delayed the escape for an hour and a half.

Then it was discovered that the tunnel had come up short of the nearby forest; at According to Alan Burgess , in his book The Longest Tunnel, the tunnel reached the forest, as planned, but the first few trees were too sparse to provide adequate cover. As the temperature was below freezing and there was snow on the ground, a dark trail would be created by crawling to cover. To avoid being seen by the sentries, the escapes were reduced to about ten per hour, rather than the one every minute that had been planned. Word was eventually sent back that no-one issued with a number above would be able to get away before daylight.

As they would be shot if caught trying to return to their own barracks, these men changed back into their own uniforms and got some sleep. An air raid then caused the camp's and the tunnel's electric lighting to be shut down, slowing the escape even more. At around 1 a. The guards had no idea where the tunnel entrance was, so they began searching the huts, giving men time to burn their fake papers.

Hut was one of the last to be searched, and despite using dogs the guards were unable to find the entrance. Finally, German guard Charlie Pilz crawled back through the tunnel but found himself trapped at the camp end; he began calling for help and the prisoners opened the entrance to let him out, finally revealing its location. An early problem for the escapees was that most were unable to find the way into the railway station, until daylight revealed it was in a recess of the side wall to an underground pedestrian tunnel.

Consequently, many of them missed their night time trains, and decided either to walk across country or wait on the platform in daylight. Another unanticipated problem was that this was the coldest March for thirty years, with snow up to five feet deep, so the escapees had no option but to leave the cover of woods and fields and stay on the roads. Following the escape, the Germans made an inventory of the camp and uncovered how extensive the operation had been.

Of 76 escapees, 73 were captured. Adolf Hitler initially wanted every recaptured officer to be shot. Hitler agreed, but insisted "more than half" were to be shot, eventually ordering SS head Himmler to execute more than half of the escapees. Himmler passed the selection on to General Arthur Nebe , and fifty were executed singly or in pairs. His friend Dick Churchill was probably spared because of his surname, shared with the British Prime Minister.

Two captured escapees were sent to Colditz Castle , and four were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp , where one quipped "the only way out of here is up the chimney.


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The Gestapo investigated the escape and, whilst this uncovered no significant new information, the camp commandant, von Lindeiner-Wildau , was removed and threatened with court martial. Having feigned mental illness to avoid imprisonment, he was later wounded by Soviet troops advancing toward Berlin, while acting as second in command of an infantry unit.

He surrendered to British forces as the war ended, and was a prisoner of war for two years at the prisoner of war camp known as the " London Cage ". He had followed the Geneva Accords concerning the treatment of POWs and had won the respect of the senior prisoners. On April 6, the new camp commandant Oberstleutnant Erich Cordes informed Massey that he had received official communication from the German High Command that 41 of the escapees had been shot while resisting arrest. Massey was himself repatriated on health grounds a few days later.

Over subsequent days, prisoners collated the names of 47 prisoners they considered to be unaccounted for. Cordes was replaced soon afterwards by Oberst Werner Braune. Braune was appalled that so many escapees had been killed, and allowed the prisoners who remained there to build a memorial, to which he also contributed. The memorial still stands at its original site.


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The British government learned of the deaths from a routine visit to the camp by Swiss authorities as the protecting power in May; the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden announced the news to the House of Commons on 19 May Eden updated Parliament on 23 June, promising that, at the end of the war, those responsible would be brought to exemplary justice. General Arthur Nebe , who is believed to have selected the airmen to be shot, was involved in the 20 July plot to kill Hitler and was executed by Nazi authorities in After the war ended, Wg Cdr.

The indictment called for the General Staff of the Army and the High Command of the German Armed Forces to be considered criminal organisations; the witnesses were several of the surviving German field marshals and their staff officers. Thirty-two prisoners escaped during the march to Moosburg but all were recaptured.

While the majority reached VII-A on 20 April, many had dropped out on the way with the German guards making no attempt to stop them. Some chose to live in tents while others slept in air raid slit trenches. Simmons' book Kriegie vividly describes the life of POWs in the American section of Stalag Luft III in the final months of the war, ending with the winter force-march from the camp, ahead of the advancing Soviet troops and eventually being liberated. The POW camp was actually officially referred to as Stalag Luft 3 by the Germans in their documentation including camp records and the ID tags issued to camp inmates, and Paul Brickhill, in his early writings about the escape, also wrote it that way.

After the war, on the long sea voyage home, Williams wrote Goon in the Block , a short book based on his experience. Four years later, in , he rewrote it as a longer third-person narrative under the title The Wooden Horse , [78] which was filmed as The Wooden Horse in Williams also wrote a prequel, The Tunnel , an extended study of the mentalities of life as a prisoner of war.

Although not an escape novel, it shows the profound urge to escape, and explores the ways that camp life affected men's emotions. Paul Brickhill was an Australian-born Spitfire pilot, shot down in over Tunisia to become a prisoner of war. He did not take part in tunnelling but was in charge of "stooges", the relay teams who would alert prisoners that German search teams had entered the camp.

He was originally scheduled to be an early escapee but when it was discovered he suffered from claustrophobia , he was dropped down to the bottom of the list. He later said he figured this probably saved his life. Later Brickhill wrote a larger study and the first major account of the escape in The Great Escape , bringing the incident to a wide public attention.

This book became the basis of the film The film was based on the real events but with numerous compromises for its commercial appeal, such as including Americans among the escapees none of whom were actually American. While some characters were fictitious, many were amalgams of and some based on real people. There were no actual escapes by motorcycle or aircraft nor were the recaptured prisoners executed in one place at the same time. The film has resulted in the story and the memory of the fifty executed airmen remaining widely known, if in a distorted form.

The search for those responsible for the murder of the Allied officers, and the subsequent trials, was depicted in a television film named The Great Escape II: The Untold Story. The camp was the basis for a single-player mission and multi-player map in the first Call of Duty video game. Most of the buildings and guard towers were identical to the camp and the single-player mission involved rescuing a British officer from a prison cell that closely resembled the camp's solitary confinement building.

The Great Escape is a video game which shares a title and similar plot to the movie. The game surroundings were similar to the actual camp but the supposed location was in Northern Germany, and one side of the camp overlooked the North Sea. The plot-line follows that of the film, except there are also levels featuring some of the character's first captures and early escape attempts, as well as a changed ending. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Model of the set used to film the movie The Great Escape. The model is now at the museum near where the prison camp was located. Stalag Luft III. Main article: List of Allied airmen from the Great Escape. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Selected Recollections Chosen from a Fortunate Life, a continuing memoir. Retrieved 28 June Archived from the original on 20 July Retrieved 21 October War Department Intelligence Service.

Archived from the original on 28 July Merriam Press. Great Escape. Pan Books. Archived from the original on 1 March Retrieved 18 May Archived from the original on 29 June Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, In the information provided in the press release on Dawn Trimble Bunyak's presentation of Lawrence Pifer's life-story, the reader is promised an "enthralling story of an average enlisted man's struggle to survive in the face of hopelessness, with only his strong faith and pride in country to sustain him.

Instead of a pointed message, we are presented with the complex life story of an individual, Lawrence Pifer, a Pennsylvanian of German descent who served as an Army Air Corps radio operator and ball turret gunner on a B bomber during the Second World War. During a raid in March , Pifer escaped from his crashing airplane, parachuting into German territory. The narrative is based on a series of interviews that Bunyak conducted with Pifer her uncle , between and The author presents her subject's entire life story, showing as much interest in the periods before and after his war experience as in this pivotal period in his life.

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Bunyak employs a direct, narrative style, sketching descriptive passages to interpret Pifer's experiences in wartime Germany. Nonetheless, one has the feeling that all elements that have been added to the narrative as Pifer actually related it are things he knew or could have known. At times, the reader can identify passages that are clearly close adaptations of what Pifer said in the interviews due to the colloquial language they employ.

Dawn Trimble Bunyak is an independent historian who worked as a public historian and historic preservationist while earning her master's degree in history. She was motivated to write this book by her personal relationship with her uncle who served as a father-substitute while her own father fought in Vietnam. Through this uncle's stories and his need late in life to confront his experiences as a POW, she came to learn a great deal about the average American man's experience in the European theater during World War II.

In publishing this account, she reaches out to both veterans and the younger genreation, hoping to stimulate similarly productive exchanges between other former POWs, their families, and their communities. Consequently, the subject of how Allied soldiers experienced German prisoner of war camps is approached from the perspective of the American present and from that of a public historian's interest in spurring on the American national as well as local cultural practice of remembrance.

In view of these goals, the reader will perhaps be surprised to find that the author's narrative is ambitious, as she strives to synthesize four years' worth of interview material and enrich it with further primary and secondary sources, all the while maintaining a readable style that pays as much attention to retaining the narrative shape of Pifer's autobiography as to contextualizing individual events within its development.

The complexity and ambiguity of Pifer's narrative as conveyed by Bunyak distinguishes it from the many autobiographical accounts of Americans' incarceration in war and, indeed, from the great majority of oral histories of the American WWII POW experience. As a coherent and subtle representation of a non-Soviet soldier's incarceration in German POW camps and of an American airman's reaction to the end of the war in Germany, it should also interest historians of Germany.

After a conflicted childhood on the border of poverty, high school graduate Pifer lacks real goals or ties.

Restlessly seeking a job and moving from town to town, Pifer finally finds his calling, inexplicably drawn to the famous Uncle Sam recruitment poster that seems to speak to him personally. Enlisting in the U. Army Air Corps in late spring , Pifer hopes to satisfy his appetite for adventure by becoming an aerial gunner.

Kriegie Christmas, 1944

Unfortunately, his high test scores qualify him for radio-training instead of gunnery school, meaning that he has to underperform in this second round of training in order to be assigned to a flight crew and not to a ground station. This episode, as well as an anecdote about beating his instructor in skeet shooting, are elements typical of Pifer's tale. He presents himself as a protagonist able to manipulate his surroundings despite unexpected hurdles, using both his technical and social skills at every turn.

Though he was assigned against his will as an instructor at a training school for bomber crews, in Fall , Pifer's superiors finally make it possible for him to join a B bomber crew heading for Europe. The interview material and letters written from the airbase in England paint a picture of disillusionment. Bunyak presents the reader with complex everyday and combat detail, indicating how Pifer's experiences quickly dampen his naive enthusiasm for air battles.

Initiating a mechanism that will haunt many veterans for decades, the Army Air Corps policy demands that the crewmembers report professionally, forget the horror, and carry on. However, the impressions of death and destruction, which shock the bomber crews so, remain limited to the losses the Air Corps suffers from German forces above ground.

The narrative makes it clear that what happens after the bombs leave the hatches, what the people on the ground experience during an Allied air raid, does not interest the airmen in the least.

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Pifer's pivotal experience, the one that provides the book with its title, is the first instance in which the young airman's tenacity cannot help him. When, during the battle of Berlin in March, , his crew's B is hit by enemy anti-aircraft weapons and cannons mounted on Focke-Wulf fighters, Pifer struggles to perform his duties as gunner while watching two of his crewmates die of wounds.

Although he survives his bailout from the crashing B, an injured leg and nearby German civilians prevent him from setting out for the safety of Spain. He and the other surviving crewmembers are rounded up and turned over to the German army. In , the U. Figures dating from late indicate that roughly one third of these POWs were airmen, while the other two-thirds had been captured as ground troops. During this period, which might begin with an escape from a crashing bomber, as in Pifer's case, the airmen left the combat zone and were often exposed to the unpredictable reactions of German citizens, the first people they were likely to encounter.


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  7. If they were not fatally assaulted by civilians who often saw them as mere terrorists, they entered the POW camp system. Some of the camps spread throughout German territory were established by the Wehrmacht especially for Army Air Corps personnel Stalag Luft. The lay literature on these camps consists mainly of accounts of incarceration and indicates that the treatment and supplies prisoners received was dependent on a number of factors. The location of the camps and the regime established by their respective commander were important, as were contingent factors such as the progressive collapse of the German war effort and the country's infrastructure.

    Committed to a Berlin hospital because of his broken leg, Pifer subsequently experiences the bombing of the German capital, as well as its furious residents who try to harm him. The downed airman attempts to regain control by refusing to sign confession papers or provide any information whatsoever about his mission. Once again, the author synthesizes her uncle's narrative with historical background, detailed information about the camp system, and primary source material related to Pifer's case.