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Attempted escapes

Tom Wodzinksi's father was a prisoner in OFLAG-VII, and he talked to his son about attempted escapes from the prison.


One plan involved converting a Polish uniform into a German uniform. On September 12, 1941, a young 2nd Lt. Józef Tucki managed to ride a stolen bicycle out of the camp in broad daylight, dressed up in a German uniform. The camp had a theatre, and it was in the workshop there that created his costume. He dyed his Polish uniform using ink. He left 50 marks to pay for the bike that he had stolen and a letter to German Capt. Olesko, explaining that he could no longer tolerate living the camp and had to escape. He managed to get to Hungary via Vienna by train, where he was unfortunately arrested a month later while hiding in a haystack. He was transferred to OFLAG--IVC in Colditz, where he unsuccessfully attempted two more escapes. He survived the war and ended up living in England.


Another interesting escape attempt used unusual camouflage. In the summer of 1943, 2nd Lt Władysław Hołub attempted a very audacious escape. While his friends created a diversion, Hołub, wearing green clothing and a camouflage of grass on his back crawled to and then through the barbed wire fence. He crossed the highway outside the front of the camp and headed towards a marsh. He was recognized as an inmate by a passer-by who raised the alarm with the guards who managed to recapture him within two hours of his escape.


A number of escape attempts were made using tunnels, including the use of existing underground drainage and sewer systems. The most ambitious tunneling, which was never actually used, happened in the spring of 1944.


In the spring of 1944 a group of officers commenced work on a 40-metre-long tunnel (120 cm X 120 cm). The masterminds behind the project were 2nd Lt. Janusz Wieczorek, 2nd Lt. Zygmunt Lancmański, 2nd Lt. Stefan Futujma, 2nd Lt. Roman Jarosz, 2nd Lt. Karol Szyperski, 2nd Lt. Francziszek Najbar, 2nd Lt. Bartłomiej Kuźma, 2nd Lt. Józef Baumann, and 2nd Lt. Stanisław Grabiński.


The work, which occupied a number of months, was finished in August 1944. The tunnel ran from the small kitchen, under the barbed wire fences, and then out into wheat fields. It was capable of handling 300 people per hour. Upon completion of the tunnel, the team notified the Polish senior officer General Rómmel, seeking permission to plan the escape. The general consulted other senior officers in the camp, and it was decided not to permit use of the tunnel for an escape, given what they were learning about how Germany was faring in the war. It would be better to use the tunnel to hide inmates, should the Germans begin exterminating the prisoners in the camp as the war drew to a close.


None of the camp escapes were successful, partly because of the camp's location. Poland and the free countries in western Europe were simply too far away. And getting to Switzerland was difficult because of the terrain on the border between southern Germany and Switzerland.


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