The main object of interest for the Central Museum of Prisoners-of-War is the functioning of two POW systems: the German and the Soviet ones, in the time of World War 2. The vicissitudes of Polish POWs involved in these systems and the history of the Polish soldiers interned in neutral countries during the War are of particular importance. The background history of the POW camps in Lamsdorf (since 1945 known as Łambinowice) and that of the labor camp organized in Łambinowice in the years 1939-1945 also play a significant role in popularization of the problem area.
The institution belongs to the group of museums of martyrdom, established after World War 2, with the aim to document the Nazi war crimes and cultivate the memory of their victims. The crimes perpetrated in Lamsdorf were connected with the functioning of one of the largest POW camp complexes designed for soldiers of the anti-Nazi coalition, which was established in this area in the years 1939-1945.
The Museum realizes its mission by running documentative, scientific and educational activities, organizing exhibitions, publishing and conserving the remains of the POW camps. The goal of all the actions which are undertaken is to preserve the memory of the victims of crimes.
The institution deals with collecting, storing and rendering available numerous museum items and archival materials connected with POWs, first of all, coming from the time of World War 2. The collections of the Central Museum of Prisoners-of-War are among the most valuable and richest of the kind in Poland. They comprise several dozen thousand items, among others, objects used or made by POWs in the time of their stay in captivity or those pertaining to administration and guards service of POW camps (over 11 thousand items), as well as documents, microfilms, photographs and maps (about 20 thousand archival items).
The collections include items coming from the time of World War 1; however, the majority of them are relics of World War 2 and are connected with the German POW system, and – to a smaller extent – to the POW camps functioning in the USSR and those of the internment of Polish soldiers in Romania, Hungary and Switzerland.
The Central Museum of Prisoners-of-War has functioned since 1965 as an independent institution, unique on the European scale. It was established in 1964 as a department of District Museum of Opole Silesia. The present name has been in use since 1984. [See more information on the Central Museum of Prisoners-of-War].
The Museum is based in two seats: in Łambinowice and in Opole, located about 40 kilometers apart. In Łambinowice, there are two departments of the Museum: Department of Collections and Conservation and Department of Education and Exhibitions. They are based in the buildings of the former Wehrmacht headquarters and guardhouse, which were erected in the 1930s. The both buildings house permanent and temporary exhibitions. In the vicinity of the Łambinowice seat of the Museum there are found other remnants of the facilities of the former German military range, isolation camps and three war cemeteries. The whole area, including the buildings of the Museum, makes the Site of National Remembrance.
The Museum Director’s office, as well as the other departments: Scientific Department, Archive, Department of Administration and Economy and Department of Finances are based in the Opole seat. The building situated at Minorytów Street, which is currently occupied by the Museum, has been in use since 1988. The first mention of this object dates from the 18th century. Most probably it was a malt-house, then the municipal prison, and in the Nazi period – a prison run by the Gestapo. In the 1980s, the building was adapted to meet the Museum’s needs and in the next decade a considerable extension of it was made. It is the venue of the permanent exhibition entitled “The Site of National Remembrance in Łambinowice – the regional, national, European heritage” and there are also temporary exhibitions presented there.