Colditz Castle, a forbidding medieval edifice near Leipzig, Germany, was
supposed to be the Nazis' most escape-proof prison. Incorrigible Allied
officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps were sent to Colditz, the
only German POW camp with more guards than prisoners. Yet English, French,
Polish, Dutch, and other inmates managed to sneak out in surprising numbers.
Escaping from the castle was only the beginning, however, and while at least
130 got out during the course of the war, only 30 got clean away. When
captured, those attempting to escape were given up to three weeks in solitary
confinement. Yet for the most part their German captors—led by the
good-natured head of security Reinhold Eggers (see The Jailor's Story)—took a light-hearted approach to dealing with their capers, even taking
photographs of the prisoners' disguises and other escape paraphernalia for the
castle's escape museum.
Click for larger
version. Note: You can use either this map or the text links at the bottom of
each page to navigate through this feature.
Using the map at left, which in its larger version has clickable numbers corresponding
to the escape attempts listed below, navigate chronologically through 25
attempts that took place at Colditz between 1941 and 1944. You can also use the
text links at the bottom of the page to navigate. Note that eight of those
chronicled here occurred off the map—at or on the way to a nearby park, to
which the guards led the inmates every day for fresh air and exercise. (The
Germans were adhering to rules set down in the Geneva Convention, an
international agreement that specifies prisoners' rights.) For books referenced
for this feature, see Resources.