The definitive book on the history, activities and collectable artifacts of German Prisoners of War (with some Veteran Guard of Canada) ... from the Second World War.
Documented details including photographs, locations of branch camps, Labor Projcts, Military Hospitals, and Detention Centers. The book includes a special section on the collecting of artifacts relating to these Prisoners, including eighty photographs of "Collectibles" currently held in the Homefront Archives & Museum at Regina, Saskatchewan.
The book provides the historian, the researcher, and the colletor with details not found in any other publication!
There's a listing at Amazon but no copies available there or via AbeBooks.
Chris Madsen is also the author of another book on the period: The Royal Navy and German Naval Disarmament 1942-1947.
Although I mentioned the Veterans Guard before, the article linked yesterday has a description that's worth a post by itself. (paragraph breaks added)
As early as May 1940, the Department had created a new organization called the Veteran Guards of Canada. They assumed responsibility for guarding the captured soldiers in May 1941. The Veteran Guards consisted mostly of First World War veterans too old for battlefront duty. The maximum age for duty was fifty, but many slipped in despite their age.
Veteran Guard units were formed across Canada and they were assigned several different tasks ranging from guarding military targets, dams, bridges, power plants to government installations. The most important assignment, however, was guarding POW’s. From an initial limited recruitment of a few hundred men, the Veteran Guards of Canada expanded to over 10,000 by 1943 and was 15,000 strong by 1945.
At first glance, the aging First World War veteran seemed an unlikely candidate for guarding extremely well trained battle hardened enemy soldiers. Yet the guards possessed experience, and many had been POW’s themselves in WWI. They understood the prisoner mentality and the regimen of a controlled life. The Veteran Guards were used extensively in all parts of Canada including the bush camps located on Lake of the Woods.
(The image is from a history page that mentions the Veterans Guards, and isn't related to the Lake of the Woods article.)
Last Friday's book excerpt mentioned that many POWs worked in the logging industry. Fawcett Lake is in Alberta; here's some information from the other side of Canada.
The Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company (O&M) built six camps in the Lake of the Woods area. Five camps were nestled throughout the bays and islands of Lake of the Woods. Two camps were situated on the Aulneau Peninsula. Camp 56 (Alfred Inlet), and camp 57 (Ghost Bay). Camp 61 was situated at Oak Point on the western peninsula. Camp 52 was at Red Cliff Bay (now POW Bay); and Camp 43 was on Adams River near Yellow Girl. The last work centre, Camp 60, was on Berry Lake. Each of the camps contained between 100-125 men and the POW’s were a mix of navy, air and army personnel with a few from the German merchant marine.
When the prisoners had cut their quota, usually by early afternoon, the rest of the day was spent on leisure activities. The range of leisure options seemed impressive. Soccer, hiking, and swimming. Building dug out canoes and kayaks and racing them passed many summer hours. The prisoners were allowed on fishing trips in the immediate vicinity of the camp. On these excursions it was not uncommon to meet US tourists and sell them handicrafts which they made over the winter. In the evenings, books, movies, cards, board games, music either played or from a gramophone, and letters from home or news from an illegal radio helped relieve boredom and loneliness. In the winter months ice soccer and ice fishing were enjoyed, as were hobbies such as wood carving and painting.
It's a long article, with lots of historical details.
The author holds a shirt as worn by internees and combatant POW during the Second World War in Canadian camps. ... The red circle was fabric as sewn into the space which had been cut out of the original shirt.
Filmmaker Eva Colmers follows her father's story - Theo Melzer - who spent three and a half years in a POW camp in Lethbridge, Alberta. Growing up in Germany, she had always been puzzled by her father's fond memories of his POW life, so when she moved to Canada, she set out to rediscover this story. What she found surprised her. Watch as Theo Melzer, along with other POWs, recount how their lives were changed by the unexpected respect and dignity they received at the hands of their Canadian captors.
Lethbridge, AB is about 500 km (310 miles) south of Wainwright, AB.
Watch online for free, courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada. It's well worth your time.
In 1944, it was decided to site a POW Camp here and on 29 January 1945 the first 523 German prisoners arrived. At its peak, the POW Camp accommodated almost 1,100 German POW's, consisting of Officers, enlisted men and a few civilians, and operated until 24 May 1946 when the last of the POW's were returned to England for demobilization. The Camp staff and Guard company were reduced to nil strength a few weeks later, marking the end of this chapter of CFB/ASU Wainwright's history.
Note that POWs were held for a year after the war ended. That's a story in itself.
This part will be familiar to those who have read the book!
During the 16 months the POW Camp was in full operation, only two prisoners made a successful escape. These two bold individuals were recaptured just over a month later, but not until they had reached Gary, Indiana!
Going back to the beginning: On 8 July 1940, a little less than one year after the closure of Buffalo National Park, Dr. Middlemass, the Mayor of Wainwright, travelled to Ottawa and persuaded the Department of National Defence to take over the vacant park as a military training area. His efforts were successful and in 1941, the first military forces arrived to establish a permanent camp at the site of the park.
In 2007, Storyline Entertainment released a documentary called Hitler's Canadian's. From the press release
This one-hour documentary tells the little known story of German POWs in Canada during WW2. It features dramatic re-enactments of brilliant and hilarious escapes, the biggest prison rebellion in Canadian history and surprising interviews with former prisoners.
They explain why POWs were sent to Canada:
In 1940, before the U.S. entered WW II in 1941, the growing ranks of German prisoners in Britain presented an urgent problem. Straining to meet the Geneva Convention standards for POW treatment and with Nazi armies nearing their shores, Britain saw the POWs as a potential threat on their own soil and opted to send them to Canada.
Here's a theme that will be encountered often:
Without exception, the former POWs seen in “Hitler’s Canadians” were grateful for Canada’s hospitality and treatment. All of them realize that if it weren’t for their time behind Canadian barbed wire, they might not have survived the war.
And some hard data:
Between 1947 and 1960, 265,000 Germans immigrated to Canada. 6,000 of them were former POWs.
Klaus Conrad was one of the POWs interviewed in the documentary.
I enjoyed the video and will have more in a future post.