15 June 2013

The Great Escape revisited - Dagbladet's article about Halldor Espelid

In March 2011 I wrote an article about a visit I made to the Old Garrison Cemetery in Poznan, Poland. During my visit to the cemetery I found the grave of Halldor Espelid (1920-1944), who was one of 76 captured airmen who escaped from the Stalag Luft III camp in Żagań, Poland through a tunnel. Espelid and a fellow Norwegian, Nils Jørgen Fuglesang, came as far as to Flensburg near the Danish boarder before they were recaptured and soon after executed.

Today, 15 June 2013, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet brings the story of Halldor Espelid's escape and execution. The front page gives the headline "Nå vet hun hvordan broren ble drept. Ingerid Espelid Hovigs ukjente krigsdrama" ("Now she knows how her brother was killed. Ingerid Espelid Hovig's unknown war drama"). On the pages 14 and 15 we are told that "Broren myrdet av Gestapo" ("Her brother was murdered by the Gestapo") and "- Jeg kommer aldri til å glemme broren min" ("- I will never forget my brother"). Hovig is a famous and beloved Norwegian TV chef and cook books author. 

The article is based on a new book written by Simon Read, Human Game. The True Story of the 'Great Escape' Murders and the Hunt for the Gestapo Gunmen (Berkley, 2012, ISBN 978-0425252734), which tells the story about the escape and how (a majority of) the war prisoners were hunted, recaptured and killed. I haven't read the book, so I can't say much about it. But I am a bit sceptical about the claim that Mrs. Hovig first now have been told the story about how her brother Halldor was killed. When I made research for my blog article linked to above, the information about how Espelid was recaptured and brought to a field outside Flensburg and shot in the back and killed had been available for quite a while (just follow the links from my article). I didn't go into detail about this, as Espelid's death was not the main topic of the blog article, but I mentioned that he was executed. I didn't mention Fuglesang either, first of all because I didn't notice his grave during my cemetery visit and thus didn't take a photo of it, but I read his name when I researched for the article. (Fuglesang was, by the way, born at Hidra outside Flekkefjord on 7 October 1918 and later moved to Florø, the latter according to a private correspondent.)

The journalists who have written the article, Asbjørn Svarstad, who is based in Berlin (and who gave a helping hand when I tried to locate Erica Bernadotte's grave in 2011), and Line Brustad, could have done better research. Throughout the article Halldor's name is spelt Hallada (probably a mistake from the book). Twice it is also stated that "H. Espelid" was buried at Wroclaw, when in fact the Old Garrison Cemetery is situated in Poznan. Now, it could be that Mrs. Hovig, who has just celebrated her 89th birthday, mixed the two cities together when talking to one of the journalists. But shouldn't the journalists have double-checked the information before publishing? Well, at least I think so.

Hovig says in the interview that she learned about the location of her brother's grave as late as in 1988, and thereby confirmed the contents of the weekly magazine article I vaguely remembered having read before visiting the cemetery.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Thought it was a ill written article. Didn't even get the name wrong. How much time does a quick Google search on the chaps name take anyway? Bitterly disappointed I must say.