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Zeithain
The PoW hut (Zeithain)
The information centre (Zeithain)
Wittenberg
Zahna
Leipzig
Bitterfeld
Muldenstein
 

Zeithain

About 12 km/7.5 miles to the southeast of Muhlberg is the village of Zeithain. Nearby, in the memorial grove to the many Russians found in mass graves after the war, a genuine wooden PoW hut (like the ones you see in war films) has been re-erected to show their living conditions.

The Memorial Grove is on the B169 road (signposted Groditz) about 2kms/1 miles northeast of Zeithain village. Just as you leave the industrial area flanking the road, you will see a pink stone obelisk on the right, which marks the entrance.

Follow the track past the obelisk and park in front of the impressive triple arch at the entrance. Beyond is the little white information centre and the PoW hut alongside. NB the information centre closes on Fridays at 2pm.

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ZEITHAIN: Obelisk          Entrance archway         Memorial column
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The PoW hut (Zeithain)

Disappointingly this is not furnished with the rows of bunk beds etc that you would expect. It does however hold a hi-tech exhibition of photographs and artefacts from the camp plus a constant slide show and even a computer archive. It does however confirm the fact that our PoW fathers/grandfathers etc did indeed have to survive in what was no more than a large "garden shed" with no insulation and little heating.

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PoW hut                                  Hut interior...                    and display
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The information centre (Zeithain)

Alongside the hut is the information centre which houses a small display giving the history of the camp here (lager 304 for Soviet PoW).  It also holds archive material and is the office of two researchers doing similar work to the DIZ centre in Torgau (qv). One of the staff there at the time of my visit (and still there in 2007) spoke near perfect English and knew virtually everything about the camps in Military Area IV.

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Information centre
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Wittenberg

Now a UNESCO world heritage site, the historic city of Wittenberg or Lutherstadt Wittenberg to give it its full name is about 80 km/50 miles north of Leipzig. Parking is fairly easy and the tourist office is in the corner of the main church square. The museum and library are closed on Saturdays. There is an exhibition of "everyday life in the GDR" (East Germany) just up the road. The city archive is situated at the rear of the central church next to the museum entrance but seems far more concerned with the city's connection with Martin Luther than anything as recent as WWII.

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WITTENBERG: Castle                   Main street
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Zahna

14 km/9miles northeast of Wittenberg, the little town of Zahna is where my father was hospitalised twice in 1944/5. In 2004 I went there on a Saturday and found everything closed so go in the week if you want information from the town hall which doubles as the tourist information office. In 2007 the staff in the town hall were very obliging despite their limited English. I was informed that the splendid pink Baroque-style building which I stumbled across on my previous visit was indeed the old town hospital and it was used during the war to treat both PoW and German troops. I was driven to there, told that it is now used as a kindergarten and junior school, and given a full tour both inside and out including the chapel in the oldest part of the building.

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Main street                                     The old hospital with inscription                      Town hall

 

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Leipzig

There is a fascinating book by former Bandsman David Kidd called simply "POW" which describes his experiences working as an orderly in the PoW infirmary in central Leipzig. The job gave him the privilege of being able to roam the city in full British military uniform for over a year towards the end of the war. As well as the infirmary building itself at no 6 Gneisenaustrasse, he details his obsession with the huge Teutonic memorial called the Denkmal and the idyllic Auensee swimming lake in the summer of 1944. My father must have been processed in this infirmary as he spent a month in Leipzig hospital. His stay may have been in Gneisenaustrasse itself or in the main hospital, but it is quite possible indeed probable that Kidd dealt with my father.

No 6 Gneisenaustrasse is still there in its original state: an impressive building if a little worn round the edges. The Denkmal is out in the southeast suburbs near the sprawling old exhibition site and built on a gigantic scale to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon in 1813 at the battle of Leipzig. The Auensee lake is in the northwest suburb of Wahren. No longer used for swimming but the old wheeled changing cabins are still there parked in their compound. It is still a beauty spot with a mini-train circling the lake. You can certainly see what a magical place it must have been in high summer with war going on all around.

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LEIPZIG:  No 6                              Nordstrasse               Auensee lake     Denkmal monument     View from Denkmal Gneisenaustrasse
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Bitterfeld

Bitterfeld is 45 km/28 miles north of Leipzig straight up the B184. On the way you can go through the centre of Delitzsch with its maze of narrow, cobbled one-way streets in the old town and see the obligatory town hall, market square and schloss (castle).

Although Bitterfeld is a sprawling industrial town and major railway junction, the old central market square is picture book stuff with historic buildings all dominated by the town hall. Adjacent to the town hall is the museum which is closed on Saturdays but open on Sundays. Inside an impressive display explains how coal "briquettes" were made from compressed "brown coal" dug from the many local opencast mines in the area. These briquettes were obviously a major source of power for the Third Reich's war effort and one of the displays mentions PoW labour during the war as well as "forced labour".

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BITTERFELD: Square       Museum & church        Museum displays on local coal mining & briquette manufacture      
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Muldenstein

This is a tiny village about 8 km/5 miles northeast of Bitterfeld. The former work camp is just outside the village across the bridge over the River Mulde. There is a map board at the turn off the main road giving details of pleasant country walks in what is now a country park alongside the river.

Bitterfeld_Muldenstein_poss_arb_kdo_2-1.JPG (18551 bytes)   Muldenstien former arbeitskommando (work camp)
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(Last updated 23 August 2009 )

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