Death marches (Holocaust)

Death marches (Todesmärsche in German) refers to the forcible movements of prisoners of Nazi Germany between Nazi camps during World War II. They occurred at various points during the Holocaust, including 1939 in the Lublin province of Poland, in 1942 in Reichskommissariat Ukraine and across the General Government, and between Autumn 1944 and late April 1945 near the Soviet front, from the Nazi concentration camps and prisoner of war camps situated in the new Reichsgaue, to camps inside Germany proper, away from reach of the Allied forces. The purpose was to remove evidence of crimes against humanity committed inside the camps and to prevent the liberation of German-held prisoners of war.

Death march from Dachau
Dachau concentration camp inmates on a death march, April 1945, photographed walking through a German village, heading in the direction of Wolfratshausen, Bavaria.


Towards the end of World War II in 1945, Nazi Germany had evacuated an estimated 10 to 15 million people, mostly from East Prussia and occupied Eastern and Central Europe.[1] While the Allied forces advanced from the West, and the Red Army advanced from the East, trapped in the middle, the German SS divisions abandoned all Nazi concentration camps, moving or destroying evidence of the atrocities they had committed. Thousands of prisoners were killed in the camps before the marches commenced.[2] These executions were deemed crimes against humanity during the Nuremberg trials.

May 11, 1945: German civilians are forced to walk past the bodies of 30 Jewish women starved to death by German SS troops in a 500-kilometre (300 mi) march across Czechoslovakia. Buried in shallow graves in Volary, Czechoslovakia, the bodies were exhumed by German civilians working under the direction of Medics of the 5th Infantry Division, US Third Army. The bodies were later placed in coffins and reburied in the cemetery in Volary.

Although most of the prisoners were already very weak or ill after enduring the routine violence, overwork, and starvation of concentration camp or prison camp life, they were marched for kilometres in the snow to railway stations, then transported for days at a time without food, water, or shelter in freight carriages originally designed for cattle. On arrival at their destination, they were then forced to march again to new camps. Prisoners who were unable to keep up due to fatigue or illness were usually executed by gunshot.

The first evacuation of Majdanek inmates started in April 1944. The prisoners of Kaiserwald were transported to Stutthof or killed in August. Mittelbau-Dora was evacuated in April 1945.[3]

The largest death march in World War II was from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Loslau in January 1945.[4]

The SS killed large numbers of prisoners by starvation before the marches, and shot many more dead both during and after for not being able to keep pace. Seven hundred prisoners were killed during one ten-day march of 7,000 Jews, including 6,000 women, who were being moved from camps in the Danzig region. Those still alive when the marchers reached the coast were forced into the Baltic Sea and shot.[5]

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, describes in his 1958 book Night how he and his father, Shlomo, were forced on a death march from Buna to Gleiwitz.[6]

Chełm to Hrubieszów, Sokal and Belz

In December 1939, male Jews from Chełm, Poland aged between 16 and 60, were forced on a death march to the nearby town of Hrubieszów. There, Jews were rounded up and forced to join the Chełm Jews. They were split into two groups on separate marches to Sokal and Belz, both across the modern border between Poland and Ukraine. In all, an estimated 2,000 Jews were murdered on this death march. There were only a handful of survivors.[7]

Lublin to Biała Podlaska and Parczew

In January 1940, the Germans deported a group of prisoners from the Lipowa 7 prisoner of war camp to Biała Podlaska and then to Parczew. They rushed them on foot among snowstorms and temperatures below −20 °C (−4 °F). Those POWs who did not follow orders were killed by the German guards. The inhabitants of the nearby villages were forced to collect and bury the bodies in mass graves. Only a small group of prisoners survived this march of death. A few were able to escape into the woods and join the partisans.[8]

Belz to Hrubieszow

In early June 1942, Jews concentrated in Belz were driven in a 60-kilometre (37 mi) death march to Hrubieszow. Those who could not continue on the way were shot by the SS guards. All death march survivors were deported along with about 3,000 Jews from Hrubieszow to Sobibor.[9]

Auschwitz to Loslau

The largest[4] and the most notorious of the death marches took place in mid-January 1945. On January 12, the Soviet army began its Vistula-Oder Offensive, advancing on occupied Poland.[10] By January 17, orders were given to vacate the Auschwitz concentration camp and its subcamps. Between the 17th and 21st, the SS began marching approximately 56,000 prisoners[10] out of the Auschwitz camps mostly to west to Loslau (Polish: Wodzisław Śląski)63 km (39 mi) away,[10] but also some to northwest to Gleiwitz (Polish: Gliwice) 55 km (34 mi) away and others.[11] Temperatures of −20 °C (−4 °F) and lower were recorded at the time of these marches.[4] Some residents of Upper Silesia tried to help the marching prisoners. Some of the prisoners themselves managed to escape the death marches to freedom.[4] At least 3,000 prisoners died on the Gleiwitz route alone.[11] Approximately 9,000-15,000 prisoners in total died on death marches out of Auschwitz's camps,[12][10] and those who did survive were then put on freight trains and shipped to other camps deeper in German held territory.

Stutthof to Lauenburg

The evacuation of the about 50,000 prisoners from the Stutthof camp system in northern Poland began in January 1945. About 5,000 prisoners from Stutthof subcamps were marched to the Baltic Sea coast, forced into the water, and machine gunned. The rest of the prisoners were marched in the direction of Lauenburg in eastern Germany. They were cut off by the advancing Soviet forces. The Germans forced the surviving prisoners back to Stutthof. Marching in severe winter conditions and treated brutally by SS guards, thousands died during the march.[5]

In late April 1945, the remaining prisoners were removed from Stutthof by sea, since it was completely encircled by Soviet forces. Again, hundreds of prisoners were forced into the sea and shot. Over 4,000 were sent by small boat to Germany, some to the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, and some to camps along the Baltic coast. Many drowned along the way. Shortly before the German surrender, some prisoners were transferred to Malmö, Sweden, and released to the care of that neutral country. It has been estimated that over 25,000 prisoners, around half, died during the evacuation from Stutthof and its subcamps. One hundred prisoners were liberated from Stutthof on May 9, 1945.[5]

Buchenwald to Dachau, Flossenbürg and Theresienstadt

Jena Gedenktafel Todesmarsch Buchenwald
Memorial plaque to the victims of the death march in Jena

In early 1945, Buchenwald had received numerous prisoners moved from camps further east in territory lost to the Soviets, and camp authorities began to close the outlying camps of Buchenwald (such as those in Apolda and Altenburg) to concentrate prisoners in the main camp. In April 1945, about 28,000 prisoners were marched from Buchenwald on a journey of over 300 kilometers through Jena, Eisenberg, Bad Köstritz, and Gera [13] with the intended destination of Dachau, Flossenbürg, and Theresienstadt. The remaining 21,000 prisoners in Buchenwald were liberated by the U.S. Third Army on April 11, 1945.[14]

Dachau to the Austrian border

On April 24, 1945, the satellite labor camps around Dachau were being cleared out by the Nazis ahead of the advancing Allied troops, and some 15,000 prisoners were first marched to the Dachau camp, only to be sent southwards on a death march towards the Austrian border,[15] the path for which generally headed southwards, partly along the eastern shore of the Starnberger See, taking a left turn to the east in the town of Eurasburg and heading towards the Tegernsee. By the timeframe of the second of May 1945, only some of the 6,000 prisoners sent on the death march were still alive, as those in failing health were being shot dead as they fell along the route. On that day, as the eastwards-marching prisoners had passed through Bad Tölz and were nearing Waakirchen, nearly sixty kilometers (37 miles) south of Dachau, several hundred of them were lying on the open ground in ill health, and among them were some who had already died from ill health and exposure to the elements, nearly all covered in freshly-fallen snow. These prisoners were spotted by advance scouts of the U.S. Army's 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the only segregated Japanese American-manned military unit in Germany at the time — who had, only days before, liberated the Kaufering IV Hurlach satellite slave labor camp[16] of the Dachau main camp's "system", and many of whose own relatives were themselves interned during the war on American soil — with the American troops doing what they could in attempts to save those left alive, for at least two days before dedicated medical personnel could take over.[17][18] A memorial to the rescue by the 522nd exists at 47°46′6.15″N 11°38′55.30″E / 47.7683750°N 11.6486944°E, just under two kilometers west of the Waakirchen town centre.[19]

Pomnik mogila ofiar marszu smierci Wodzislaw Slaski

Memorial in Wodzisław Śląski of the death march from Auschwitz Birkenau

Blievenstorf Denkmal Todesmarsch

This memorial in Blievenstorf of the death march from Sachsenhausen concentration camp includes a red triangle emblem

Putlitz Todesmarsch Gedenktafel

Memorial in Putlitz of the death march from Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Cmentarz ofiar nawcz

Holocaust cemetery in Nawcz for victims of the death march from Stutthof concentration camp

See also


  1. ^ Hans Henning Hahn & Eva Hahn (2010). Die Vertreibung im deutschen Erinnern. Legenden, Mythos, Geschichte. Paderborn: Schöningh GmbH. p. 685; ill., maps; 24 cm. D820.P72 G475 2010. ISBN 978-3-506-77044-8.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ Blatman, Daniel (2011). The Death Marches. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674050495.
  3. ^ "Death Marches". U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  4. ^ a b c d Hojka, Piotr; Kulpa, Sławomir (2016). Kierunek Loslau. Marsz ewakuacyjny więźniów oświęcimskich w styczniu 1945 roku. Wodzisław Śląski: Museum in Wodzisław Śląski. ISBN 978-83-927256-0-2.
  5. ^ a b c "Stutthof". U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  6. ^ Wiesel, Elie (1960) [1958]. Night. New York: Hill & Wang.
  7. ^ Kahan, Lazar. Chelm Yizkor Book: The Slaughter of the Jews in Chelm, 1954. Online.
  8. ^ Socha, Paweł. "The Nazi Labor Camp on 7 Lipowa Street", Online:,-/24257,the-nazi-labor-camp-on-7-lipowa-street/?print=1
  9. ^ Encyclopedia Judaica, cited by Jewish Virtual Library: Hrubieszow. Online:
  10. ^ a b c d "Wollheim Memorial". Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  11. ^ a b "Death March from Auschwitz". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  12. ^ Martin Gilbert (1993). Atlas of the Holocaust. William Morrow & Company. ISBN 0688123643.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Lese, Weimar. "Die Todesmarsch-Stele in Weimar - Weimar-Lese". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  15. ^ Retrieved 5 April 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Kaufering IV – Hurlach – Schwabmunchen". 19 January 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  17. ^ "Central Europe Campaign – 522nd Field Artillery Battalion". Retrieved 2015-01-12. Jewish prisoners from the outer Dachau camps were marched to Dachau, and then 70 miles south. Many of the Jewish marchers weighed less than 80 pounds. Shivering in their tattered striped uniforms, the "skeletons" marched 10 to 15 hours a day, passing more than a dozen Bavarian towns. If they stopped or fell behind, the SS guards shot them and left their corpses along the road.
  18. ^ "Search Results". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  19. ^ [As found on Google Earth , with two photos of it taken by Ellen Haider]

Further reading

Death march (disambiguation)

A death march is a forced march of prisoners.

Death marches (Holocaust), death marches of concentration camp prisoners in 1944 and 1945Death march may also refer to:

Death march (project management), a project that involves grueling overwork and (often) patently unrealistic expectations, and thus (in many cases) is destined to fail

Dixie Deans (RAF airman)

James "Dixie" Deans MBE (1913 – 18 February 1989) was a Royal Air Force sergeant and Second World War bomber pilot shot down in 1940 who became a renowned prisoner of war (POW) camp leader. Deans spoke perfect German and when captured commanded his fellow POWs as the elected camp leader, gaining the respect and trust of both prisoners and German captors alike. In 1945, he guided 2,000 Allied POWs across Europe in what was known as the 'Long March'.

On 10 September 1940, Deans (of 77 Squadron) took off from Linton-on-Ouse in a Whitley bomber to attack Bremen. His aircraft was hit by flak and crash-landed at Venebrugge (Overijssel), east north-east of Zwolle, Holland.

Sergeant Deans was imprisoned first at Stalag Luft I, then moved to Stalag Luft III, where as camp leader he held meetings with the Germans on behalf of the NCO POWs.

He was then transferred to Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug, in Lithuania. As at his previous camps, he set up covert intelligence gathering networks and the use of radios built in the camps obtained through bribery of selected guards. This enabled the POWs to keep up to date with events from the BBC. He was also responsible for helping to organise the passing of secret information to MI9 via specially coded letters.

In March 1945, Deans took charge of 2,000 POWs on a month-long march across Poland and Germany in what became known as one of the 'Long Marches' to Stalag XI-B at Fallingbostel. From there, Deans and the thousands of POWs were marched north-east towards Lübeck. Deans took charge of the daily details of survival on the march and bullied the Germans left in charge for food, transport for the sick, and for better overnight accommodation. He also demanded that the German commandant, Oberst Ostmann, allow him to set off to warn the approaching British armies of the POW columns ahead. He made contact with the British Army and on returning guided his men to safety where he accepted Oberst Ostmann's surrender.When Deans returned home to England, he found work as an executive officer at the London School of Economics, until he retired in 1977. Shortly after the war, Deans was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which he fought for the rest of his life.

Deans was awarded the MBE.

Deans was a founder member and first president of the RAF Ex-POW Association; he is also listed as a contributor to Cornelius Ryan's book The Last Battle.

Index of World War II articles (D)

D-10 tank gun

D-8 Armored Car

D-Day -1

D-Day (game)

D-Day Dodgers

D-Day Museum

D-Day the Sixth of June

D-Day: The Great Crusade


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Dad's Army


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Daihatsu 14M

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Daisey Douglas Barr

Daitai Transport Unit


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Days of Waiting: The Life & Art of Estelle Ishigo

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Deadly Dozen

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Death in Love

Death marches (Holocaust)

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Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)

Death to Spies

Debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Deborah Lipstadt

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Decision Before Dawn

Decisive Battles of WWII: Korsun Pocket

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Decoder Ring Theatre


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Delivered from Evil

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Deportation of the Danish police

Deportations from the German-occupied Channel Islands

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Dermot Chichester, 7th Marquess of Donegall

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Dervish Convoy

Descendants of Henrietta Maria of France

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Deschênes Commission

Desert Air Force

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Desert Commander

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Desert Rats vs Afrika Korps

Desert Victory

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Designated Targets

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Desmond Flower, 10th Viscount Ashbrook

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Desperate Journey


Destin Destine

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Destined to Witness

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Deutschland-class cruiser

Development of Chinese armoured forces (1927-1945)

Development of Chinese Nationalist air force (1937-1945)

Development of Japanese tanks in World War II

Devil's Brigade

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Devon and Cornwall County Division

Devon Mansions

Dewa Shigetō

DeWitt Clinton Ramsey

DeWitt Hyde

Dexter J. Kerstetter

Dezső Szentgyörgyi





DF Hydro

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DFW Mars




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Diary of a Girl in Changi

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Did Six Million Really Die?

Didier Angan

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Die Deutsche Wochenschau

Die Frau und der Fremde

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Die grosse Liebe

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Die Weiße Rose (film)

Die Zukunft

Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery

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Dieudonné Minoungou

Dieux du Stade

Dimitar Peshev

Dimitar Spisarevski

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Dimitrie Pompeiu

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Dina Babbitt

Ding Delong

Dingo (scout car)

Dingo Bar

Dingtao Campaign

Dinko Šakić

Dinny Hannon

Dino Grandi

Dino Manelli

Dinu Brătianu

Diomansy Kamara

Diplomatic missions of the Independent State of Croatia

Direction Centrale de la Police Judiciaire

Direction Régionale de Police Judiciaire de Paris

Directorate of Civil Resistance

Directorate of Covert Resistance

Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development

Directorate of Underground Resistance

Dirk Boest Gips

Dirk Boonstra (born 1893)

Dirk Boonstra (born 1920)

Dirk Hoogendam

Dirk J. Vlug

Dirk Jan de Geer

Disney bomb

Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch

Disney's Fantillusion

Disney's Hotel Cheyenne

Disney's Hotel New York

Disney's Hotel Santa Fe

Disney's Newport Bay Club

Disney's Once Upon a Dream Parade

Disney's Sequoia Lodge

Disney Village

Disneyland Hotel (Paris)

Disneyland Park (Paris)

Disneyland Resort Paris 15th Anniversary

Disneyland Resort Paris

Displaced Persons camp

Distant Journey (film)

Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)

Distinguished Flying Cross (USA)

Distomo massacre

District Galicia

District of Warsaw (of Armia Krajowa)

Districts of the Independent State of Croatia


Divide and Conquer (newsreel)

Divina Galica

Dixie-class destroyer tender

Dixie Howell (pitcher)

Dixie Kiefer

Dixie Mission

Dixon Boardman

Dixon Edward Hoste

Djamel Belmadi

Dmitriy Lavrinenko

Dmitry Karbyshev

Dmitry Nikolaevich Medvedev

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Do Your Ears Hang Low?

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Małków, Hrubieszów County

Małków [ˈmau̯kuf] is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Mircze, within Hrubieszów County, Lublin Voivodeship, in eastern Poland, close to the border with Ukraine. It lies approximately 8 kilometres (5 mi) east of Mircze, 21 km (13 mi) south-east of Hrubieszów, and 122 km (76 mi) south-east of the regional capital Lublin.

The village has a population of 450. In 2013, the Lasting Memory Foundation erected a memorial to 49 Jews from Chelm-Hrubieszow-Sokal Death March (see: Death marches (Holocaust)) who were murdered in the village of Małków.

The Holocaust

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the World War II genocide of the European Jews. Between 1941 and 1945 across German-occupied Europe, Nazi Germany, aided by local collaborators, systematically murdered some six million Jews, around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population. The murders were carried out in pogroms and mass shootings; by a policy of extermination through labour in concentration camps; and in gas chambers and gas vans in German extermination camps, chiefly Auschwitz, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka in occupied Poland.Germany implemented the persecution in stages. Following Adolf Hitler's appointment as Chancellor on 30 January 1933, the regime built a network of concentration camps in Germany for political opponents and those deemed "undesirable", starting with Dachau on 22 March 1933. After the passing of the Enabling Act on 24 March, which gave Hitler plenary powers, the government began isolating Jews from civil society, which included a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, and enacting the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935. On 9–10 November 1938, eight months after Germany annexed Austria, Jewish businesses and other buildings were ransacked, smashed or set on fire throughout Germany and Austria during what became known as Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"). After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, triggering World War II, the regime set up ghettos to segregate Jews from the rest of the population. Eventually thousands of camps and other detention sites were established across German-occupied Europe.

The segregation of Jews in ghettos culminated in the policy of extermination the Nazis called the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question", discussed by senior Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942. As German forces captured territories in the East, all anti-Jewish measures were radicalized. Under the coordination of the SS, with directions from the highest leadership of the Nazi Party, killings were committed within Germany itself, throughout occupied Europe, and within territories controlled by Germany's allies. Paramilitary death squads called Einsatzgruppen, in cooperation with the German Army and local collaborators, murdered around 1.3 million Jews in mass shootings and pogroms between 1941 and 1945. By mid-1942, victims were being deported from ghettos across Europe in sealed freight trains to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, they were worked to death or gassed. The killing continued until the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945.

The European Jews were targeted for extermination as part of a larger event during the Holocaust era, usually defined as beginning in January 1933, in which Germany and its collaborators persecuted and murdered other groups, including Slavs (chiefly ethnic Poles, Soviet citizens, and Soviet prisoners of war), the Roma, the "incurably sick", political and religious dissenters, and gay men. The death toll of these groups is thought to rise to 11 million.

The March (1945)

"The March" refers to a series of forced marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in extreme winter conditions, over about four months between January and April 1945. This series of events has been called various names: "The Great March West", "The Long March", "The Long Walk", "The Long Trek", "The Black March", "The Bread March", and "Death March Across Germany", but most survivors just called it "The March".

As the Soviet Army was advancing, German authorities decided to evacuate POW camps, to delay liberation of the prisoners. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of German civilian refugees, most of them women and children, as well as civilians of other nationalities, were also making their way westward on foot.

Notorious examples include:

from Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow in Pomerania the prisoners faced a 800 km (500 mi) trek in blizzard conditions across Germany, during which hundreds died, and;

a march from Stalag VIII-B, known as the "Lamsdorf Death March", which was similar to the better-known Bataan Death March (1942) in terms of mortality rates.

from Stalag Luft III in Silesia to Bavaria

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