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Western Poland (#15): Żagań

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Published on Aug 18, 2011

Zagan, first mentioned in a 1202 deed, then belonged the Duchy of Lower Silesia at Wroclaw under the rule of the Piast duke Henry I the Bearded. In 1251 it was part of the newly created Duchy of Glogów under Henry's grandson Konrad I.

After Konrad's death in 1274 heirs again divided the duchy and the castle of Zagan became the residence of his youngest son Przemko of Scinawa, Duke of Zagan from 1278, who established a monastery of the Augustinian Canons here. Thus the Duchy of Zagan came into the existence. In 1284 he swapped his estates for the Duchy of Scinawa and was succeeded by his elder brother Konrad II the Hunchback. When Konrad II died in 1304 all former Glogów estates were re-unified under his surviving brother Henry III.

In 1309 Henry III of Glogów was followed by his eldest son Henry IV the Faithful, who in 1321 again had to divide the duchy among him and his younger brothers. He ceded Glogów to Przemko II and retired to Zlagan, which again became the capital of a duchy in his own right. In 1329 all sons of Henry III of Glogów became vassals of John of Luxembourg, the King of Bohemia - with the exception of Przemko II who died suddenly two years later. When in 1393 Henry VI the Older, grandson of Henry IV died without issue, the estates were again re-unified with Glogów until in 1412 Jan I, the eldest son of Duke Henry VIII the Sparrow became the sole rule of the Zlagan duchy. After a fierce battle for the inheritance his son Jan II the Mad finally sold it to Duke Albert III of Saxony from the House of Wettin, thus ending the centuries-long Piast rule.

(Stammlager Luft, or Permanent Camp for Airmen #3) was a Luftwaffe run prisoner-of-war camp during World War II that housed captured air force servicemen. It was in the Province of Silesia near Sagan, now Zagan in Poland, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Berlin.

The site was selected because it would be difficult to escape by tunneling. However, the camp is best known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling, which were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950), and the books by former prisoners Paul Brickhill and Eric Williams from which these films were adapted.

The camp ... Despite being an officers-only camp, it was referred to as a Stalag camp rather than Oflag (Offizier Lager) as the Luftwaffe had their own nomenclature. Later camp expansions added compounds for non-commissioned officers. Captured Royal Navy crew was considered to be Air Force by the Luftwaffe and no differentiation was made. At times non-airmen were interned.

The first compound (East Compound) of the camp was completed and opened on 21 March 1942. The first prisoners, or kriegies, as they called themselves, to be housed at Stalag Luft III were British RAF and Fleet Air Arm officers, arriving in April 1942. The Centre compound was opened on 11 April 1942, originally for British sergeants, but by the end of 1942 replaced by Americans. The North Compound for British airmen, where the Great Escape occurred, opened on 29 March 1943.

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