Thursday, September 11, 2008


Based on Josef Martin Bauer`s novel, this true story is the incredible journey undertaken by German soldier Clemens Forell in his dramatic escape from a Siberian labour camp.

Set against a backdrop of desolate and inhospitable landscape, beset by danger (from both animals and humans), constantly battling the worst nature can throw at him, Forell makes his way, step by step, kilometre by kilometre, towards Persia and the longed-for freedom.

Three years it takes him. Sometimes riding on trains, sometimes by boat, mostly on foot, he covers more than 14,000 kilometres, knowing that every step brings him closer to his goal but never knowing if his next step will also be his last.

In December, 1952, eight years after he left his family and was sent to fight on the Russian front in a war that was already lost, Forell was finally reunited with his wife and children.

The following is a translation –

‘In the autumn 1945 3,000 German prisoners of war are sent away from Moscow to Siberia, all condemned to 25 years hard labour. At Christmas 1,950 surviving men arrive at Tschita, among them also first lieutenant Clemens Forell . From Tschita they are sent northeast on foot. After one years foot march in the autumn 1946 they reach their goal: a camp at the Siberian east cape, cape Deschnew, which has neither barbed wire nor watch towers.
But the camp is a mountain, which is honeycombed with caverns and tunnels. Into it the 1,236 survivors are distributed. Here, in the darkness of the lead mines, hardly illuminated from small oil lamps, they must work and live day in and day out. Every six weeks for a few hours they are allowed to see the outside. They all know that they will slowly and surely die of lead poisoning. An escape from this most north-eastern tip of the Soviet Union seems hopeless. A first escape attempt of Clemens Forell at the beginning of 1947 fails.

Clemens Forell dares the escape two years later again, supported by the German camp physician Dr. Stauffer who is already near death from cancer and helped to prepare for his escape with the utmost care. The incredible strength to this escape comes from Forell's longing and his great love for his wife Mrs. Kathrin (and the two children, his daughter Lieschen which he only remembered as a baby and his son Frieder, which he then had not seen . His strong will to be free and the certainty to perish at the Bergwerk of lead poisening was what drove him forward during the escape. Normal prisoners of war count after the end of war in foreseeable time to go back to their homeland. However the prisoners and Forell because of "stolen potatoes" during the war they were war criminals Since the Soviet Union had great need for workers in remote areas. Forell knew that their additionally 25-year sentence left no hope for imminent repatriation.

Its began in October 1949 with icy cold weather. He succeeds to escape into the deserted landscape of North Siberia where he strikes himself as a bird suitor by the tundras and forests. He teems up with 2 escaped Russian convicts, one a gold scrubber and the other a hunter. With them he travels westward. They fish and hunt, until because of an argument about a gold lump controversy breaks out during which one dies and the other pushed Forell over a cliff into the abyss. Clemens Forell badly hurt and later attacked by wolves. In the last minute he is saved by passing Nomades, which have compassion with him and helping and nurse him until his feet can carry him again. They give him as a parting gift a sleigh dog. Together with the dog by 1951 he reaches Uda close on the border of Mongolia. There however first lieutenant Kamenev already waits for him, he made it his duty to return Forell dead or alive.

Forell escapes scarcely and saves only his naked life, his faithful dog and companion was shot. Forell is badly shaken but does not give up. Hitching rides on goods trains he penetrates up to the late summer of 1952 central Asia, surviving various adventures and dangers.

He would never have made it to and over the border of Persia if it had not been for a Polish Jew Igor. A member of an underground organization who supplied him with some identity papers. Leutenant Kamenev who is still close on Forell's heels can not follow him across the border and has to give up.
In October 1952 he reached Tabris in Persia, where he is arrested as a Russian spy. Fortunately for him a uncle, Baudrexel who is in Turkish service in Ankara is able to identify him. He did not recognize him at first, small wonder after his experiences in Siberia and 3 years of flight. Finally after given up all hope he was released a week later.

In December 1952 two days before Christmas Clemens Forell comes home to his family.’

The name of the book behind the modern film is: Josef Martin Bauer: So weit die Füße tragen. (As far as my feet will carry me) 2002. ISBN: 3431027180.

Bauer was a Journalist who in 1955 published the authentic story of the PoW Clemens Forell (a pseudonym), who escaped from Siberia and walked 14200 Kilometers (!). It became a 12 million-bestseller. After the book came a TV series in 6 episodes, which emptied the streets in Germany 1959.

There was an English edition in 1957 by Random House under the title "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me".

The novel by Josef Martin Bauer was published in the US in English translation with the title, ‘As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me’, sometime in the Fifties.

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