Opened in March 1942 to house captured Allied airmen, particularly officers, Stammlager Luft III at Sagan was built to make escape particularly difficult, especially tunnelling. This did not stop the prisoners who dug through more than 100 yards of loose sand, enabling seventy-six men to escape. All but three of the men were recaptured, however, and fifty were executed by the Germans. There is a chapter detailing the punishments meted out for attempting to escape, and lists the number of shooting incidents. This account provides the reader with an accurate and unprecedented insight into life in a German PoW camp in the latter years of the Second World War.
Stalag Luft III is best known for two escape plots by Allied POWs, one in 1943 that became the basis of a fictionalised film, The Wooden Horse. The second breakout the so-called Great Escape of March 1944, which was conceived by Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, and was authorised by the senior British officer at Stalag Luft III, Herbert Massey. It was this this breakout that featured in the heavily fictionalised version that was was depicted in the film, “The Great Escape”