Colditz Castle is perhaps most widely known as a top security POW camp utilised by the Nazis during World War II to detain Allied POWs who were thought of as "incorrigible". However, the castle is over 800 years old hence there is far more to its background than the six years when it was referred to as Oflag IV-C.
Construction started in the middle of the 12th century on the imposing castle built on a hill looking over Colditz in Saxony, Germany. Inside a few years, settlements appeared in the general vicinity of the castle and after about 250 years, it was sold by the Lords of Coldtiz.
A large inferno in the early 1500s meant that substantial sections of the castle had to be rebuilt in addition to the city hall, church and sizeable parts of the city. Over the ages, redevelopment and rebuilding building work saw the shape of the castle change and in the 1800s it was rebuilt yet again and utilised as a workhouse and afterwards a mental hospital until 1924.
In 1933, Hitler took control of Germany and altered the castle to a prison camp for political prisoners. Immediately after the beginning of World War II in 1939, prisoners of war were detained here. It was used to hold high risk POWs who were considered dangerous and more likely to try to break free. Despite the fact that it was a high security prison camp, the nature of the inmates at Oflag IV-C (it's prison camp name), meant there were many innovative escape attempts. There was even one plan where POWs planned to use a glider although it was never used as the Allies retook the castle before the escape effort could be made.
Colditz was a prison camp for officers and there were also some famous inmates including the British fighter ace, Douglas Bader, Patrick Reid who authored several books on Colditz after the war, Airey Neave who was the first officer to escape from the prison camp and was also ultimately elected to the British Parliament, Sir David Stirling who founded the Special Air Service and Charles Upham from New Zealand who was awarded the Victoria Cross and bar. One of the more notable of all was Giles Romilly who was the nephew of Winston Churchill's wife.
In recent years, Colditz Castle has been refurbished and is open to visitors to see this historic building for themselves.
Written and contributed by ratherton