From: James Puz
Mrs. Edstrom’s recent column regarding the German prisoners who lived in this region during WWII brought to mind a bit of history when she mentioned the TV series “Hogan’s Heroes”. While the series itself was more than just a little tongue-in-cheek regarding the shenanigans wrought by Hogan and his men, one element is factual. During WWII, certain stalag lufts, home to captured Allied airmen, served as an underground railroad for other downed flyers. These men were smuggled into the camps by the underground, given new identities, clothes, money, etc., then smuggled back out with the underground’s help in the hopes the rescued crewmen could make it back to their bases. Prisoners from these “special” camps were not permitted escapes of their own, for that would jeopardize the covert operations. (Colonel Hogan explained that to newly arrived prisoners). Also, the fact that Stalag 13 had never had a successful escape was by Hogan’s design, whereby the occasional “escaped” prisoner was easily recaptured, thus alleviating the need for any thorough searches of the camp. A complacency developed, allowing the “Heroes” a free rein with little German interference. However, for the real-life prisoners in those “special” stalags, their war effort was now helping fellow airmen get back to their bases to resume the fight against the Third Reich. In time, though, genuine “Hogan’s Heroes” would eventually return home but not before engaging in hundreds of dangerous, yet necessary, rescue missions.