During World War II the Nazis built a chain of P.O.W. camps in Zagan and its vicinity, which included Stalag VIIIC Sagan (Zagan) and its branches : Dulag in Kunau (Konin Zaganski) and Stalag VIIIE (308) in Neuhammer (Swietoszow). These camps were governed by the 8th Military District of Wehrmacht based in Wroclaw. Stalag VIIIC was one of the places where, between 1939 and 1945, the basic principales of the barbarous system were ruthlessly implemented, with an unprecedented breach of international conventions.
Dulag in Kunau (Konin Zaganski) - Durchganglslager - was generally meant to hold Polish prisoners of war as a transitional camp. It held approximately six thousand people. Wehrmacht would begin their inhumane treatment of the Polish P.O.W's right after they had been taken prisoners. The prisoners had to suffer the hardships of fierce winter of 1939/1940 in the miserable shelter of field tents. With the beginning of spring in 1940 the camp in Konin was broken and those who survived were relocated to Stalag VIIIA in Zgorzelec or to Stalag VIIIC in Zagan; most of them were forced to labor in farming. The graves of prisoners who died in Stalag VIIIC can be found at the cemetery 1 km Southeast from the Museum.
Stalag VIII C Sagan(Zagan) - Mannschaftsstammlager -the camp was built in September and October 1939. It occupied the total area of 480.000 square meters and was located in the Southern outskirts of the city, along the road to Ilowa Zaganska (Ger. Halbau). Initially, several thousand of Polish soldiers who had taken part in the September battles, were detained there. In 1940 these soldiers were deprived of their P.O.W. status, moved into Germany and forced to hard labor there. Soon the camp filled with French prisoners whose number exceeded 45.000 in 1941. Among the incoming prisoners were men of many nationalities : Bellgian, British, Yugoslav, Italian, American, Czechoslovak, Greek, Dutch, Canadian and later also Russian. Within the French Army there were numerous soldiers of colonial origin, thus Stalag VIIIC aaaommodated also those originating from Algeria, Morocco and Senegal.
Stalag Luft III - Kriegsgefangenen Lager der Luftwaffe 3 - In addition, a P.O.W. camp for pilots named Stalag Luft 3 - was built in the vicinity of Zagan, controlled directly by the High Command of Luftwaffe.
It was the last camp established in the Zagan region, built in May 1942 on the area adjacent to Stalag VIIIC in the East. At first, the majority of the prisoners were British RAF officers and American pilots.Only later, in June 1942 some other nationalities would show in the camp, being French, Polish, Belgian, Dutch, Canadian, Australian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, New Zealand, South African, Greek and Czechoslovakian pilots. In 1944 Luft 3 camp accommadated 10.494 people.
Stalag VIIIE Neuhammer (Swietoszow) was initially meant to accommodate only Polish prisoners of war, subsequently it held also French soldiers.
The first transport of Soviet P.O.W's who were soon to become the majority in the camp came on July 12, 1941. In 1942 Stalag VIIIE held more than 100.000 prisoners. It was used as an extermination camp and many thousands of Russian soldiers found their death there. After the German invasion on the Soviet Union, those soldiers taken prisoners by Wehrmacht received extremely harsh treatment. In June 1942 Stalag VIIIE became a branch of Stalag VIIIC in Zagan.
Altogether, Stalag VIIIC and its branches kept approximately 300.000 paverage daily population amounted to 50.000 people.risoners of war,while the The lliving conditions were appalling and inhumane. Starvation, epidemics, beating and ill-treatment took a heavy toll of lives.
In February 1945 the Red Army advance forced the Nazis to evacuate the prisoners West. Crutial evidence and documents were burnt and destroyed and the places of execution were thoroughly camouflaged. People who ordered mass extermination in Stalag VIIIC and its branches between 1942 and 1945 were never punished. Upon the victory, the Red Army used the remaining facilities of Stalag VIIIC to hold there the German P.O.W's, as well as the repatriated soldiers of the Polish Home Army who, after a selection, would be sent to labor camps in the Soviet Union.