STALAG Luft VI Heydekrug

Stalag Luft 6 was by far the most northern German WW II POW camp. On lists with POW camps it is always indicated as having been open from 06/’43-07/’44, but this camp has a much longer history. It was built in 1939 as Stalag 1C. The first prisoners were of Polish nationality. In 1940 French and Belgian prisoners were brought to the camp and in 1941 also Russian prisoners.

It is only in June, 1943 that it became a Stalag Luft for enlisted men, when British and Canadian NCOs (non-commissioned officers) came to the camp from Stalag Luft I in Barth. The first Americans arrived in Stalag Luft 6 in February 1944. Already at that time the Russian Army advanced into the Baltic States from the North and the East. The main American group of 1,500 left the camp on July 14, 1944 and were transported, by train, to the Baltic Port of Memel (now Klaipeda in Lithuania). On board of the steamers “Masuren” and “Itsteburg” they crossed the Baltic Sea to the German port of Swinemünde (now Swinoujscie in Poland). From there they were brought to Stalag Luft IV by train. Another group went by train directly from Heydekrug to Stalag Luft IV. But this did not mean that Stalag Luft 6 was closed.

After the camp had fallen in Russian hands, German prisoners and Lithuanian dissidents and partisans were the new occupants of the camp. This time it became a concentration camp and even changed its name to GULAG 3. Even when WW II was over, GULAG 3 remained populated with “prisoners of war” till 1948. From 1948 till 1952 it served as prison for Lithuanian civilians.

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