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The Great Escape that still inspires

March 26th, 2014
08:26 AM ET

By Lucky Gold

Russia's land grab in Crimea has heightened tensions throughout Eastern Europe, rekindling memories of World War II, when Stalin's Red Army carved up countries like Poland, and devoured them with its Axis partner, Nazi Germany.

Now imagine a world where one bright memory from that same dark time still quickens the blood in the cause of freedom.

Survivors gathered and flowers were laid to remember 70 years ago, when some 76 allied prisoners slipped out of their prisoner of war camp with forged documents and improvised civilian clothing – hoping to make it to freedom.

It was called the great escape, and it was famously depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster of 1963, starring Steve McQueen.

It showed how hundreds of prisoners of war planned and executed the daring breakout.

As in the movie, the real great escape was launched from a Nazi prisoner of war camp located in what is now western Poland.

Hundreds of prisoners spent more than a year secretly digging tunnels code-named Tom, Dick and Harry. Tom and Dick were discovered by the guards, but Harry survived – running 100 meters beneath the camp.

Of the many prisoners who tried, only three avoided capture and made it back to England. Of the rest, 50 were gunned down by the Gestapo, a war crime that Adolph Hitler personally ordered.

Those 50 and their fellow prisoners were remembered today with flowers and ceremony.

But Poland and the rest of Russia's anxious neighbors, may be contemplating another kind of great escape to come.

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    Great Movie about a great event in history. Some interesting information on the event below.

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/03/21/seventy-years-later-a-former-pow-remembers-the-very-canadian-reality-of-the-great-escape/

    March 26, 2014 at 10:15 am | Reply
  2. blah

    axis partner? someone needs a history lesson!

    March 26, 2014 at 10:51 am | Reply
    • Miguelix

      Actually Russia (then Soviet Union) started with the Germany the II World War. Germany invaded Poland on 1st SEP 1939, Soviet Union joined Germans in 17th SEP 1939, by invading eastern part of Poland using the same pretext as with 'stealing' the Crimea – to protect russian speaking minorities. The alliance between Germans (Nazis) and Russians (Soviet Union) is called Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

      March 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Reply
    • Scrable

      Yep someone needs a history lesson. Russia was allied with Germany in WW2 with the secret Ribbentrop Pact.
      Well, you could say that Russia was as bad as Germany, but Russia was actually worse for a longer period.

      April 11, 2014 at 7:35 pm | Reply
  3. Storm Cunningham (@restorm)

    Yeah, it was a great movie, but horribly inaccurate. In typical Hollywood style, they Americanized the story, with major roles for American POWs. In actual fact, not a single American was involved. The tunnel digging was organized by Canadians with mining backgrounds, and the rest were from various allied nations like Australia, New Zealand, and Britain.

    March 26, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  4. Germany and Russia Axis partners?

    First time I ever read that Russia and Nazi Germany were Axis partners. The intern who wrote this piece must have missed world history class the day WW2 was discussed.

    March 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Reply
    • Eric

      Actually, Russia and Germany were partners at the time of the invasion of Poland.

      March 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  5. Peter Law

    Storm Cunningham, Americans were heavily involved in the planning and digging of the three tunnels. In fact, an American, Col Charles Goodrich, was the Senior Allied Officer at the time the plan was approved. Goodrich and most of the other Americans were moved to the newly constructed South Compound of Stalag Luft III weeks before the escape.
    Further correction: Dick was NEVER discovered by the Germans. Dick and Harry were closed when all the effort went into Tom. Harry was re-opened after Tom was discovered. Dick is still there, although probably collapsed by now.

    March 27, 2014 at 7:43 am | Reply
  6. sthsth

    53 تحذير
    قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه ( يوتيوب, فيس بوك, تويتر,غرف الشات..) للتجسس!
    warning you may be watched
    do usa & israel use the internet ( youtube, facebook, twitter, chat rooms,ect...)to collect informations,,,,can we call that spying ?do they record&analyse everything on the internet?
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,place of work,ur mobile number.............ect, can they harm you using these informations?!
    تحذير
    قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه ( يوتيوب, فيس بوك, تويتر,غرف الشات..) للتجسس!
    warning you may be watched
    do usa & israel use the internet ( youtube, facebook, twitter, chat rooms,ect...)to collect informations,,,,can we call that spying ?do they record&analyse everything on the internet?
    why they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,place of work,ur mobile number.............ect, can they use these informations in a way that may harm you?!
    تحذير قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه ( يوتيوب, فيس بوك, تويتر,غرف الشات..) للتجسس!
    warning you may be watched
    do usa & israel use the internet ( youtube, facebook, twitter, chat rooms,ect...)to collect informations,,,,can we call that spying ?do they record&analyse everything on the internet?
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,place of work,ur mobile number.............ect, can they harm you using these informations?!

    March 27, 2014 at 8:00 am | Reply
  7. sthsth

    97 تحذير
    قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه ( يوتيوب, فيس بوك, تويتر,غرف الشات..) للتجسس!
    warning you may be watched
    do usa & israel use the internet ( youtube, facebook, twitter, chat rooms,ect...)to collect informations,,,,can we call that spying ?do they record&analyse everything on the internet?
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,place of work,ur mobile number.............ect, can they harm you using these informations?!
    تحذير
    قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه ( يوتيوب, فيس بوك, تويتر,غرف الشات..) للتجسس!
    warning you may be watched
    do usa & israel use the internet ( youtube, facebook, twitter, chat rooms,ect...)to collect informations,,,,can we call that spying ?do they record&analyse everything on the internet?
    why they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,place of work,ur mobile number.............ect, can they use these informations in a way that may harm you?!
    تحذير قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه ( يوتيوب, فيس بوك, تويتر,غرف الشات..) للتجسس!
    warning you may be watched
    do usa & israel use the internet ( youtube, facebook, twitter, chat rooms,ect...)to collect informations,,,,can we call that spying ?do they record&analyse everything on the internet?
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,place of work,ur mobile number.............ect, can they harm you using these informations?!

    March 27, 2014 at 8:16 am | Reply
  8. godson

    America is acting as she and her allies are afraid of russia.no decission in cyria,no concret decission an actions againts Russia.if nothing is done,=3rd world war.mr Amerca,act fast as though it was in africa .the ealier,the beter 4the world.

    March 28, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Reply
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