Book Review
Colditz: Oflag IV-C
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


From Wikipedia:
"Colditz Castle is a castle in the town of Colditz near Leipzig, Dresden, and Chemnitz in the state of Saxony in Germany. In 1046, Henry III of the Holy Roman Empire gave the burghers of Colditz permission to build the first documented settlement at the site. In 1083, Henry IV urged Markgraf Wiprecht of Groitzsch to develop the castle site, which Colditz accepted. In 1158, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa made Thimo I "Lord of Colditz", and major building works began. In the Middle Ages, the castle played an important role as a watchtower for the German Emperors and was the center of the Reich territories. In 1430, the Hussites attacked Colditz and set city and castle on fire. Around 1464, renovation and new building work on the Castle were carried out by Prince Ernst. In 1504 a servant, Clemens the baker, accidentally set Colditz on fire, and the city hall, church, castle and a large part of the city went up in flames.

In 1506, reconstruction began and new buildings were raised around the rear castle courtyard. In 1523, the castle park was turned into one of the largest zoos in Europe. In 1524, rebuilding of the upper floors of the castle began. For nearly 100 years, from 1829 to 1924, Colditz was a sanitarium, generally reserved for the wealthy and the nobility of Germany. The castle thus functioned as a hospital during a long stretch of massive upheaval in Germany, from slightly after the Napoleonic Wars destroyed the Holy Roman Empire and created the German Confederation, throughout the lifespan of the North German Confederation, the complete reign of the German Empire, throughout the First World War, and until the beginnings of the Weimar Republic. Between 1914 and 1918, the castle was home to both psychiatric and tuberculosis patients.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they turned the castle into a political prison for communists, homosexuals, Jews, and other "undesirables". Starting in 1939 allied prisoners were housed there. After the outbreak of World War II the castle was converted into a high security prisoner-of-war camp and became notorious as Oflag IV-C, a prisoner-of-war camp for "incorrigible" Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps, become security or escape risks or who were regarded as particularly dangerous. Oflag (Offizierslager) is a combination of the German words Offizier (officer) and Lager (camp). Since the castle is situated on a rocky outcropping above the Mulde River, the Germans believed it to be an ideal site for a high security prison. Today the castle and the church space require a significant amount of refurbishment and restoration. The last users moved out on August 1, 1996, and since then the castle has been almost empty except for the occasional visitor. The Gesellschaft Schloss Colditz e.V. (the Colditz Castle historical society), founded in 1996, has its offices in a portion of the administration building in the front castle court. The castle has been renovated and turned into a museum with visits showing some of the escape tunnels built by prisoners of the Oflag during World War II."

Osprey Publications Ltd has released COLDITZ: OFLAG IV-C as Number 97 in their Fortress series as a paperback book spanning 64 pages, by author Michael McNally and illustrator Peter Dennis. Included with the text are color and black and white photographs, color illustrations, color maps and detailed captions. It has a 2010 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-84603-583-8. The book examines the history of the Colditz Castle, the methods used to keep the prisoners from escaping and the techniques the prisoners used during escapes and escape attempts.

the book

• Introduction
• Chronology
• Design and Development
• The Living Site
• The Site in War
• Aftermath
• Further Reading
• Index

The Text:
The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar errors as I read through the book. McNally covers the periods from when the castle was first built and continues on throughout history up to and including its use as a P.O.W. camp during World War II. McNally details parts of the castle and writes as if the reader is walking through it, and he details things such as the walls and their construction to help the reader visualize the castle. It is obvious that the author has gone to great lengths to research the castle and provide a very well written and accurate history of Colditz Castle.

I remember first learning of the castle P.O.W. camp when I watched the film “The Birdmen” which is based on the actual World War II event of the prisoners in Colditz Castle constructing a glider, “the Colditz Cock”, in which two prisoners would be able to escape. This is mentioned in this book, however it is just briefly touch upon in only one paragraph. I feel that it was one of the more interesting and ingenious ideas for an escape from a P.O.W. camp during World War II and personally I would like to have seen more of the book dedicated to it. There are several other ingenious escapes and escape attempts discussed throughout the book such as tunneling, impersonating German guards and officers and dressing up as a woman. Anyone interested in World War II prison camps and prison escapes will find this book very informative and interesting.

The Photographs:
There are color and black and white photographs throughout the book. They are nice and clear with a few exceptions. Some of the older period black and white photographs have a blurry look to them. One other fault that I should mention is that some of the photographs have been shrunk down to fit on the page along with the text. Some of the photographs are too small in my opinion to show the detail as well as if they had been larger. However this does not take anything away from the book.

The Color Prints:
The illustrations by Peter Dennis are well done and cover the periods of the castles’ early history up to its use during World War II. He has included some cutaway illustrations showing details of the castle as well as a tunnel system that was dug by the prisoners.

The Captions:
The captions are well written and, even though they can be brief at times, they are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs well. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar errors.


All in all I am very impressed with the book. It details the history of Colditz castle from its construction to its use today. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others.

Colditz, Gateway to Saxony

Wikipedia Colditz Castle

Colditz Castle

Virtual Colditz
Highs: Well written and detailed text. Detailed captions. Nice photographs and artwork.
Lows: There is very little mentioned about the “Colditz Cock” glider. Page 39 has a pink slash mark that almost looks like a hi-lighter mark, which may be a printing error in my copy only.
Verdict: This is a very nice reference book that is well researched and written and contains many interesting photographs and well detailed captions. This will make a nice addition to anyone’s personal library and will also be a benefit to the military enthusiast.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84603-583-8
  Suggested Retail: $18.95 US/L11.99 UK/$22.0
  PUBLISHED: Nov 23, 2010

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


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