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.
ZEITHAIN: Obelisk Entrance archway Memorial column
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.
PoW hut Hut interior... and display
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.
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.
WITTENBERG: Castle Main street
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.
Main street The old hospital with inscription Town hall
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.
LEIPZIG: No 6 Nordstrasse Auensee lake Denkmal monument View from Denkmal Gneisenaustrasse
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).
BITTERFELD: Square Museum & church Museum displays on local coal mining & briquette manufacture
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.
(Last updated 23 August 2009 )