Since my trip to Italy
in 2003 I have visited Germany twice – in 2004 to visit the site of Stalag
IV-B at Muhlberg, and in 2007 to visit Stalag IV-D at Torgau.
I was particularly interested to try and find the location of the
arbeitskommando (work camp) where my father was sent. Even experts admit that no
comprehensive records of these seem to exist despite the famous claim to efficiency and bureaucracy of the Third Reich. And because this is in the old
German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany), much more emphasis is put on Russian maltreatment of Germans after the war than German treatment of Allied
PoW during it.
Few people in this part of Germany speak English – whether dealing with tourists or not. They can of course often converse in Russian! So come with a dictionary and whatever German you can muster from school or wherever.
NB many offices, museums, exhibitions etc seem to close completely or at noon on Fridays in this part of Germany. They also often close for a half-day mid-week. Check opening times of all official buildings before visiting if you can to save wasted journeys.
I flew no-frills with Ryanair to
Altenburg with its bumpy old runway, which was also quite short and required severe braking. The tiny terminal only has one luggage belt, very slow
security and passport control and the immigration officials still tote pistols on their hips. Other airlines fly to Halle, Leipzig's official airport.
My Hertz rental car was waiting at the far side of the car park so if
you are not travelling alone and you have heavy luggage, send one person for the car while the other waits by the terminal.
Try to get a map or directions to your accommodation before you arrive or remember to ask the Hertz agent when you get there. NB
Altenburg-Nobitz airport is to the east of Altenburg and you do not have to go anywhere near the town if you are heading for Leipzig or any other point
north or east.
On my first trip I based myself in Leipzig so, from the airport, headed for the B95
and just followed it approx 50 kms/31 miles north to the city. Getting to the centre
(Zentrum) is easy enough but trying to find the right road out is not. Make sure you have a decent map even if it's the one from the airport, as Leipzig can be tricky if you don't know where you are going.
I stayed at the hotel Achat in the suburb of Wiederitzch – a bargain at about €42 (£28) per night (single B&B)
booked through Ryanair's website. For me it was in the right location
– out of the city to the north where all my target places to visit were located. Plenty of parking, clean, modern and a very comprehensive buffet breakfast. The pleasant young receptionist was one of the few people I met
who spoke English on that visit.
If you don't have one before you go, the first thing you need to buy is a detailed road map of the area. I got an excellent one of Sachsen (Saxony) by Kummerley & Frey for €6.50 at a large stationery shop in the main train station which doubles as a huge shopping and eating mall, open all hours and all days. Alternatively the tourist office near the station may be able to provide suitable maps.
On my second trip
I stayed at Torgau itself, approx 120 kms/75 miles northeast from the
airport. There are various routes to take with the simplest, but not the
shortest, via Leipzig then using the B87 via Taucha and Eilenburg. I went
cross-country via Colditz, Grimma, Wurzen and Gneisenaustadt Schildau which took
about 2½ hours.
I stayed at the
excellent hotel Goldener Anker right on the main square of Torgau
opposite the town hall (Rathaus) and within easy walking distance of all the
restaurants, the castle and the stalag buildings themselves. I booked
online through www.tiscover.de . Very
reasonable at €41/£28.25 per night single room B&B in July. A
comprehensive breakfast buffet is served on a sunny open-air terrace when weather
allows. It has a good restaurant and all-round friendly service.