More About The Long March

Find out more about the prisoners of war that were forced to march across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany between January and April 1945

Hundred of thousands of prisoners of war were held in German military prisons during World War II but when the end of the war came the suffering of many of these men was far from over.

Here you can find out more about the camps and the forced movement westward of the prisoners of war in 1945.

German prisoner-of-war camps were known as Stalags which was an abbreviation for Stammlager.

Stalags were operated in World War I and World War II and were intended for non-commissioned officers and privates. Officers were held in separate camps called Oflags.

Stalag Luft III was one of the biggest camps near Sagan in Germany (now Zagan in Poland). This camp was made famous by the 1963 film The Great Escape which was a fictionalised account of a real escape attempt in March 1944.

As the Soviet Army was advancing, German authorities decided to vacate the camps to delay the liberation of the prisoners.

It's estimated over 80,000 western Allied prisoners of war were forced to march across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in extreme winter conditions, over about four months between January and April 1945.

January and February 1945 were among the coldest winter months of the 20th century, with blizzards and temperatures as low as -25 °C (-13 °F) which is colder than the inside of a domestic freezer.Even until the middle of March, temperatures were well below 0 °C (32 °F).

The prisoners of war would march between 12 and 25 miles a day. The marches pushed the men – already weakened by years of poor rations - beyond the limits of their endurance. Their suffering was made worse by the fact they were wearing clothing ill-suited to the appalling winter conditions.

Hundreds died along the way of starvation, disease, malnutrition and exhaustion.

It was later estimated that a large number of prisoners of war had marched over 500 miles by the time they were liberated, and some had walked nearly a thousand miles.

In 2010, over 100 Royal Air Force personnel commemorated the 65th anniversary of The Long March, by re-enacting the Zagan to Spremberg route, 57 miles of the original 1,000 mile forced march. Accompanied by several veterans, the marchers held a memorial service at the Stalag Luft III museum and camped overnight in the same building the prisoners sheltered in 65 years previously.