Away from Colditz

S.P. MacKenzie asks why Colditz, the prisoner-of-war camp that saw escape attempts by 316 men in the Second World War, has captured a particular place in the historical memory.

Almost sixty years after it ceased to function as a prisoner-of-war camp, Colditz continues to resonate in the British public imagination. Mention the name anywhere in the United Kingdom, and it will instantly conjure up images of plucky and inventive officer prisoners succeeding, despite the odds, in breaking out of the notorious German castle from which escape was supposed to be impossible. In much of the press the name has become a synonym for any harsh institutional regimen, while in the last five decades its position as escape capital of the Third Reich has been reinforced by a feature film and a stream of memoirs, popular histories, board games, and television series.

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