Descendants of British PoWs visit Lamsdorf prison museum

Over 80 family members of British World War II prisoners of war who spent time in the Stalag VIII B Lamsdorf German Army prisoner of war camp in present-day Łambinowice, southwestern Poland, visited the site on Tuesday.

The former inmates' relatives travelled to Łambinowice, near Opole, where the Central Museum of Prisoners of War is located.

"Mostly the children of the prisoners came, although among the guests I also saw whole multi-generational families," the museum's Magdalena Kruk-Kuchcińska told PAP. "These people often found out about their father's or grandfather's prison fate and time spent in captivity from documents and mementoes found after they had died. For some of them it's a real sentimental journey and an opportunity to confront the memories of their loved ones with their own imaginations on the subject of war."

One such person was Jeni Kingston, whose father John Shanks spent five years of the war in Stalag Lamsdorf VIII B.

"My father died at the age of 93. After his death, we found a file of records in the attic, memories of his imprisonment in this camp," Kingston explained. "He was an officer so he didn't have to work. But a lot of the memories were devoted to the everyday life of prisoners, packages from the Red Cross and waiting for freedom and a return home. I wish I could have brought him here. I think he would have liked to have visited this place."

The visit started with a march from the station in Sowin to the Łambinowice trail, which led the prisoners to the prison barracks.

"It was a special march," commented Kruk-Kuchcińska. "The prisoners had to pass along the old prison cemetery. It's easy to imagine what they thought looking at the graves of seven thousand soldiers who had died in Lamsdorf during the First World War. What's interesting is that that community still continues. Today, almost 80 years after those events, it turns out that people have made acquaintances, recognising their ancestors in the same prisoner photographs, they exchange information about their post-war fate."

The Lamsdorf camp complex was created during the Franco-Prussian war and operated during the First and Second World Wars. Soldiers from all the armies fighting Germany were imprisoned there. During WWII, around 300,000 prisoners of 50 nationalities passed through Lamsdorf.