June 2010 Archive

Movie (1957): The Bridge on the River Kwai

The different work requirement for officers vs. enlisted personnel was a key part of a (fictional) WW2 movie: The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Starting at about 45 seconds into this clip (with the word "officers" a bit garbled):

Time is short. All men will work. Your officers will work beside you.

The British commander objects, quoting the "other than officers" portion of the Geneva Convention. Neither wants to give in.

Lots more at filmsite ... though the quotes don't seem to match the film.

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POW work and pay: officers vs. enlisted

Link to POW work and pay: officers vs. enlisted

POWs often worked outside the camps ... and got paid.

The official name of the Geneva Convention that governed during WW2 is "Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 27 July 1929". Here are some excerpts from SECTION III - WORK OF PRISONERS OF WAR. (emphasis added, corrections of apparent typos are marked in brackets)

Art. 27. Belligerents may employ as workmen prisoners of war who are physically fit, other than officers and persons of equivalent [status], according to their [rank] and their ability. Nevertheless, if officers or persons of equivalent status ask for suitable work, this shall be found for them as far as possible. Non-commissioned officers who are prisoners of war may be compelled to undertake only supervisory work, unless they expressly request remunerative occupation. ...

Art. 28. The detaining Power shall assume entire responsibility for the maintenance, care, treatment and the payment of the wages of prisoners of war working for private individuals.

Art. 29. No prisoner of war may be employed on work for which he is physically unsuited.


Art. 31. Work done by prisoners of war shall have no direct connection with the operations of the war. In particular, it is forbidden to employ prisoners in the manufacture or transport of arms or munitions of any kind, or on the transport of material destined for combatant units.

Even more surprising (at least to me!): officers were paid even without working:

Art. 23. Subject to any special arrangements made between the belligerent Powers, and particularly those contemplated in Article 24, officers and persons of equivalent status who are prisoners of war shall receive from the detaining Power the same pay as officers of corresponding rank in the armed forces of that Power, provided, however, that such pay does not exceed that to which they are entitled in the armed forces of the country in whose service they have been. This pay shall be paid to them in full, once a month if possible, and no deduction therefrom shall be made for expenditure devolving upon the detaining Power, even if such expenditure is incurred on their behalf.

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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan-Apr 1946

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan-Apr 1946
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

Months passed uneventfully at Camp Wainwright. Here are some excerpts starting from early 1946. (skipped days are not marked; all typos in original; the diary no longer shows the day of the week)


16 - Colder. Escort personnel selected for escorting PW to U.K. are being inoculated, given Schick tests, Typhus, T.A.B.T. & vacination.

30 Jan - Weather quite cold. Instructions received that 43 PW Other Ranks are to be despatched at once to Lethbridge for embarkation to U.K.

31 Jan - ... Preparations being made for PW other ranks to proceed to U.K. this is first draft to leave Canada, Word received that 14 O.R. PW are to proceed to Lethbridge to work on individual farms


19 FEB - Fine clear day, about 6 degrees above zero Lieut. Halstead Naval Intelligence arrived to-day and gave a lecture to PW


28 - Weather clearing. ... 70 PW with Escort 1 Officer and 14 OR's left Camp for Lethbridge at 1600 hrs.


12 - 40 above and cloudy. Inspection of Enclosure 1030 hrs. Quarters clean. Concert held in the Enclosure at 2000. Commandant and a Senior Officer attending. Very good.

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Page 7: We were free.

Link to Page 7: We were free.
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

The last page of Chapter I:

Dann - das Herz schlug mir bis zum Hals - schlüpfte ich hindurch, während der Posten vom Wachturm gemächlich zuschaute, ließ mir den Hammer reichen und schlug auf der anderen Seite einen Nagel ins Holz. Darauf schoben wir unsere Drahtrolle durch den Zaun. Heinz folgte. Auf der Außenseite spannten wir ein paar Drähte und nagelten sie fest. Dann - alles Werkzeug liegen lassend, als ob wir gleich wiederkommen würden - entfernten wir uns ... Krachte da ein Schuß? Nein, es war nur ein Hund, der bellte ... Mit Mühe gelang es uns, unsere gemächliche Gangart beizubehalten - bis zum Zerreißen angespannt waren die Nerven - würde es klappen ...? Noch wenige Meter, dann waren wir in Deckung des nächsten Gebüschs. Bald hatten wir die Bahnlinie überschritten und die Hauptstraße nach Edmonton erreicht. Wir waren frei.

Then - my heart pounding in my throat - I slid through while the guard from the watchtower leisurely watched, reached for the hammer and pounded a nail into the wood on the other side. Then we pushed our roll of wire through the fence. Heinz followed. On the outer side we ran a few wires and nailed them firmly. Then - leaving all the tools behind as if we were to return soon - we departed ... Was a shot fired? No, it was just a dog, that barked ... With effort we managed to maintain our leisurely pace - our nerves were stretched to the breaking point - would it work ...? Only a few meters, then we were under the cover of the next bushes. Soon we had crossed the railroad tracks and reached the main road into Edmonton. We were free.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 9: Freedom, Joy (Jul 02, 2010)
   2. Page 6: ... in that, all armies of the world are the same. (Jun 18, 2010)
   3. Book trailer: We were free. (Jun 10, 2010)
   4. Book poster: We were free. (May 25, 2010)
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Book trailer: Suddenly a dog was alarmed

"... suddenly a dog was alarmed, a flashlight lit up, footsteps approached. With a few leaps, we disappeared sideways behind a pile of wood, crawling farther through the deep snow." (page 18)

Images adapted from markhillary and mescon at Flickr

Music from Bach's Toccata Adagio Fugue: http://www.musopen.com/music.php?type=piece&id=468

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Colleges in the camps

Link to Colleges in the camps

In case you didn't click through to read the entire Encyclopedia of Alabama article yesterday, here's more:

Each major camp established camp colleges, and prisoners could enroll in a wide variety of courses, including history, mathematics, the sciences, vocational courses, and preparatory classes for students seeking postwar careers in medicine, law, electrical engineering, and architecture. The educational opportunities provided by these camp colleges proved popular. For example, of Camp Opelika's 3,000 prisoners, some 1,400 participated in coursework. Initially, prisoners taught the courses. Later, prisoners were permitted to enroll in correspondence courses from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin.

There are similar stories from camps across the US and Canada.

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Museum: Camp Opelika, Alabama

Link to Museum: Camp Opelika, Alabama

The Museum of East Alabama includes an exhibit on Camp Opelika:

Interesting camp equipment, such as the guard tower spotlight ... and the last remaining barracks building

The Encyclopedia of Alabama has a great article on POW camps in the state:

During World War II, the state of Alabama was home to approximately 16,000 German prisoners of war (POWs) in 24 camps.


The Army Corps of Engineers constructed Alabama's first camps during the winter of 1942-1943. Army doctrine dictated that camps be built either at existing military bases or at sites distant from major cities and industrial centers, and military surveyors toured the state for suitable locations.


Camp Opelika was capable of housing 3,000 POWs

(There's lots more in the article.)

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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: July 1945

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: July 1945
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

It wasn't practical to return POWs to Germany right away, so life in Camp Wainwright continued. After discovering how some Allied POWs were treated in Germany, rations were reduced (apparently at the request of the British Government, which had formal control of the POWs in Canada).

Excerpts from July 1945: (skipped days are not marked)

10th - Tuesday - Quite hot but cooler towards evening. Received new reduced Scale of PW Rations. ... "Sweet & Low Down" shown at 1915 hrs. ...

If anyone takes the time to look up these articles, please send copies! (typos are in the original)

24th - Tuesday - Hot & Sultry. ... Article in Edmonton Journal regarding PW in this Camp causing considerable controversy as to its truth. ... "Laura" was shown in the Drill Hall at 1915 hrs.

25th - Wednesday - Continued hot with slight showers in the afternoon. Second news item in the Edmonton Journal in regard to this Camp.Four O.Rs.leaving this HQ for Discharge this week. ...

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Page 6: ... in that, all armies of the world are the same.

Link to Page 6: ... in that, all armies of the world are the same.
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Ja, richtig, wir hatten auf der Wache Bescheid über unser Tun zu geben. Alles hat nach Vorschrift zu gehen, darin sind sich alle Armeen der Welt gleich. Also zurück zum Tor und zur Wache. Betont lässig, die Zigarette im Mundwinkel, jeden Gleichschritt vermeidend, machten wir uns auf den Weg. Plötzlich Musik aus dem Lager ... Die Lagerkapelle spielte den neuesten amerikanischen Schlager. "Crazy P/W's" - "verrückte Kriegsgefangene", hörten wir einen Posten sagen, als wir an der Wache vorbeikamen. Aber der Zweck war erreicht - die Wache war abgelenkt worden, nahm keine weitere Notiz von uns. "Hoffentlich haben wir auf dieser Seite mehr Glück!" murmelte ich, als wir die Wache hinter uns hatten - und jetzt schien es tatsächlich zu klappen. Geschäftig klopfte Heinz wieder an den Zaunpfählen, während ich mit einem Spreizholz zwei Drähte auseinandersperrte.

Yes, right, we were to inform the guardhouse of our task. Everything had to go by the book, in that, all armies of the world are the same. So, back to the gate and to the guardhouse. Deliberately nonchalant, cigarettes in the corners of our mouths, avoiding a lockstep march, we started on our way. Suddenly, music from the camp ... The camp band was playing the latest American hits. "Crazy P/Ws," we heard a guard say as we passed by the guardhouse. But the purpose was accomplished - the guardhouse was distracted, took no further notice of us. "Hopefully we'll have more luck on this side!" I muttered as we left the guardhouse behind us - and now it actually seemed to work. Heinz busily hammered on the fence posts again, while I separated two wires with a spreader board.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 7: We were free. (Jun 25, 2010)
   2. Page 5: ... the agreed-upon signal that everything was lost ... (Jun 11, 2010)
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Book trailer: Joy!

Here's the second in the series of short "teaser" book trailer videos.

"We were free. An indescribable feeling of joy overcame us, as, with every passing minute, we increased our distance from the camp. ...and we began running out of joy." (pages 7 and 9, chapters 1 and 2)

Images adapted from wili, varun, and varun at Flickr

Music from Bach's Toccata Adagio Fugue: http://www.musopen.com/music.php?type=piece&id=468

Related Posts:
   1. Page 9: Freedom, Joy (Jul 02, 2010)
   2. Book poster: Joy! (scenic) (May 27, 2010)
   3. Book poster: Joy! (abstract) (May 26, 2010)
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POWs arrive in Aliceville

Link to POWs arrive in Aliceville

The Alabama Heritage magazine has an online reprint of "Inside the Wire: Aliceville and the Afrika Korps" by Randy Wall.

A classic opening:

The slow-turning fans above the soda fountain at Jones’ Drugstore in Aliceville brought scant relief from the sultry heat. It was August of 1942 and the Corps had arrived—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Everyone had seen them, with their tripods and transits, squinting down imaginary lines over on Doc Parker’s land, near the dairy now operated by the doctor’s son, Tom. The crowd at the drugstore argued endlessly about the significance of the Corps’ presence.

The camps offered real benefits to local communities:

the impact of the construction payroll on the community was immense. Up to $75,000 per week was pumped into the Aliceville economy, area rooming houses were filled to capacity, and in the weeks before Christmas the town experienced nearly total employment.

POWs arrive:

For most of the new arrivals, food had been limited throughout their duty in North Africa, and conditions had grown worse after their capture. There had never been enough food at the mass internment camps, and the situation had improved only slightly on the crowded ocean voyage to the United States. Most of the men were severely malnourished, a fact reported to Colonel Prince, who quickly made the decision to open the mess halls that night.

That was no simple task, yet by 2 A.M. the initial group of prisoners sat down to their first substantial meal in months. If the last nine hours had bewildered the German POWs, this they understood—food. Food in abundance—meat, eggs, vegetables, coffee—even a strange, sticky concoction that appeared to be made from mashed peanuts. After months in the desert living on military rations, the sights and smells in the mess halls that morning were almost beyond comprehension for the new arrivals.

There's lots more in the article, including several interesting sidebars.

Related Posts:
   1. Postwar Germany (Jul 06, 2010)
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The Aliceville (Alabama) Museum and Cultural Center

Link to The Aliceville (Alabama) Museum and Cultural Center

One of the largest POW camps in the U.S. was located in Aliceville, Alabama. It had the capacity to hold 6,000 POWs.

The Aliceville Museum and Cultural Arts Center includes a permanent collection that features:

...lasting artistic expressions made by the Germans. Through their paintings, letters, books, sculptures, wood crafting, pottery, musical instruments and photographs a vivid picture of life at Camp Aliceville is revealed.

The museum also shows a 14 minute documentary which includes interviews with former POWs and military guards.

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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Victory in Europe!

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Victory in Europe!
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

Canadian Escapades concluded in April 1945, but history marched onward.

Excerpts from May 1945: (skipped days are not marked)

8th - Tuesday - V E DAY. Sunny. Telephone call from from Major Gore-Hickman at 0900 hrs. to say that the War ws officially over in Europe and Instructions previously issued re Proclamation to PW were to be carried out. Colonel Bradshaw ordered a parade of all PW for 1000 hrs and Camp Spokesman was brought to Admin. Bldg at 0930 hrs and told the news.

At 1000 hrs the Commandant accompanied by the Adjutant, the Intelligence Officer, Interpreter Officer, Quartermaster and Adjutant entered the Enclosure. The Proclamation was first read to the PW in English by the Adjutant, then in German by the Interpreter Officer. The PW received the news very quietly, there was no fuss or excitement of any kind. ... For many of the Camp Staff it was business as usual.

Moving on to June ... and a reminder that the war raged on elsewhere:

1st - Friday - Cloudy & cool. PW stage Musical Revue to which Camp Commandant and other Officers were invited. Dr Boeschenstein of International Red Cross had Conference with Camp Spokesman and his Adjutant. ...

14th - Thursday - Sunny. ... Five Officers and 10 O.Rs. of Camp Staff volunteer for Pacific Service. ...

A detailed count was included at the end of the month:

   Officers:- 448 Army, 82 Navy  257 Airforce
   N.C.O.s     16   "    2  "      7    "
   Privates   178   "   52  "     27    "
   Civilians:-      19
   Total PW Ration Strength in Camp:-  1086.

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Page 5: ... the agreed-upon signal that everything was lost ...

Link to Page 5: ... the agreed-upon signal that everything was lost ...
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Aus dem Lager ertönte ein Pfiff - das verabredete Zeichen, daß alles verloren sei und Karten, Ausweise und Geld zu vernichten seien, um sie nicht bei der Festnahme in die Hände der Kanadier fallen zu lassen. Nervös zündeten wir uns eine Zigarette an, ein kleines Päckchen fiel zur Erde, wurde mit dem Fuß verscharrt. Der Schweiß brach uns aus allen Poren - so schnell sollte unsere Flucht enden? Nach einer halben Stunde bereits? - und vier Wochen Arrest waren uns sicher. Warum kam der Sergeant nicht? Ließ er sicherheitshalber noch den Korporal kommen? Kaum wagten wir uns wieder umzudrehen; als wir es taten, da war der Sergeant in einer der nächsten Baracken verschwunden. "Heißer Boden!" sagte Heinz. Er zog einen Hammer aus der Tasche und klopfte geschäftig an einem der Zaunpfähle. Ich bückte mich, hob das inhaltsschwere Päckchen wieder auf. Der Posten auf dem Turm wurde unruhig.

A whistle sounded from the camp - the agreed-upon signal that everything was lost and that maps, IDs and money were to be destroyed, so they wouldn't fall into the hands of the Canadians if we were caught. Nervously we each lit a cigarette, let a small package fall to the ground to bury with our feet. Sweat broke out from every pore - should our escape end so quickly? After only half an hour? - and four weeks of confinement were certain. Why was the sergeant not coming? Was he calling for the corporal to be on the safe side? We hardly dared to turn around again; once we did, the sergeant had disappeared into one of the nearby barracks. "What a hot spot!" said Heinz. He pulled a hammer out of the bag and hammered busily on one of the fence posts. I bent over, picked up the small package that contained such momentous contents. The guard on the tower was getting agitated.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 6: ... in that, all armies of the world are the same. (Jun 18, 2010)
   2. Page 4: Slowly we strode along, stopping here and there... (Jun 04, 2010)
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Book trailer: We were free.

Movies have trailers, so how about books? Here's the first of a series, each just long enough to try to get someone to click through and learn more. Thanks much to Kyle for production work and music selection.

"Soon we had crossed the railroad tracks and reached the main road (into Edmonton). We were free." (Chapter 1, page 7)

Images adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/2294666591/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/albertoog/1263007350/

Music from Bach's Toccata Adagio Fugue: http://www.musopen.com/music.php?type=piece&id=468

Related Posts:
   1. Page 7: We were free. (Jun 25, 2010)
   2. Book poster: We were free. (May 25, 2010)
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Camp Algona slideshows (Iowa)

Link to Camp Algona slideshows (Iowa)

TRACES (covered before) has 2 slideshows of the Algona, IA POW camp.

Related Posts:
   1. Encounters with Midwesterners: personal stories (Apr 15, 2010)
   2. Bus-eum Tour, April 13 (Largo, FL) and April 17 (Englewood, FL) (Apr 07, 2010)
   3. Bus-eum Tour: Held in the Heartland: German POWs in the Midwest 1943-46 (Apr 07, 2010)
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Camp Algona Museum (Iowa)

Link to Camp Algona Museum (Iowa)

During WWII, a Camp in Algona, IA housed 10,000 German POWs. In 2004, the town opened a German POW museum with four exhibits.

According to the museum's website:

Many residents and vistors remark that they had no idea such a camp existed, so the Camp Algona POW Museum seeks to inform and educate visitors about this important time in history, both for Algona and the world at large.

Their website includes many interesting photos and stories.

For instance:

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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: recaptured

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: recaptured
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

Excerpts from April 1945: (emphasis added; skipped days are not marked; all typos are in the original)

21st - Saturday - Cloudy, windy & snow flurries. ... Information received from Provincial Police that our Two Escapees has been apprehended in Gary, Indiana, U.S.A.Gestetner Duplicator received from Calgary, relieving a hitherto tough printing situation.

26th - Thursday - Clear & cool. ... Word received that Two PW Escapees were being sent to Gravenhurst and would not return to this Camp.

But that doesn't mean Camp Wainwright is free from trouble!

27th - Friday - Fall of snow early morning, cool & cloudy. Surprise search made in PW Enclosure of Hut #18, result in discovery of Tunnel 20 ft long running towards Wire from a shaft 8 ft down. ... Picture "In Society" shown in Recreation Hut at 1930 hours. Winter Clothing ceases to be "In Wear" as from this date.

28th - Saturday - Sunny & warmer. ... Two PW sentenced to 28 days detention for planning an escape and damaging Government Property.

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Page 4: Slowly we strode along, stopping here and there...

Link to Page 4: Slowly we strode along, stopping here and there...
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Langsam schritten wir weiter, hier und da stehen bleibend, um die Festigkeit eines Pfostens oder Drahtstranges zu prüfen. "Hey, you!" rief ein Posten vom Eckturm uns an; "What are you doing?" "Der diensthabende Sergeant habe uns zu Ausbesserungsarbeiten am Zaun bestellt", gaben wir in breitem Amerikanisch zur Antwort. "Aber ihr seid nicht gemeldet!" "Must be a mistake; wir werden auf der Wache Bescheid sagen." Ruhig setzten wir uns wieder zur Wache hin in Bewegung. Plötzlich blieben wir stehen - etwas zu rasch vielleicht. Der diensthabende Sergeant selber kam auf uns zu; vor ihm konnte unsere Ausrede nichts helfen. Er kannte Heinz, den Lagerdolmetscher, er kannte mich von zwei früheren Fluchtversuchen her. Wir wandten die Gesichter ab.

Slowly we strode along, stopping here and there to check the strength of a post or wire. "Hey, you!" a guard called to us from the corner tower; "What are you doing?" "The sergeant on duty told us to perform repair work on the fence," was the answer we gave - in a broad American accent. "But you're not registered!" "Must be a mistake; we'll inform the guardhouse." Calmly, we started moving back toward the guardhouse again. Suddenly we stopped - perhaps somewhat too quickly. The sergeant on duty himself came toward us; with him our excuse wouldn't help at all. He knew Heinz, the camp's interpreter, he knew me from two earlier escape attempts. We turned our faces away.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 5: ... the agreed-upon signal that everything was lost ... (Jun 11, 2010)
   2. Page 3: Once we were within earshot... (May 28, 2010)
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Camp Hearne (Texas)

Link to Camp Hearne (Texas)

Camp Hearne was part of the video we covered yesterday.

A detailed model of the camp (pictured above) is on display at the Hearne Chamber of Commerce. Their site notes:

A replica of one of the barracks, which is being built from original floor plans, is almost complete. It will house a new on-site visitors center.

Progress on the project is being updated regularly on a blog.

The Friends of Camp Hearne have useful information, including lesson plans for teachers.

The PBS show History Detectives covered the camp in 2005. We could not find a video clip, but here's a transcript (PDF) of the episode.

Michael R. Waters and his students put together some historical info.

William Kent Brunette maintains an extensive set of links.

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Video (2010): POW Camps in Texas

Link to Video (2010): POW Camps in Texas

In March, Houston's Channel 55 aired "POW Camps in Texas" as part of their "Postcards from Texas" series.

Featured in the episode:

  • Mike Waters, author of Lone Star Stalag
  • Heino Erichsen, former POW at Camp Hearne

The video was posted in 2 parts:

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Master's Thesis (1973): Texas, A Case Study

Link to Master's Thesis (1973): Texas, A Case Study

In 1973, Robert Warren Tissing, Jr. completed his Baylor University Master's Thesis: "Utilization of Prisoners of War in the United States during World War II: Texas, A Case Study".

It's available online courtesy of the Robertson County Historical Commission.

From the conclusion:

The availability of prisoners for farm labor enabled farmers to save time and money by planting more crops and harvesting them faster. The German prisoners of war were well-treated during their stay in Texas. Almost all of the farmers enjoyed being around the prisoners and described them as being most cooperative and well-mannered. Many of the prisoners wrote letters to the farmers and expressed their desire to return to Texas.

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