The E.L.A Times
By: Trent Kenyon
"For you the war is over!"
This is the first thing the POW heard from their captors. However, that statement was not necessarily true for the POW at Stalag Luft III. While the Germans thought they won the war, the prisoners did not and they persevered till the very end in the pursuit of freedom.
To understand why they were called "Penguins", you must first understand their job in the digging of the tunnels. When the tunnelers were digging lots of sand kept pilling up, slowly filling up the hole. To solve this growing problem the "Big X" made a group of people "Penguins." Penguins would have to take sand out of the tunnels whenever possible and their job went like this. First, the "Penguins" had to put on special pants so they could carry sand out of the tunnel. Then they had to go into the entrance of the tunnel and stuff their pockets with as much sand as possible. After that they climbed out of the tunnel and looked for a safe, and secure place to release the sand. When they found a spot where the guards wouldn't see them, they pulled the nails out of their pockets and the sand poured down their pants to the ground. During this process the prisoners carrying sand walked like penguins and that's how they got their nickname. This process could happen at anytime in the day or night as long as digging was going on.
Sand, the inevitable problem of digging tunnels at Stalg Luft III was the sand. Throughout the book they make huge progressions on their tunnels, but also cause a growing problem. The sand from "Tom" is not being dispersed quick enough to keep up with the tunneling. This problem stumped the smartest men in the "X Organization" and they could not figure out a way to solve it. After much time of thinking though, Bushell thought of a great idea. His idea was to take the sand from "Tom" and transport it into "Dick" so the Germans would't notice the sand above ground. This idea solved their problem and helped progress the digging of "Tom."
Soviet POW vs. Other POW
Unlike the other prisoners of war, the Soviet Union's prisoners were treated the most brutal. Soviet prisoners would be slaves or die in death camps when captured by German or other Axis powers. The reason why they were treated so badly is because of a day in the year of 1929 when countries came to Switzerland to sign the Geneva Convention. This document decreed that whoever signs this must treat other countries prisoners well. However, this only applied to countries who signed the convention. The Soviet Union did not sign this document because they thought it was petty and had a conviction that they were protected by the Slavic Racial Law, so their prisoners were treated cruelly. Many ended up dying throughout the war. Out of the 5.7 million Soviet prisoners captured, 3.3 million died in the prisons. The other Allied powers on the other hand, had 232,000 captured and 8,348 killed. The difference in deaths between Soviet soldiers and other Allies is crazy. Not only did Soviet POW get killed in camp, but they were also enslaved and forced to do hard labor. While the other Allied POW were allowed privileges like good food and water, the Soviets got little food and poor drinking water. The Soviets had to persevere through the rough conditions and hard labor. This is the difference between the Soviet and other Allied POW.
For POW that weren't Soviet, the prisoners enjoyed being with other prisoners and friends from the war. They even got to have a theater where they can enjoy musicals and other productions. The living spaces of the prisoners were small and fit about six people in each space. These spaces included a bathroom and a kitchen too. However, these places were also very small. On the outside you could see under the living spaces because the building were above ground by a couple feet. Every morning when the POW woke up they took a role call in the field. This role call was to make sure that no one escaped during the night. After that the prisoners were allowed to do whatever they wanted to do, and most of the time they spent it tunneling. For many tunneling a way out was a normal thing. Most people were caught doing it multiple times. In the book "The Great Escape", most of the prisoners were tunneling or doing something that would help the tunnels profession. This is a short description of the POW lifestyle.