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Arts & Culture

NOVA: Escape From Nazi Alcatraz

Finished glider. A crack team rebuilds a glider that POWs hoped to catapult off the top of Colditz Castle.
Courtesy of WGBH
Finished glider. A crack team rebuilds a glider that POWs hoped to catapult off the top of Colditz Castle.

Airs Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Explore the science behind the headlines in PBS’ premier science series. With compelling stories and spectacular visuals, NOVA programs demystify science and technology for viewers of all ages and spotlight people involved in scientific pursuits.

"Escape From Nazi Alcatraz" - Colditz Castle, a notorious prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany, was supposed to be escape-proof. But in World War II, a group of British officers dreamed up an escape plan: in a secret attic workshop, they constructed a two-man glider out of bed sheets and floorboards. The plan was to fly to freedom from the roof of the castle, but the war ended before they could put it to the test.

Now a team of aero engineers and carpenters rebuilds the glider in the same attic using the same materials, and they’ll use a bathtub full of concrete to catapult the glider off the roof.

As the hair-raising launch 90 feet up draws near, the program explores the Colditz legend and exposes the secrets of other ingenious and audacious escapes. Then, after a 70-year wait, the team finally finds out if the legendary glider plan would have succeeded.

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