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POW's In Germany

Discussion in 'War44 General Forums' started by Jim, Jan 28, 2010.

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  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    In thousands of homes in this country and in the Empire overseas thoughts turned to a husband or father, son, brother or lover who was "kicking his heels" in a German prisoner of war camp. Some account of the camps and of the prevailing conditions is given in the article that follows.

    In Germany and German-occupied territory there were at one time an estimated 2,500,000 prison's of war. Nearly two million of these were French, hundreds of thousands were Polish, and tens of thousands were Belgian, Dutch, and .Norwegian, while the British numbered about 44,000.

    Wulzburg Castle, near Weissenburg, Bavaria, where, these photographs were taken, was a POW camp in which the majority of the prisoners were British and French. In the Top upper photograph some of them are seen making articles of clothing under the supervision of a German guard. Lower upper photograph, the organ provides solace, during recreation hours, to those who were fond of music.

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    This vast host was quartered, (except for those enlisted in labour gangs) in prison camps, of which there were three types, known officially as Oflag, Stalag, and Dulag, contractions for Offizierslager, Stamlager, and Durchgangslager, respectively, Oflag was a camp used for officer prisoners, while Stalag was one for privates and N.C.O's. Dulag was a transfer camp, i.e. a camp to which officers and men were taken soon after their capture, and where they were graded before being dispatched to either an Oflag or a Stalag.

    The camps were periodically visited by delegates of the International Red Cross, and reports on some of them have been published. Two Swiss doctors, Dr. Marti and Dr. Des Coeudres, reported on Oflag VII C, where there were 1,245 British officers, including a General and five colonels, 31 chaplains, and 39 doctors. It was contained in an old castle in a Bavarian town, mid the quarters comprised three floors, the number of prisoners in each room varied from nine to 120. The food, though rather monotonous, was not too bad, and British cooks were employed. Most of the prisoners, the visitors found, were at that time, in need of warm clothes; shirts and so on could be purchased at the canteen, but they were very expensive. Four British doctors were on duty in the hospital, and, generally speaking, the health conditions were satisfactory. Hot baths were available once a week and there were facilities for playing games. On Sundays four religious services were held. Books were scarce, but the supply was being increased by the Y.M.C.A.

    P.O.W. CAMPS in Germany and Poland are shown in this map. There were 106 within the boundaries of the Reich (including Poland and Austria) and 62 in France. OFG ("Oflag") denotes a camp for officer prisoners; STG ("Stalag"), a camp for other ranks; "Luftlager" camp for airmen; "Dulag," a transfer camp. This map, compiled from a list supplied by the German authorities, was published in the French newspaper "Paris Soir," and reproduced for the Daily Telegraph."

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    Large Map Can Be Seen Here: Click Me

    The same two visitors inspected Stalag XIII, where there were 1,036 prisoner's not only British, but French, Poles, Belgians, Dutch, and Norwegians. This prison camp was found to be decidedly overcrowded, and the delegates commented unfavourably on the fact that the beds had only one sheet and two blankets, and that the only heating was a small oven in the centre of the room. "This seems inadequate heating," they said, "during a severe winter, and the health conditions seem generally defective."

    Dr. Marti also visited some of the camps reserved for R.A.F. prisoners. In one Stalag he found 231 NCO’s and 57 privates; the camp leader was Flight-Sergeant Hall, No. 569838. These were housed in three wooden barracks, which Dr. Marti describes as comfortable; "food, good; prisoners, satisfied." The men, he went on, “like to work in the labour detachments, in which they receive a minimum of 20.8 marks per month, and are well treated."

    British Prisoners in Germany lead a monotonous life, and after their day's work, which may have been arduous road-making or canal construction, games provided a very welcome diversion and kept their minds occupied. Two prisoners below are keeping their wits alive with a game of chess, while their comrades follow the moves closely.

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    In Oflag IX there were 44 naval officers and, 17 doctors. Dulag Luft, a transfer camp for airmen, consisted of three large, well-heated barracks, with running hot and cold water, accommodating 102 men. Here are Dr. Martis notes on the place: "Rooms with one to three beds, tables, easy chairs, exceptional comfort, dining-room, whisky every evening, papers, various games, walks outside camp, food excellent, similar to that received by the German officers of the camp, well stocked canteen, receiving pay, correspondence received irregularly."

    Another delegate, Dr Marcel Junod, was commissioned by the International Red Cross to visit prisoner-of-war- hospitals in Brussels, Malines, Ghent, Paris, and Rouen, amongst other places. On the whole his report was not unsatisfactory; thus the wounded at Malines hospital are "satisfied, "being under the care of two Army doctors, Major R. W. Ganderson and Major D. N. Stuart. On being passed fit the men were given a complete double set of underclothing by the Belgian Red Cross before being sent to the prison camps. in Germany. But warm underclothes were badly needed in some of the hospitals, and the wounded often asked for soap.

    Parcels of food and comforts, dispatched through the British Red Cross, were eagerly awaited by POW's in Germany for the rations of a prisoner were by no means lavish. Small wonder, then, that the arrival of the parcels post at a P.O.W camp in Germany was a red-letter event in these men's lives. Lower photo, parcels are being stamped prior to dispatch at a parcels centre of the British Red Cross.

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    Now here is a letter from a British officer who was imprisoned in Oflag VII C/H; it was dated December 10 1940 and was received by his wife on January 8 1941 by air mail via Lisbon.
    "We rise at 7.30 am and have a half-litre of ersatz coffee. Parade or roll-call is at 9.15. Lunch is at 11.00; and usually consists of soup, sometimes thin and sometimes thick, with potatoes. Twice a week we get a meat and potato mash instead. Next meal is at 4 pm, of more soup and potatoes, or on Sunday a 2-oz Camembert and some jam with coffee or Red Cross tea if we have any. Two other meals a week in the afternoon are either cheese or sausage, tea or coffee, we get half a litre of milk two or three times a week, which we pay for. Our supper comes out of the above, with 10 oz of bread which, we get every day; naturally, parcels are welcomed for a change of diet! "

    It is clear that, while the prisoners may have received rations comparing quite fairly with those issued to their German guards, they complained about the quality and monotonous character of their diet.

    British prisoners are seen clearing away the debris of bombed, and shelled buildings in Calais, work that put a keen edge on the appetite.

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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The Red Cross organisation faced a difficult task after the Battle of France in sending parcels to POW's in Germany. Many of the thousands of men posted as "missing" were actually prisoners, but for a time the Red Cross had in its possession the names of only a fraction of the total number. Moreover, parcels had to travel from a British port to Lisbon, then by rail to Barcelona, from Barcelona by sea to Marseilles, and then overland to Geneva. A 10-Ib parcel was sent by the Red Cross every week to each of the 44.000 POW's that were in Germany at the beginning of 1941.

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