Stalag VIII-A

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Stalag VIII-A
Görlitz, Lower Silesia
Stalag VIII-A is located in Germany
Stalag VIII-A
Stalag VIII-A
Coordinates51°07′17″N 15°00′36″E / 51.12152°N 15.01002°E / 51.12152; 15.01002
TypePrisoner-of-war camp
Site information
Controlled by Nazi Germany
Site history
In use1939–1945
Garrison information
OccupantsAllied POW

Stalag VIII-A was a German World War II prisoner-of-war camp, located just to the south of the town of Görlitz, Lower Silesia, east of the River Neisse (now Zgorzelec, Poland).

Camp history[edit]

Originally a Hitler Youth camp, in October 1939 it was modified to house about 15,000 Polish prisoners from the German September 1939 offensive. It was initially a transit camp or Dulag located on an 18-hectare field alongside Ulica Lubańska, renamed as Stalag VIIIA on 23 September 1939. At the end of December 1939 the prisoners were transferred to the main camp in Moys, located on the right side of the road from Görlitz to Reichenau. It was the first prisoner of war camp in the military district VIII Breslau (Wroclaw). The camp covered about 30 ha.[1]

By June 1940 most of the Poles had been transferred to other camps and replaced with Belgian and French troops taken prisoner during the Battle of France. At one time there were over 30,000 jammed into facilities designed for 15,000. In 1941 a separate compound was created to house Soviet prisoners. In 1943 2,500 British Commonwealth soldiers came from the battles in Italy, among them residents from the British Isles, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.[1] Later in the same year more than 6000 Italian soldiers came[1] from Albania. A total of 47,328, the highest number of prisoners in Stalag VIII A was registered in September 1944. Numerically, Frenchmen were in the majority, followed by the Russians, Italians, Belgians, Britons and the Yugoslavs.[1] Finally in late December 1944 1,800 Americans arrived, captured in the Battle of the Bulge.

On 14 February 1945 the Americans and British were marched out of the camp westward in advance of the Soviet offensive into Germany.[2] The evacuation process was carried out gradually through to May 1945. The evacuation took place on foot, with all means of transport driving in front of the people for military purposes. The Long March claimed further victims. Some of the prisoners were taken to Bavaria, the others to Thuringia, where they were freed by the Allies. The last evacuation of the camp took place on 7 May 1945, when the Soviet army freed the prisoners.[1]

After the war, many graves of western soldiers were exhumed and sent back to their home countries. In 1948 the city council of Zgorzelec decided to have the barracks dismantled in order to use the materials to rebuild Warsaw and other Polish towns.[1]

In 1976 a memorial was erected on the site of the former commandant’s office by French and Polish veterans who had been POWs. On the sandstone plate next to the memorial it says: Stalag VIIIA: A place sanctified by the blood and martyrdom of the prisoners of war of the anti-Hitler coalition during the Second World War – 22.VII.1976 French veterans of the camp arranged for a marble slab to be attached to the memorial in 1994. On the slab it says in Polish and French: “1939 Stalag VIIIA 1945: Through this camp walked, in it lived and suffered ten thousands of prisoners of war”.[1]

Notable inmates[edit]

It was at VIII-A that Olivier Messiaen, a French prisoner, finished composing Quatuor pour la fin du temps, a famous work of chamber music. With the help of a friendly German guard, he acquired manuscript paper and pencils, and was able to assemble three other POWs to help him perform the piece for the rest of the camp.[3]


In 2014 a German-Polish joint project, the Meeting Point Music Messiaen e.V., built a European cultural centre near the site of the former POW camp Stalag VIII-A.[4] The idea of building a European Center of Education and Culture for children, the youth, artists, musicians and all the people of the European trinational region in this important place for European history emerged in December 2004. The role of the Center is not only to be a memorial place, but to give room for development and a broad range of artistic activities and creative development.[5] A map and detailed history of Stalag VIIA can be found on the website.[6]

In September 2017, the Centre hosted a conference entitled Stalag VIIIA and European memory of The Second World War POWs.[7]

The German Alternative-Rock Band Topictoday dedicated their Song "Helden ohne Namen" ("Heroes without Names") to the POWs of the camp, especially to Olivier Messiaen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "About Stalag VIIIA, Meeting Point Music Messiaen". Retrieved 11 Nov 2017.
  2. ^ "Stalag VIIIA". 2006. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  3. ^ Ross, Alex (March 22, 2004). "The Rest Is Noise: Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time". The New Yorker. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Meetingpoint Music Messiaen e.V." Retrieved 11 Nov 2017.
  5. ^ "European Center of Education and Culture". Retrieved 11 Nov 2017.
  6. ^ "About Stalag VIII A". Retrieved 11 Nov 2017.
  7. ^ "Stalag VIIIA and European memory of The Second World War POWs". Retrieved 11 Nov 2017.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Rischin, Rebecca (2003). For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-4136-6
  • McMullen, John William (2010). The Miracle of Stalag 8A Bird Brain Productions. ISBN 978-0982625521