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Great Escape hero denied compensation

By Dominic Harris

A hero of the real Great Escape, who spent five months in solitary confinement in a German concentration camp, was initially denied compensation by the Government after being told he had not endured enough hardship.

Flight Lieutenant Bertram "Jimmy" James was held prisoner for a year in Sachsenhausen camp after he and Allied officers were recaptured and spared execution following their daring escape from Stalag Luft III in March 1944.

Flt Lt James and his fellow detainees were kept under close guard by SS troops at the camp's Sonderlager A compound. After trying to escape he was held in solitary confinement and lived under the constant threat of execution, but 20 years later the Government told him he was not entitled to compensation for Nazi persecution because he had not suffered enough.

Documents released by the National Archives revealed the Foreign Office denied him money because he was not subjected to the "well-known inhuman and degrading treatment of a concentration camp proper".

Flt Lt James wrote back to express his disappointment that the "scale of suffering and degradation" was not sufficient to warrant compensation. However, he was eventually given more than £1,000.

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