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The POW Olympics of World War II

The Olympic Games were canceled in 1940 and 1944 due to World War II, but athletic competitions went on just the same -in POW camps. The German POW camp called Oflag II-C camp staged what they called the Woldenberg Olympics in 1944, in which prisoners -Polish officers in this camp- competed in a variety of events, but were forbidden to try fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting, for obvious reasons.

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Another camp in the Polish town of Gross Born put on their own games as well. Read about the POW Olympics at Mental Floss.


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