top of page


Mourning the Dead of the Great Escape: POWs, Grief, and the Memorial Vault of Stalag Luft III | Dr. Kate Ariotti | UQ HAPI

Thursday, 13 October 2022




01-E302 Forgan Smith Building

On March 1944 seventy-six Allied prisoners of war (POWs) escaped from their German prison camp, Stalag Luft III. Nearly all were recaptured; fifty were later shot on Hitler's express order. In this paper, I focus on what happened in the period between the recapture of the POWs and the interment of their remains at Stalag Luft III. I will discuss the treatment of the escaper's bodies by German authorities, the dual narrative the grieving POW camp community composed to make sense of their comrades’ deaths, and their construction of a memorial vault to house the dead prisoner's remains. The paper reveals the deep emotional resonance of what came to be known as ‘the Great Escape’. It addresses a long-neglected aspect of the history of this infamous event of the Second World War and provides an example of some of the broader themes I am exploring in my ARC DECRA project: “Between Death and Commemoration: An Australian History of the War Corpse”.

bottom of page