Stalag XXA was a Second World War German POW camp for noncommissioned officers located in Nazi occupied Torun, in northern Poland. The camp consisted of fifteen forts, which in September 1939, under the name of Stalag 357, was used to house Polish POWs who were captured after German forces had taken the Polish fort at Westerplatte. British POWs didn’t arrive at the camp until June 1940, and were those captured during the Allied campaign in Norway, the evacuations of the British at Dunkirk, and the men of the 51st (Highland) Division at St. Valery. At its peak, the camp housed more than 10,000 men and was liberated by Russian forces on 1 February 1945.
This book examines in detail what life was like in the camp for those held there, which over the course of the war numbered more than 60,000 men, including Polish, French, Belgians, British, Yugoslavians, Russians, Americans, Italians and Norwegians.
The bulk of the book is based on a diary kept by Leonard Parker, a POW at Stalag XXA who was forced to undertake a march from the camp, commencing on 19 January 1945, taking himself and his comrades to the Russian port of Odessa. It was a difficult march undertaken in harsh wintery conditions, where lack of food, the cold, and the fear of death were their constant companions.
The final leg of their liberation saw the men of Stalag XXA board the Duchess of Richmond at Odessa, before arriving at Greenock, Scotland, on 17 April 1945, and finally finding their freedom.