Colditz Castle: From Nazi Prison to Youth Hostel | DW Travel | DW | 01.07.2007
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Colditz Castle: From Nazi Prison to Youth Hostel

Prisoners of war were housed in Colditz Castle in the eastern German state of Saxony during the early 1940s. Now travelers can stop there for the night voluntarily.


Colditz Castle was built in the late 16th century

Colditz Castle was the scene of numerous spectacular escape attempts by Allied officers during World War Two. The place is mentioned in British history books and exciting Colditz Castle prison stories live on in films and television stories.

British citizen Hugh Bruce spent two and a half years locked up in Colditz Castle, which looms high above the 6,000-person Saxon town of the same name. Now he shows tourists around the site.

Bruce recalled two Polish officers who tried to escape by sliding down ropes lowered through their cell windows. They didn't make it far, however.

"The Germans opened the windows and looked out and there they were, suspended (by the ropes), so they ran around on the outside and shouted, 'Hände hoch!' -- 'Hands up!'" said Bruce.

Schloß Colditz

It must have looked much less romantic to the prisoners

Hearing stories like this helps visitors get a feel for the Colditz myth. They can also learn about spectacular attempts by captives to dig tunnels or build makeshift gliders under the noses of their German guards.

Following the traces of history

In a clever marketing move, Saxony has pumped seven and a half million euros into a section of the castle to turn it into a youth hostel meant to attract visitors from all over Europe and the US.

"It's a very big experience to come here and find all this history, and follow the traces of officers who tried to escape here," said marketing expert Ulrike Peter.

Alan Russell from Britain and head of the Dresden Trust agrees that placing a youth hostel in Colditz Castle is a terrific idea.

"It's not only the history of a prisoner of war camp but of a great Renaissance castle," said Russell. "I think that, certainly in my own country in the United Kingdom, knowledge of German architecture is somewhat woeful, so it's very good that they can have a chance to see it."

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