The Great Escape Locations in Germany

Deining
After being contacted by Don J Whistance whose site thegreatescapelocations.com provides "inexhaustible" detailed knowledge of the making of the film, I was able to visit the location used in the opening of the film (although this is not the Dening north of Munich). Here a convoy of Germans are heading towards the town of Deinig with the Alps behind which, along with the town church, some buildings and topography provide continuity with today. I can't however share
Mr. Whistance's enthusiasm for Steve McQueen who was put up in a chalet in Deining, and whose incessant selfish behaviour and self-absorbed petulance sums up his personality for me, as related later by his former wife Neile McQueen Toffel in her book My Husband, My Friend: A Memoir (99-100):
To house Steve, me, and our children, the company had found us a beautiful chalet in Deining, Bavaria. The forty-minute drive to the Geiselgasteig Studios was good for Steve, for it provided him his "creative thinking time, but not so good for the farmers who used the narrow roads: Steve made up his own rules as it suited him. John Sturges and company spent half their time keeping him out of jail. Every time Steve came on the set the German police would be right behind him. John would quickly reprimand him with, “You cannot drive through a flock of chickens and you cannot drive into the woods and then come back onto the road to pass somebody. You cannot drive faster than makes sense or you will hurt yourself.” But when Steve was troubled, driving around was the answer. It helped to calm him.And troubled he was during the first three weeks of the picture....

As costar James Garner would relate, he and Steve Coburn would have to beg McQueen to cooperate after refusing to work until his part was rewritten, asking "What's your problem, Steve?" Apparently "after a few hours of tlakng, Steve wanted to be the hero but didn't want to do anything heroic." 

The convoy later continues just outside the next town, Egling, along a road that no longer exists. Whistance provides a 1954 map showing the original layout with its location today. Marc Eliot's biography references Deining, as well as relating the need for the studio to pay for a minder to try to stop him from driving over the (already liberal) speed limit around the area:

When Steve was told about the locale change, he was both excited—he had, since his merchant marine days, always loved to travel to new countries—and concerned. He enjoyed being overseas, but it meant he would be away from Hollywood for a solid year, except for the few weeks following the completion of The War Lover. He didn't want to become one of those American actors who only worked abroad. Sturges calmed his fears by reminding him he had top billing for the first time in his career and assuring him that he and the family would be put up in a beautiful chalet in Deining, Bavaria. Plus, Sturges pointed out, there were no speed limits in Germany. Technically that wasn't true-only the autobahn had no speed limit; limits on local roads were strictly enforced—but it was enough to get Steve to consent to the German shoot. To prevent Steve from speeding anywhere besides the autobahn, and potentially being arrested and delaying the production, Sturges hired a private escort to make sure he stayed within the legal limit when he drove.
 Füssen
Füssen of course provided the main location for the film The Great Escape. Here the town is first shown in the background behind the Lechhalde bridge as
Flight Lieutenants William Dickes (John Leyton) and Danny Velinski (Charles Bronson), having escaped from Stalag Luft III, attempt to row down the Rhine. For the filmmakers, Füssen and the surrounding area offered ideal filming locations: a small airfield that was important as a prerequisite for escaping by plane, an almost medieval-looking old town without war damage with narrow streets and roof landscapes, a varied nature in the Allgäu with the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, which was also known in America to be in Germany. The diverse landscape types near Füssen enabled the director to do numerous tricks: the village of Pfronten becomes the border town in front of Switzerland, in the swampy Schwansee Park two refugees cross the border to Spain, at the Theresienbrücke members of the Resistance work in a replica French café, et cet. Two of the fleeing allies escape on the Lech reach a ship in the port of Hamburg with their rowing boat. Hendley and the forger Blythe fly over Lake Constance to Switzerland with a stolen plane, in fact actually flying over Weißensee, past Neuschwanstein Castle and along the Hohen Straussberg. Because they don't understand the German air control system, they crash in the Miesbach district near Frauenried am Irschenberg near the Mariä-Geburt-Kirche. 
Meanwhile Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick (James Coburn), having escaped after making off with a bicycle in a scene shot at Markt Schwaben, has arrived in what is supposed to be a French town but which St. Mang unmistakably identifies as Füssen. Based loosely on a true story based on Paul Brickhill's 1950 book about the real-life mass escape by British Commonwealth PoWs from Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland). John Sturges wrote the screenplay and worked with Bavaria Film in Geiselgasteig, where 15,000 square metres of forest had to be cleared next to the studio premises in Perlacher Forst, so that a prison camp true to the original like in Sagan, Poland could be set up as a backdrop. In the fall of 1962, outdoor recordings took place in Füssen and the surrounding area The first part of the film focuses on the escape efforts within the camp and the process of secretly digging an escape tunnel. The second half of the film deals with the massive effort by the German Gestapo to track down the over seventy escaped prisoners individually attempting to make their way to England. 
St. Mang serving as the backdrop when Coburn is seen at Café Suzette (built for the film) before the assassination of these German officers. The cafe as seen here was in the area now holding flagpoles, and Coburn was sitting against the stone wall, now a metal railing. The bridge too has been replaced but otherwise the 1963 film location is easily recognisable on the south bank of the Lech. The black car above is actually a 1947 Citroën 11 Légère 'Traction' in a movie set in 1944.  Steve McQueen's motorcycle stunts and many other scenes in The Great Escape were filmed in and around the town. During six weeks of filming, Hollywood stars Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn stayed in hotels in Füssen, Hohenschwangau, Hopfen and Speiden as Füssen was transformed back to the time of the war with the train station, the narrow streets in the old town and the roof landscapes providing ideal backdrops for car chases. Many citizens acted as extras or watched the filming from the roofs of Spitalgasse. This ended up causing a sensation due to the props involving Nazi flags, weapons and uniforms.
  
 The German officers arriving with Coburn sitting behind.
The officers order from the waiter a Pernod, an anise-flavoured pastis apéritif. In fact the production of pastis was prohibited by the Vichy regime under the August 23, 1940
LoiContre L'Alcoolisme which prohibited the manufacture and sale of aperitifs based upon alcohol distilled from anything other than grapes. This was followed by a subsequent enactment in September 1941 that completely banned such alcohol being advertised. Even after the war the French banned the advertising of aniseed drinks in 1951.
What follows is a scene in which the officrs are then massacred that defies belief, immediately before the attack on the officers the waiter who is part of the plot lures Coburn away by claiming he has a phone call. Coburn is confused and knows nothing about what's going on- for all the waiter knows he could be a German agent or informant who is now going to be able to implicate the assassins. In fact, immediately after the three officers are machine-gunned to death in broad daylight in the centre of town, the cafe owners openly celebrate with cognac amidst the carnag
 
The poster used in the foreground is rather anachronistic as it dated from the very start of the German occupation with the legend "Abandoned populations, trust the German soldier !”
 The assassins' car drives down Lechhade bridge, turning on Tirolerstraße.

Bartlett and MacDonald attempting to board a bus at Brotmarkt whilst being checked by Gestapo agents. Do look out for the studio lamp on a scissor-lift in plain sight at the left side of the screen.


  MacDonald and Bartlett fleeing the Gestapo down Hintere Gasse upon being identified.
The same scene, looking from the very end of  Hintere Gasse 
MacDonald getting hit by a cyclist as he's chased down Drehergasse which follows the old city wall, with my own bike as reference
 
 As MacDonald is pursued, Bartlett- somehow seeing all this from Franziskanergasse- makes his own attempt at escape
Bartlett meanwhile trying to escape via Füssen's rooftops as he arrives at an der Stadtmauer...

... only to somehow manage to return to Drehergasse [!] before ending up at Brunnengasse...
...where he's finally caught on the corner of Hutergasse and Brunnengasse by Untersturmführer Steinach, played by Karl Otto Alberty. There is a continuity error in this scene as Attenborough's character Bartlett tries to walk nonchalantly along the pavement. When the German yells at Bartlett from his car to stop Bartlett does so, still on the pavement. However when cut to a different angle it appears that Bartlett has in fact stopped in the middle of the street. Such individual incidents in the film were mostly based on fact, but rearranged both chronologically and regarding the people involved as noted at the start of the film. In reality, of the 76 who escaped, three had managed to succeed whilst fifty were murdered in reprisal, but in small groups and not all at once. As one sadly expects from American films, the nationality of most of the prisoners were changed to emphasise the role of Americans at the expense of British Imperial heroes. Indeed, the real escape was by British and other allied personnel, none by Americans. Whilst Americans in the PoW camp did initially help to build the tunnels and work on the early escape plans, they were moved to their own compound seven months before the tunnels were completed. A large part had been played by Canadians, especially in the construction of the tunnels and in the escape itself. Of the 1,800 or so PoWs in the compound of whom 600 were involved in preparations for the escape, 150 of these were from the Dominion of Canada; Wally Floody, an RCAF pilot and mining engineer who was the real-life “tunnel king”, was engaged as a technical advisor for the film. Fourteen Germans were executed after the war for their roles, which ended up being among the charges at the Nuremberg War Crimes trial. Another actor, Donald Pleasence, had actually been an RAF pilot who had been shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans. After offering advice to the film's director John Sturges, he was politely told to mind his own business. 
 
Later, when another star informed Sturges that Pleasence had actually been a RAF Officer in a Stalag camp, Sturges requested his technical advice and input on historical accuracy from that point forward. Other actors had been PoWs- Hannes Messemer in a Russian camp and Til Kiwe (playing the German guard "Frick" who discovers the escape) and Hans Reiser were prisoners of the Americans during the war. Kiwe had been a German paratrooper officer who was captured and held prisoner at a PoW camp in Colorado and himself had made several escape attempts, being captured in the St. Louis railway station during one such attempt. He won the Knight's Cross before his capture and was the cast member who had actually done many of the exploits shown in the film. Former PoWs in fact requested that the filmmakers exclude certain details about help they received to prevent the film jeopardising future escapes, a request which was honoured. 

The train station that appears in the film when David McCallum is killed on the tracks, enabling Attenborough to escape, was demolished recently in 2015 after having been purchased by the company "Hubert Schmid Bauunternehmen GmbH" for roughly 300,000 euros with the intention of replacing it with a modern convenience centre.
Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) stringing a wire across what is actually the road between Füssen and Hopfen am See, the town clearly seen in the background; in fact, McQueen himself played the German motorcyclist who crashed into the wire. If one looks closely at the scene one can clearly see two shadows on the ground caused by the camera lights. In addition,  the motorcycle he makes off with is obviously a postwar British-made Triumph rather than the BMW or Zundapp which the Wehremacht would have used.
Serving in large part as a Steve McQueen vanity project, his character Hilts was based on an amalgamation of several real-life individuals including Major Dave Jones, a flight commander during Doolittle's Raid shot down and captured and Colonel Jerry Sage, who was an OSS agent in the North African desert when he was captured. Sage managed to don a flight jacket and pass as a flier otherwise he would have been executed as a spy. Another inspiration was probably Squadron Leader Eric Foster who escaped no less than seven times from German prisoner-of-war camps. In fact, during the filming the town's police had set up a speed trap near the set in which several members of the cast and crew were caught, including McQueen. Apparently the Chief of Police told McQueen "Herr McQueen, we have caught several of your comrades today, but you have won the prize [for the highest speeding]." McQueen was arrested and briefly gaoled. 
 
  Neuschwanstein
As seen in The Great Escape when Hendley (James Garner) and Blythe (Donald Pleasance) try to reach Switzerland escape by stealing a light aircraft, with Hohenschwangau castle on the lower right. In fact, the photo of Neuschwanstein indicates that they're actually flying straight in the wrong direction as I took it facing south with the plane travelling from right to left; this would mean that they are actually heading east away from the Swiss border which is about forty miles west of the castle.



Just outside Pullach is the former railway station located at Bahnhofsplatz 2 in the Großhesselohe district of Pullach which, as with Füssen and Markt Schwaben, provided scenes for The Great Escape, shown here as Gestapo and SD arrive to search for the missing prisoners.with the site today. It had been part of the Munich–Holzkirchen railway line, about an hundred metres west of the Großhesseloher bridge. About 400 metres west of the station there is still the old railway bridge, on which the Isar Valley Railway used to cross the tracks leading to the Großhesseloher Bridge. The station was built during the construction of the Bavarian Maximiliansbahn. The Munich – Großhesselohe section was put into operation in 1854. Since the continuation of the route was delayed by the necessary construction of the 300 metre long Großhesseloher bridge over the Isar, Großhesselohe was the end of the route for about 3 years. The next section, Großhesselohe – Rosenheim, was not opened until 1857, and Großhesselohe station became a through station. With the completion of the Braunau railway bridge in 1871, the Großhesselohe station lost its importance for long-distance traffic, as a large part of the long-distance connections were made over the shorter new route. It was here in 1962 that the train station was used as a backdrop for the film The Great Escape. For this purpose, the station building and the platform roof were provided with a sign "Neustadt." Here Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley (James Garner) helping the almost blind Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe (Donald Pleasence) onto the platform. Pleasence had actually been an RAF pilot who had been shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans during the war. After offering advice to the film's director John Sturges, he was politely told to mind his own business. Later, when another star informed Sturges that Pleasence had actually been a RAF Officer in a Stalag camp, Sturges requested his technical advice and input on historical accuracy from that point forward. A number of individual incidents shown in the film were mostly based on fact, but rearranged both chronologically and regarding the people involved as noted at the start of the film. In reality, of the 76 who escaped, three had managed to succeed whilst fifty were murdered in reprisal, but in small groups and not all at once.  
After the escape and now masquerading as French businessmen, Flight Lieutenant Sandy MacDonald (Gordon Jackson) and Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) climb the stairs onto the platform at Neustadt station, now completely gone at the now closed Großhesselohe Staatsbahnhof. Whilst waiting to pass through a Gestapo checkpoint at a railway station, Bartlett is recognized by Kuhn, a Gestapo agent; Ashley-Pitt sacrifices himself by killing Kuhn, and is shot and killed. Bartlett and MacDonald slip away, but MacDonald blunders by replying in English to a suspicious Gestapo officer. MacDonald is quickly apprehended, and Bartlett is recognised and recaptured by Untersturmführer Steinach, an SS agent.
Based loosely on a true story based on Paul Brickhill's 1950 book about the real-life mass escape by British Commonwealth PoWs from Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland), the first part of the film focuses on the escape efforts within the camp and the process of secretly digging an escape tunnel. The second half of the film deals with the massive effort by the German Gestapo to track down the over seventy escaped prisoners individually attempting to make their way to England. As one sadly expects from American films, the nationality of most of the prisoners were changed to emphasise the role of Americans at the expense of British Imperial heroes.
Indeed, the real escape was by British and other allied personnel, none by Americans. Coburn actually plays an Australian. Whilst Americans in the PoW camp did initially help to build the tunnels and work on the early escape plans, they were moved to their own compound seven months before the tunnels were completed. A large part had been played by Canadians, especially in the construction of the tunnels and in the escape itself. Of the 1,800 or so PoWs in the compound of whom six hundred were involved in preparations for the escape, 150 of these were from the Dominion of Canada; Wally Floody, an RCAF pilot and mining engineer who was the real-life “tunnel king”, was engaged as a technical advisor for the film. Fourteen Germans were executed after the war for their roles, which ended up being among the charges at the Nuremberg War Crimes trial.


A couple of scenes from The Great Escape were shot here.  Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe (Donald Pleasence) and Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley (James Garner) hiding from the Germans during the Great Escape; the clock tower of the parish church St. Margaret in Markt Schwaben serving as a reference point. Pleasence had actually been an RAF pilot who had been shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans during the war. After offering advice to the film's director John Sturges, he was politely told to mind his own business. Later, when another star informed Sturges that Pleasence had actually been a RAF Officer in a Stalag camp, Sturges requested his technical advice and input on historical accuracy from that point forward. A number of individual incidents shown in the film were mostly based on fact, but rearranged both chronologically and regarding the people involved as noted at the start of the film. In reality, of the 76 who escaped, three had managed to succeed whilst fifty were murdered in reprisal, but in small groups and not all at once.  Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick (James Coburn) stealing a bike on Ebersberger Straße in Markt Schwaben, named Neustadt in the film. The successful escape of  Coburn's Australian character, Sedgwick, via Spain was based on Dutchman Bram van der Stok. Coburn, an American, was cast in the role of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick who was an amalgamation of Flight Lieutenant Albert Hake, an Australian serving in the RAF, the camp's compass maker, and Johnny Travis, the real manufacturer.
Based loosely on a true story based on Paul Brickhill's 1950 book about the real-life mass escape by British Commonwealth PoWs from Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland), the first part of the film focuses on the escape efforts within the camp and the process of secretly digging an escape tunnel. The second half of the film deals with the massive effort by the German Gestapo to track down the over seventy escaped prisoners individually attempting to make their way to England.
As one sadly expects from American films, the nationality of most of the prisoners were changed to emphasise the role of Americans at the expense of British Imperial heroes.
Indeed, the real escape was by British and other allied personnel, none by Americans. Coburn actually plays an Australian. Whilst Americans in the PoW camp did initially help to build the tunnels and work on the early escape plans, they were moved to their own compound seven months before the tunnels were completed. A large part had been played by Canadians, especially in the construction of the tunnels and in the escape itself. Of the 1,800 or so PoWs in the compound of whom six hundred were involved in preparations for the escape, 150 of these were from the Dominion of Canada; Wally Floody, an RCAF pilot and mining engineer who was the real-life “tunnel king”, was engaged as a technical advisor for the film. Fourteen Germans were executed after the war for their roles, which ended up being among the charges at the Nuremberg War Crimes trial.

 
Coburn making his way down the other way, showing how much has changed since the film was shot.