History of the Camp

Chronology

The name of the camp changed several times and had a turbulent history. From October 1942, it was called “Stalag Luft I”.

1 July 1940: Opening of a prisoner of war camp in Barth for downed airmen of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Commonwealth Air Forces in the direct vicinity of air defence training barracks (Flak Training School in Barth). It consisted of a west and a south camp, which were later combined as “Main Camp”. These POWs were treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention from 1929.

January 1942: First Soviet prisoners of war came into the camp. They were not treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention and were forced to do the dirtiest and hardest work.

April 1942: Prisoners of war were transferred to Stalag Luft III in Sagan (then Silesia, Germany).

May – October 1942: Redesign and expansion of the camp.

October 1942 – November 1943: Admission of approximately 1,200 corporals of the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth Air Forces.

November 1943: Transfer of all prisoners of war to Stalag Luft VI in Heydekrug (then East Prussia, Germany).

From November 1943 to December 1944: Further compounds were opened in quick succession. Finally Stalag Luft I consisted of four sub-camps: a Main Compound, Compounds North I, North II and North III, all north compounds housed exclusively officers from the American Army Air Force (USAAF). However, some US POWs remained in the Main Camp, together with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) POWs.  Among the RAF POWs there were also volunteers from various German-occupied countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, France, Norway, Greece and Yugoslavia, as well as airmen from the countries of the then British Commonwealth such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In addition, there was a German administrative area and a German Fore-Camp for the guards, in which there was a fenced-in barracks for the Soviet soldiers.

After 25 September 1944, the administration of Stalag Luft I remained in the hands of officers of the Luftwaffe, although Heinrich Himmler and the SS took over the supreme command for all POWs from the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW).

January 1945: Isolation of the Jewish US officers in a separated part of camp North I.

February 1945: At that time, 8,346 prisoners of war were in Stalag Luft I, 7,202 of which were  Americans , 1,144 British, 260 Canadians, 59 Australians, 49 South Africans, 30 New Zealanders, 5 Rhodesians, 1 Liberian, 34 newcomers (according to a report by Monsieur Bovey, a representative of the Swiss protecting power).

30 April 1945: After the retreat of the German camp guards, Stalag Luft I became self-governed under the senior western allied officers, Colonel Hubert Zemke (USAAF) and Group Captain Cecil Weir (RCAF: Royal Canadian Air Force), and their staff.

1 and 2 May 1945: Unconditional surrender of the town of Barth towards an officer of the Red Army in the presence of American and British officers.

Between 13 and 15 May 1945: “Operation Revival”: Airlift from Barth to England and France for the evacuation of the liberated western allied POWs.

May – October 1945: The Soviet secret service (NKVD) used the camp as filtration and verification camp for former Soviet prisoners of war and forced laborers of the Germans.