Even before the beginning of WWII the National Socialist planned to use POW as forced labourers to bridge upcoming labour shortage in Germany. The camp-system foresaw three types of camps: Dulags (transitional POW camps), Oflags (POW camp for officers) and Stalags (POW camp for non-commissioned officers and soldiers). The camp was commanded by the OKW (headquarters) of the Wehrmacht. Commando Stalag VIII A had been established as early as 26.08.1939 being under the command of military district VIII with headquarters located in Breslau.
Until the end of December 1939 Stalag VIII A was built by the first Polish POWs and extended until autumn 1940. The camp covered approx. 30 ha and held over 60 barracks. About 120,000 POW of different nationalities went through the camp form 1939 to 1945. The prisoner´s number varied monthly and rose in the course of WWII. Daily camp life was marked by hard labour, insufficient rations and bad hygienic and sanitary conditions. Over 80% of POWs registered in camp had been placed outside the camps premises in various subcamps and work commandos in the city of Görlitz or its hinterlands where they had to work in all economical areas such as farming or in industrial factories, in trade and transport. In 2015, on the grounds of former Stalag VIII A the European Centre of Remembrance, Education and Culture has been established as a place of memory, education and exchange for young Europeans and people from all over the world.