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Inner Courtyard - 1
Having passed through the outer [Kommandantur] courtyard and up the western rampart to the Guardhouse, we arrive at the inner courtyard, where the prisoners spent most of their time. Immediately on entering the gate, we are looking more or less due east, and this is the view that greets us: [Photo credit: Melvyn R. Lawes]
The building across from us is the Furstenhaus, where the British and Dutch quarters were situated; also, the door at the base of the small turret leads into the series of rooms that used to house the Dentist's surgery and the cells for the 'Prominente', or special prisoners. Those rooms are now a small museum about the Castle and its history, not just its WWII history. Note also the marked uphill slope of the courtyard, also apparent in the picture below.
Looking slightly to the right, we see the door to the Shower baths at the foot of the Saalhaus [theatre] block:
...and then looking south and up, the entire north facade of the Saalhaus.
Of particular interest in that picture is the row of blanked-off windows on the third floor; this is because the back of the Theatre's stage is directly behind those 'dummy' windows.
Looking now up and round to the west, and directly above the gate, we see the 'Bridge of Sighs'; a high corridor above the gate that leads to the attics above the German Guardhouse. It was along this corridor that the first successful British escape was made, by Lt. Airey Neave, in January, 1942.
It had been noticed by [then] Capt. Pat Reid, who was an engineer by training, how the left-hand [southern] end of that corridor appeared to terminate beneath the Theatre stage. Upon making a hole under the stage, this was indeed found to be the case, and the escape was 'on'.
Moving east up the slope to the edge of the Saalhaus block, and then looking right [south], we see the south side of the inner courtyard:
The two arched windows were where part of the prisoners' kitchen was; the part of the courtyard to the left of this building used to have other, low buildings there too - part of these too used to adjoin this building to form the rest of the prisoners' kitchen. There is a picture lower down this page that shows you what it used to look like. The old buildings along the southern side of the courtyard were demolished about 10-15 years ago as they had become unsafe, and the former kitchen is now a very nicely fitted-out music performance room.
The surface of the courtyard is covered with stone cobbles; I suspect that these may not be the original cobbles, because the surface was re-laid at some time in the last few years.
Also in this picture is one of the ubiquitous manhole covers that are scattered so widely about the Castle. The impression one gets is that the drain system must have been really extensive; it is no small wonder that many of the British escape attempts throughout the War were centred on these drains in one form or another. However, I suspect that these are not the 'original' [i.e. WWII] manhole covers. It is not immediately obvious from my pictures, but these manholes really are everywhere around the Castle. You will be able easily to spot them in one or two of the pictures of the outer courtyard; also they are in the north-western orchard garden, the east terraces, outside on the road to the Park, just everywhere.
The next picture shows the view back towards the gate from roughly the area of that last manhole. The direction of the view is approximately north-north-west, and shows the foundation of what, during the War, was the 'delousing shed'.
In that shed, the clothing of newly arrived prisoners was baked in big ovens in order to kill any lice, or other parasites, that they had picked up on their travels.
The rooms behind the former delousing shed are now occupied by a workshop of the Colditz Pottery company [you can see the pots arranged on the window-sills]. In the background of this picture you can also see the windows of what were the solitary confinement cells.
The picture below shows the main entrance to the Saalhaus block, situated just off to the left of the previous picture. Inside this door is a spiral staircase that leads up to the former Senior Officers' Quarters, as well as the Theatre on the third floor. The Theatre itself, however, is not open to the general public, even during guided tours.
The next two pictures show the Saalhaus block from the other side of the courtyard, taken from just outside the Prominente cells, and looking slightly south of east.
The two arched windows of the former prisoners' kitchen can be clearly seen in the right-hand picture above.
Looking slightly to the left of that part of the building, we can see that at the base of the wall is a small door - this door is now used to access the concert room, but before the low buildings on this side of the courtyard were demolished, it would have formed a link door between the rooms forming the kitchens.
Looking upwards towards the roofs of this section of building, we see the small windows of the 'hexengang' corridor [from which the Germans used to keep an eye on the prisoners on occasion]; the high wall above that corridor is the back of the eastern part of the Kommandantur building.
In the pictures above, you can just see one of the Colditz falcons on the roof ridge. The falcons are described on the page of photos of the outer courtyard.
Now, here is a picture of the south side of the courtyard, taken from just next to the Chapel on the north side of the courtyard:
The small doorway, nearly hidden behind the tree, is the entrance to the 'secret passage' that the Germans had made to connect the Interview Room 'Evidenz Zimmer' [which was in the low buildings formerly on the south side of the courtyard] to their quarters, providing another 'secret' way in to the courtyard for them. Some sources indicate that the prisoners were aware of the passage and tried to get into it on more that one occasion. It is interesting to compare the view above with a 1960's picture, shot from the same direction:
[Thanks to Gavin Worrell for permission to use that 1960's picture, which is from his website].
For more pictures of the inner courtyard, visit the next page.
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