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Woldenberg 1944

Sir Rols

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Fascinating story I came across in Inside The Games. It would be agreat exhibition to visit:

POW Games memorabilia is a true reflection of the Olympic spirit


Program for the Woldenberg Games


The Woldenberg Offlag II-C POW Olympics were held on July 23-30

The doors to the biggest exhibition of athletics memorabilia are now open in Barcelona as part of the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) Centenary celebrations.

Items from 256BC to the present day have been assembled from all around the world for the six-week display in the Museu Olímpic i de l'Esport Juan Antoni Samaranch, next door to the 1992 Olympic stadium on Montjuïc.

All the names you would expect to see are featured. There are medals won by Britain's fabled middle distance trio of Steve Ovett, Seb Coe and Steve Cram. There is a bronze of the Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi. There are spikes worn by Alberto Juantorena, and by Don Quarrie. There is a programme from the match that produced the Four Minute Mile at Iffley Road, Oxford, signed by Chris Brasher, Chris Chataway and Roger Bannister. There are shoes worn by Yelena Isinbayeva.

Among the riches, however, there are no more inspirational or poignant exhibits than those donated by Roberto Gesta de Melo, the IAAF's Brazilian area representative who has his own athletics museum in the middle of an Amazonian forest.

De Melo's contributions commemorate one of the most extraordinary manifestations of the Olympic spirit – the unofficial Games held in German prisoner of war camps in 1944.

The 1944 Olympics should have been held in London. Britain's capital defeated Rome, Detroit, Lausanne, Athens, Budapest, Helsinki and Montreal on the first ballot to earn that honour at the 38th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session.

But something came up.

Despite a raging world war, the IOC organised numerous events at its base in Switzerland to mark the 50th anniversary of its foundation. Between July 23 and August 15, however, another celebration took place which was even closer to the essential spirit of the Games – an unofficial "Olympics" organised in two German prisoner of war camps by a group of determined Polish officers.

These men, captive in the Gross Born and Woldenberg Offlag II-C POW camps, rallied around an Olympic flag made with a bed sheet and pieces of coloured scarves – an effective emblem of the Olympic spirit.

The Woldenberg camp, in what is now western Poland, had about 7,000 prisoners, more than 6,000 of them Polish officers, spread out in more than 50 barracks. The camp had a local post service administrated by the prisoners, responsible for the issue of stamps and related material.

The Gross Born camp had about 3,000 prisoners, most of them Polish officers, and held its "Olympics" on July 30 – August 15. The Gross Born Games were preceded by those at Woldenberg, held on July 23-30, which were merely one manifestation of the intense cultural and intellectual activity within the camp.


(lots) more at: insidethegames

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Interesting find Rols

Would also be interested in going to this exhibition in Barcelona - this is when I miss living in Europe - so easy to just hop over there for a weekend :(

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Would also be interested in going to this exhibition in Barcelona - this is when I miss living in Europe - so easy to just hop over there for a weekend :(

Especially Barcelona - one of my favourite cities!

I'd known about the POW "Olympics", but I'd never read as much detail as I had in that feature.

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This chapter gets mentioned in my book (page 22, 2012 edition). However, on reflection, seeing the HIGH number of Polish detainees, maybe those fellows were luckier than the other 8,000 who were massacred in Katyn by the Soviets.

Poor Poland, caught between two of the most heinous regimes in history, their Jewry and a whole generation of their male population and intelligentsia were almost systematically exterminated by those two monstrous forces. It just seems almost incomprehensible how easily both the Polish Jews and gentiles were led to slaughter like helpless sheep. May it never happen again.

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