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Thread: "The Great Escape" Memorial at Most ,Czechoslovakia

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    Default "The Great Escape" Memorial at Most ,Czechoslovakia

    Now Czech Republic .
    This was in the Daily Mail in March, sent to me by a Canadian friend whose father was in Stalag Luft 111 at the time of the tunnelling great escape .

    My father's very distant cousin, "Rusty" R Kierath RAAF, was one of those tunnellers recaptured and shot by the Gestapo .

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2120630/The-real-life-Great-Escape-How-British-man-inspired-Steve-McQueen-character-tried-flee-PoW-camp-shot-Hitlers-orders.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    Anne
    Last edited by aestorm; 15th April 2012 at 20:02.

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    Default

    You might like to read the obituary of Alex Cassie, RAF bomber pilot, the forger in the real Great Escape in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, they are usually available online between 3 days and two weeks after publication in the hard copy

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    dbraiser
    Thank you
    Yes I read it and sent the link to my friend and others who were interested in the Great Escape .
    Don Edy, ex RCAF, has written a book "Goon in the Block" which includes chapters on his time in Stalag Luft 111

    Anne
    Last edited by aestorm; 15th April 2012 at 20:04.

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    Default The Great Escape Memorial

    Aestorm,

    I am very interested in F/Lt Jerzy Tomasz Mondschein of 304 Squadron RAF - who was captured and executed with Rusty Kierath. I would like to ask you whether the Daily Mail was the British one or a Canadian newspaper, and whether it had a photo of the memorial as the one I have is not of brilliant quality.

    Thanks
    Neville

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    Neville
    It was a UK version, though sent to me by a Canadian ! Copy & paste my link into google or heading bar .There are photos of Leslie Bull,then further down the page Jerzy M ,Rusty K & John W .Also the ceremony at Most .The photo of the memorial isn't very clear as it's shiny so reflecting .

    My stepfather went to the same school in Sydney as John W & Rusty and my father went to the same school ,in Sydney , same age, as Australian Paul Brickhill who wrote the book The Great Escape ,The Dambuster & Reach for The Sky ,among others .Paul was also a POW in Stalag Luft 111 --so I have an interest though it seems to have been in the news & on TV recently [Alex Cassie's obit for example] A documentary by Roger Bushell's niece, I think , was on TV a few weeks ago.Roger B was the instigator of the escape.

    Anne

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    Default The Great Escape - Jerzy Mondschein

    Aestorm,

    Thank you for your reply to my previous post. I have been doing a lot of research and I have found quite a lot of information, which when combined with what I already had on how Jerzy came to be a prisoner, makes a nice little story. What is better is that all but one small, detail about him making the trapdoors in the tunnels, is corroborated.

    When I have written it all up, I will post a copy here - Sunday at the latest.

    Regards
    Neville

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    Default Jerzy Mondschein

    Aestorm,

    As promised, the following is the final draft of what I have learned over the last few days. Unfortunately, I cannot post photos at the moment; I know how to do it but my machine won't play ball and a techno friend of mine says he knows how to fix it and will do it some time this week. I have found some interesting stuff on the two Australians too, which I will send when this pathetic machine is fixed.

    The photos are relevant to all four of the men and some of them come from the memorial organiser. Anyway, here's the story:

    MONDSCHEIN F/O Jerzy Tomasz P-0913

    He was an observer (navigator), born on 18th March 1909 in Warsaw. He was murdered as a POW. Returning from a raid on Mannheim, on 8th November 1941, the aircraft was out of fuel and the pilot attempted to land his plane on an airfield in Belgium. He landed at St Trond near Liege, which was a Luftwaffe fighter base – unfortunately for the crew. They all survived and were made prisoners of war, but not before destroying all their papers and anything that might be useful to the Germans and setting the aircraft on fire. The aircraft was Vickers Wellington 1c, R1215 (NZ-?). The rest of the all Polish crew were F/O Blicharz, P/O Rekszyc, Sgt Jaworoszuk, Sgt Krawiecki and Sgt Lewandowski.

    He was one of the 50 Officers executed on 29th March 1944 after an escape from Stalag Luft III (The Great Escape) in Sagan, Germany (now Zagan, Poland). He was Prisoner of War No 680 and active in the year long preparations for this mass escape which seriously disrupted the German war effort by tying up large numbers of German troops and resources at a critical time (less than ten weeks before D-Day), which was a serious blow to the Germans – even though only three, of the seventy six who escaped, actually made it home.

    In the scheme of things, he was a very useful member of the escape team and performed some very useful functions. He was one of a group of tailors who skilfully converted uniforms into civilian clothes and made warm coats from the POW blankets. In the pre-war days, before he joined the Polish Air Force, he worked on building sites and developed a skill at cutting out shaped profiles from concrete and then replaced them invisibly. This must have been extremely useful when they were concealing the entrances to the tunnels – it was certainly successful. He is also said to have built all the trapdoors in the tunnels, but that is not confirmed.

    His other duty was to scan any German newspapers and magazines for any information that might prove useful to the escape effort. He was assigned this intelligence gathering task because he was fluent in speaking German and he could also read it.

    Once clear of the wire, he was part of a group of twelve who made for the local railway station and he made further use of his German language skills by buying tickets for the group. The ticket seller was suspicious of so large a group, but Jerzy held his nerve, explaining that they were all Spanish workers in the local mills.

    The basic idea was to get as far away from the camp as possible before the inevitable manhunt started; so they took the early morning train in the general direction of Jelenia Gora and, on arrival, the party split up into smaller groups. Jerzy and his three companions headed south with the intention of getting into Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and seeking help from the Czech partisans – who had no love for the Germans after their occupation first of the Sudetenland, and later the whole country.

    The party had to walk through waist deep snow for many kilometres and were recaptured by a German patrol whilst crossing the border mountains near Reichenburg (now Liberec), in what was then Czechoslovakia. They were taken to the prison at Jelenia Gora where they were reunited with other recaptured prisoners and interrogated (possibly tortured) before being taken into the country-side near Brux (now Most) and executed. Stories vary as to whether they were machine gunned or killed with a single bullet to the back of the head – but that seems to be academic – by an unknown Gestapo killer. The bodies were cremated at Brux the next day and the urns were returned to Stalag Luft III.

    His ashes were later buried in the Old Garrison Cemetery at Poznan, Poland. It is a sad irony that he was incarcerated in Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Zagan) which is in Upper Silesia, in modern Poland.

    The actual killers are unknown but the “executions”, or rather murders, of Jerzy Mondschein and his three travelling companions (F/Lt Lester J Bull DFC of 109 squadron RAF, F/Lt Reginald V “Rusty” Kierath and Squadron Leader John EA Williams DFC, both of 450 squadron RAAF) were orchestrated by local Reichenburg Gestapo leader Bernhard Baatz, Robert Weissman and Robert Weyland. Baatz and Weyland lived on with impunity and with the complicity of the Russian authorities. Weissman was later arrested by the French military authorities but his fate remains unknown.

    He was a married man with at least one child (a daughter) and, at age 35, he was the oldest of the group of Polish officers who set off for Czechoslovakia. He was in the Polish Air Force before the war and escaped, via Romania, on 17th September 1939. At some point, he was awarded the Cross of Valour.

    On 25th March 2012, the Czech Republic held a ceremony honouring these men and unveiling a plaque in their memory in the city of Most (formerly Brux) where they were murdered. The Czech Air Force organised a fly past and a Guard of Honour at the ceremony, which took place on the 68th anniversary of their escape. Members of the families of the four airmen met for the first time at this event.

    The photograph I have used was taken, presumably by the Gestapo, the day before he was shot and was part of the evidence gathered in the subsequent Nazi War Crimes investigation. He is wearing clothes he probably made himself. Copyright is unknown but presumably comes under the Crown or the National Archives.

    More information and photographs will be added later...............watch this space.

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    Neville
    Thank you for your write up .
    I don't think you can post photos on here but maybe a link to the photo ?

    It's interesting that the Great escape is very much in the news here at present .There is a TV programme tonight [Sun 13th] on ITV at 10.15 pm .

    Anne

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