Rebel with a cause - Three pioneering female travellers
By Sukie Chapman
8 March 2019
Ferdinand Magellan, Captain James Cook, Marco Polo, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Ranulph Fiennes. What do they all have in common?Read more
Perched on a rocky outcrop some distance above the Mulde River, the Renaissance castle at Colditz was built in its strategic position to defend the town from invaders. Yet in its defensive position it was also difficult to escape from at speed, and for this reason it was chosen by the Nazis as one of their most infamous high-security prisons. The castle was first used as a prison in 1933, when the Nazis came to power. Communists, Jews and other "undesirables" were kept there.
Then, with the outbreak of World War II, it became Oflag IV-C, a maximum-security prison for Allied prisoners of war (POWs). Each POW held there had attempted escape from at least one other prison. With so many people determined to escape, many ideas were pooled and then put into practice. Hundreds were foiled almost instantly, and in the end just 31 Allied POWs made it out before Colditz was liberated in April 1945. Of the British escapees, Peter Allen, Patrick Reid and Airey Neave are perhaps the most famous.
Experiencing the past
In the post-war years Colditz became part of East Germany, and the notorious castle was largely neglected. It was used as a nursing home for a number of years before reunification, when it was restored with a museum detailing its incredible history. Today, the moving museum includes a variety of escape devices made and used by the prisoners.