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Great Escape Forger (Hardback)

The Work of Carl Holmstrom – POW #221. An Artist in Stalag Luft III

WWII Prisoners Of War Photographic Books Colour Books Military

By Susan Holmstrom Kohnowich, Illustrations by Carl Holmstrom
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Illustrations: 150 colour & black and white
ISBN: 9781526767981
Published: 30th November 2020

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Carl Holmstrom’s superb artwork depicts life as a ‘kriegie’ in a unique manner. But, more than that, he spent the major part of his captivity in Stalag Luft III Prisoner of War Camp, famous for ‘The Great Escape’. The audacity of the 76 escapees was only matched by the callousness of the Nazis who murdered 50 after recapture. As well as skilfully recording camp life, Carl forged invaluable official documents. He also sketched his fellow prisoners and encouraged others to take up drawing as hobby.

Remarkably he saved over 200 examples of his work by carrying them on the appallingly arduous 1945 winter march from Poland into Germany.

Post war, Carl Holmstrom said, “The drawings were made during imprisonment and represent a sincere effort to portray to the American people and especially to the relatives of the prisoners, intimate glimpses of Kriegie life.” His words proved to be prophetic.

An expansion of his earlier self-published Kriegie Life, this superb book honours Carl’s exceptional artistic gift. This book has strong claim to contain the finest collection of POW art to emerge from Nazi-occupied Europe.

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About Carl Holmstrom

Born in Branford, Connecticut, Carl Holmstrom received a full scholarship to Pratt Institute in New York City. After graduation, he joined the USAAF as a B-17 bombardier but was captured when his plane crashed in Tunisia on his first mission . After treatment for his injuries, he was imprisoned at Oflag 21-B in Schubin, Poland, before being transferred to Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany, where he spent the next two-and-a-half years.


In January 1945, he was marched fifty-two miles to Spremberg, Germany, to ride on a box car to Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany, where he was liberated by Patton’s US Third Army. Post-war he became a free-lance commercial artist. He married and had four children. Carl died on 3 August 1979.

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