Stalag XXA Thorn

War time place name:
Thorn
Contemporary local place name:
Toruń

Bydgoska 20, 87-100 Toruń, Poland

Overview

Stalag XXA was a German prisoner-of-war camp in World War II, located in and around (then) Thorn, now Toruń, a town in the Pomeranian Voivodship district of Poland. At its peak, in 1944, it held some 20,000 Polish, British, French, Belgian, Serbian, Soviet, Italian, and Commonwealth PoWs. The camp was disbanded in early 1945.

Location

The main camp site located in Toruń, centred on a series of eight old brick forts which had been built during Napoleonic times.  Prisoners were lodged in what had been the barracks, associated with each fort.   Of the sixteen original forts (which had formed a ring around mediaeval Toruń), Forts 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 were re-deployed as part of the POW camp.

Timeline 1939-45

In 1939 the first prisoners were Polish, following the German invasion of their homeland. Many British forces were imprisoned in mid-1940 following the losses at Dunkirk and Saint-Valery.  Originally, prisoner facilities were temporary and very poor, but by 1942 many purpose built structures had been added, including barracks, administrative buildings, medical facilities, a library and theatres. At its peak occupancy in 1944, the camp and sub-camps held some 20,000 men. Following Germany’s push east, many Soviet prisoners were added in 1942-43 and Italian prisoners after Italy’s capitulation in 1943.

Work Groups at the Camp

Additional sub-camps were established during 1939-44 around Toruń and nearby Bydgoszcz (German name, Bromberg). These were mostly in wooden hut barracks, close to the sites of work to be performed by the various Arbeitskommando (work groups). There were almost one hundred such work groups, each assigned to some specific activity.  Some 6,000 POWs were held at the central forts, but 80% of the prisoners were working outside in the work groups, labouring in agriculture, road and sewerage work, house construction (for incoming German colonists), factories and mills.  One of the most significant sites was a secret explosives factory (DAG Fabrik Bromberg) hidden in a forest south of Bydgoszcz. Here, the POWs worked on railway and road works, as the Geneva Convention forbade direct war production work.

Life at the Camp

Over time, a series of activities was organised by the POWs including a theatre, a library (with censored books), various sports, especially boxing and football, and musical bands using borrowed instruments.  The camp received visits from the Red Cross, under the Geneva Convention. The inspectors from the Red Cross would work with the camp “Man of Confidence” to highlight issues and shortages for action (or not) by The German authorities.

A Personal Story

From a POW’s diary, June 1940 arrival at Stalag XXA:

“At last the truck doors were opened. We were met by German officers who informed us that we were in the former Polish Corridor. Many of the lads fainted. Exhausted, filthy – onlookers were distressed at our terrible condition. So we arrived in Fort 17, heavily guarded with walls, double barbed wire, machine guns. We flung away the wretched old tins, were issued with spoon, plate or mess tin and 1/3 loaf dark bread. Twenty of us lay down in the straw in a fine room two stories up. There was now hope of regular food and rest, clean bodies and clothing. I had not shaved for three weeks. When night fell the first thing that struck us was the glare of the town for there was no black-out in force here. The adjoining station was brilliantly lit. Thorn radio tower had coloured lights on it. Everywhere in the soft summer night there was an air of restfulness. We were away from the engines of war”.

Escape

Given the location and distances involved, escape from Stalag XXA was very difficult. Most POWs who did escape travelled east to an uncertain fate in Russia, although they were eventually repatriated. Other possible but very difficult routes were west through Germany or north to the Baltic and on to Sweden.

1945, The March

German resistance to the advance from Russia crumbled in early 1945, and in February of that year the camp was abandoned to the oncoming forces from the east. Marching groups of 100-400 were formed, and the prisoners were marched west towards central Germany. There was much hardship through this march, covering some 25Km per day. Some chose to slip off the back of the march, or otherwise left behind to be overtaken by Russian forces, and (if British) eventually get home. The bulk of the march was finally met in April/May 1945 by advancing American and British forces, to be repatriated.  Some groups were transported east to be repatriated by ship from Odessa.

The site today

Toruń and Bydgoszcz are a fairly easy journey from UK as there is a direct flight from Stanstead. Many of the work group sites are now lost, and even their location is unknown. The central forts in Toruń still exist and some can be visited. Some sites are now occupied by the modern Polish Army, and thus are off-limits.  The Dynamit AG factory site south of Bydgoszcz is now a museum (called The Exploseum) which amongst much else documents the POWs work. There is a permanent memorial to the British prisoners of the camp at Fort 13 in Toruń.

 Sources

  • Stalag XXA POW camp in Torun 1939-1945, Hanna Bukoswsak
  • Stalag XXA and the Enforced March from Poland, Stephen Wynn
  • Hitler’s British Slaves, Sean Longden
  • Wikipedia, Stalag XXA
  • Red Cross inspection reports, National Archives
  • Personal visit by the author and personal papers

 

Compiled by Doug Neilson

Found 8933 POWs

View these result on a separate page

Last name First name Rank Nationality Unit Service number Camp POW number
Abbey Leslie Herbert Private British Army, King's Royal Rifle Corps 370900 Stalag XXA Thorn 13691
Abbey Alfred Private British Army, West Yorkshire Regiment 4540139 Stalag XXA Thorn 13082
Abbott William C H Gunner British Army, Royal Artillery 6515851 Stalag XXA Thorn 15678
Abbott William James Lance Corporal British Army, Royal Engineers 2053173 Stalag XXA Thorn 13697
Abbott Frederick John Private British Army, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) 6335511 Stalag XXA Thorn 8693
Abbott Auber Wilfred Private British Army, Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps 2184786 Stalag XXA Thorn 9115
Abel Andrew Sergeant British Army, Royal Army Medical Corps 7345473 Stalag XXA Thorn 18689
Abercromby Ralph Private British Army, Seaforth Highlanders 2819066 Stalag XXA Thorn 16246
Aberdein Andrew Private British Army, Gordon Highlanders 2881739 Stalag XXA Thorn 5301
Abernethy John James Private British Army, Border Regiment 3601473 Stalag XXA Thorn 13872
Abraham Robert Sapper British Army, Royal Engineers 1862828 Stalag XXA Thorn 15077
Abrahams Lionel Gunner British Army, Royal Artillery 941019 Stalag XXA Thorn 13024
Abrams Arthur Private British Army, The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment 6465800 Stalag XXA Thorn 19171
Ackerley William Fusilier British Army, Lancashire Fusiliers 3450922 Stalag XXA Thorn 10833
Ackland Walter Private British Army, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) 6288176 Stalag XXA Thorn 6772
Ackland Norman Roy Sergeant British Army, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers 46409 Stalag XXA Thorn 6202
Acott Leslie Frederick Bombardier British Army, Royal Artillery 876306 Stalag XXA Thorn 19128
Acton George Henry Private British Army, King's Shropshire Light Infantry 4031413 Stalag XXA Thorn 11783
Acton Andrew Meldrum Private British Army, Durham Light Infantry 4452464 Stalag XXA Thorn 6367
Adair William Private British Army, Border Regiment 3597713 Stalag XXA Thorn 11427
Adam Robert R Private British Army, Gordon Highlanders 2882841 Stalag XXA Thorn 17146
Adams Harry Corporal British Army, Green Howards 4380324 Stalag XXA Thorn 20130
Adams Hugh McC Corporal British Army, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders 2927069 Stalag XXA Thorn 17444
Adams Arthur Driver British Army, Royal Army Service Corps 123050 Stalag XXA Thorn 15101
Adams Frank B Gunner British Army, Royal Artillery 2056097 Stalag XXA Thorn 8379
Adams George Ernest Gunner British Army, Royal Artillery 1508603 Stalag XXA Thorn 7019
Adams Idris Raymond Gunner British Army, Royal Artillery 1529621 Stalag XXA Thorn 17639
Adams William Lance Corporal British Army, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) 6281508 Stalag XXA Thorn 11198
Adams Percy Private British Army, Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps 13014906 Stalag XXA Thorn 11135
Adams Andrew Private British Army, Royal Army Ordnance Corps 6975115 Stalag XXA Thorn 8212
Adams Douglas George Victor Private British Army, Royal Engineers 2078906 Stalag XXA Thorn 6451
Adams Robert Private British Army, Royal Scots Fusiliers 3185649 Stalag XXA Thorn 12176
Adams Thomas Private British Army, Royal Engineers 1897165 Stalag XXA Thorn 19308
Adams Walter Private British Army, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) Stalag XXA Thorn 5366
Adams Jack William Private British Army, Royal Artillery 1398364 Stalag XXA Thorn 8512
Adams John Private British Army 2877028 Stalag XXA Thorn 17222
Adams Malcolm John Private British Army, Royal Army Medical Corps 7362276 Stalag XXA Thorn 19391
Adams James Forbes Private British Army, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) 2929674 Stalag XXA Thorn 18392
Adams Robert Private British Army 4271549 Stalag XXA Thorn 17686
Adams John Private British Army, Royal Warwickshire Regiment Stalag XXA Thorn 12200
Adams Charles Sidney Private British Army, The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment 6345758 Stalag XXA Thorn 8426
Adams James Sapper British Army, Royal Engineers 2074402 Stalag XXA Thorn 14146
Adams James Sergeant British Army, Royal Engineers 19922 Stalag XXA Thorn 15241
Adams William Sergeant British Army, North Staffordshire Regiment 4914263 Stalag XXA Thorn 15859
Adams Ronald Sergeant British Army, Royal Warwickshire Regiment 5111739 Stalag XXA Thorn 12497
Adams Frank Sergeant British Army, Lancashire Fusiliers 3450605 Stalag XXA Thorn 20472
Adamson Wilhelm Corporal British Army, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 4263330 Stalag XXA Thorn 26024
Adamson Leslie Corporal British Army, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 4688258 Stalag XXA Thorn 5023
Adamson William Private British Army, Black Watch 2933021 Stalag XXA Thorn 17846
Adamson Thomas Private British British Army, Black Watch 2753651 Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf / Stalag 344, Stalag XXA Thorn 20125

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