Entries written by Scott

Give 1 - Get 1 project at Indiegogo

Link to Give 1 - Get 1 project at Indiegogo

Help me send copies of Canadian Escapades to libraries and schools via my new Give 1 - Get 1 project at Indiegogo.

When you back the project for $15 or more, you get one book and I will give one book to a library or school. (That includes free shipping in the US, so costs a bit less than buying the book at retail.) I first learned of the "Get 1 - Give 1" approach via the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) -- and I've long planned something similar for Canadian Escapades. It's now here!

Indiegogo and Kickstarter are the two leading "crowdfunding" sites. They allow individuals to fund projects, products & people based on some combination of pre-payment, extra perks/rewards (a thank-you card, t-shirt, etc.), and simple generosity. It's a brilliant way to enable creators to overcome the initial funding hurdles -- and for individual backers to become part of the process and then get something that may otherwise never have come into existence.

While "Give 1 - Get 1" isn't directly related to crowdfunding, I think they're a natural fit. It provides an easy way to share what you like.

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Canadian Escapades now available as an ebook

Link to Canadian Escapades now available as an ebook
 

I took a break from the blog to work on other formats for the book. I'm happy to announce that Canadian Escapades is now available as an ebook for Kindle!

[Update: the link now points to Amazon for the Kindle edition.]

Denis at Fifobooks let me know that our 2-column format would work fine on most ereaders, and did some of the format conversion and testing. As thanks, the ebook is available there exclusively at launch. We'll add other outlets soon.

I would guess that Canadian Escapades is the first bilingual ebook with side-by-side alignment by sentence. If anyone has links and/or screenshots for other dual-language ebooks, please send them along.

Pricing:

  • ebook: $7.99 introductory price $3.99
  • paperback: $12.95

If you're stopping by for the first time, please check out the details on our home page, use the nav bar above for a preview, and see what you think of our video trailers and posters. If you have questions, please contact us.

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Bill Hillman, Bob Henderson and AirMuseum.ca

Link to Bill Hillman, Bob Henderson and AirMuseum.ca
airmuseum.ca/mag/

William G. (Bill) Hillman runs a large military tributes site and is the Webmaster of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum and the related "Official Publication of the RCAF Ex-Air Gunners": Short Bursts edited by John Moyles from March 1983 through December 2007.

To tie 2 threads together, here are several contributions from Bob Henderson:

(*) An amusing note:

If you have trouble turning your monitor upside down to read the topside of the match cover, just stand your grand child on his or her head.

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Book (1993): German Prisoners of War in Canada and Their Artifacts, 1940-1948

Link to Book (1993): German Prisoners of War in Canada and Their Artifacts, 1940-1948
Henderson and Madsen

Bob Henderson also co-authored a book in 1993: German Prisoners of War in Canada and Their Artifacts, 1940-1948

by Robert J. Henderson and C.M.V. Madsen
ISBN 0-9697888-0-0
SOFT COVER,  6" X 9",  203 pages

Details from AirMuseum.ca:

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.

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Homefront Archives & Museum at Regina, Saskatchewan

Link to Homefront Archives & Museum at Regina, Saskatchewan
painting by George Högel

Robert J. (Bob) Henderson turned his collection of artifacts into the "Homefront Archives & Museum".

AirMuseum.ca has some background:

Bob’s interest in German PoWs began when he was 12. His parents told him stories of prisoners escaping in Northern Ontario, where he lived at the time. In 1985 he traded with a friend for a carving made by a PoW.

“I thought, ‘Well this is an area of Canadian history that is completely ignored and unknown. If everything is as nice as this carving, I’m going to start collecting it’.”

The most treasured piece in his collection is a PoW’s painting of a soldier walking with his machine gun on his shoulder. The 250 cm. X 120 cm. Painting is done in shades of brown and cream.

...

In SEPT 1996, Mr. George HOEGAL of Munchen, Germany, wrote to identify himself as the artist who had painted the picture.

Follow the link to read more.

Bob has graciously sent me some additional material on one of Klaus Conrad's escapes, which I will post to the blog at some point.

Bob's contact info:
Homefront Archives & Museum
6015-5th Ave.
Regina, SK S4T 6V4
Canada
(306) 543-5822
homefront@sasktel.net

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Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135 - more details

Link to Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135 - more details
wainwrightdistrict.org/camp-wainwright/

The "Wainwright District" site includes "The Camp Wainwright Story" with several additional pages of information about the POW camp:

January 1945 to June 1946 - by Marsha Scribner; Pages 37-44 excerpted from her book Transitions.

We Meet Again - by Erika Foley, with details on a visit by former POW Hansgeorg Mertsch. Among other tidbits:

Memories came back of making wine from berries with a makeshift still located in the bathroom areas outside between the barracks. A Canadian guard found the site one day before the wine was ready, and they talked him into waiting one day before he dismantled it. “Both sides were satisfied,” he commented. “We had Operation Musk Ox - a really big party.”

POW Collector Visits Wainwright covers a visit by collector Robert (Bob) Henderson and his brother Brett, with Captain Kevin Winfield of the Wainwright base, and then former guard Leo Hamson and former POW Siegfried Osterwoldt.

The Enemy Within discusses the documentary by Eva Colmers.

Buffalo National Park News Stories features clips from 1909-1921.

And of course: Recollections of a Guard Officer at POW Camp 135 by Leo Hamson, which we featured earlier.

Related Posts:
   1. Big red circle (Jul 21, 2010)
   2. "A Brilliant Escape" (Jul 12, 2010)
   3. War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan 15-31 (Apr 26, 2010)
   4. Documentary (2003): The Enemy Within (Apr 23, 2010)
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Page 21: You were quite lucky

Link to Page 21: You were quite lucky
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Und nach wenigen Minuten erhielten wir trockene Kleider und hängten unser nasses Zeug an den warmen Ofen. Inzwischen war Zählung in den Hütten; kaum war sie beendet, da huschten ein paar Gestalten zum Waschhaus, brachten zu essen und zu trinken - und dann saßen wir noch lange beisammen, und das Erzählen nahm kein Ende. "Da habt ihr wirklich Schwein gehabt, daß ihr nicht in die erste Hütte hineingingt - da wohnen nämlich kanadische Zivilarbeiter; und wenn erst einer von euch weiß, dann ist es im Nu herum - bei den wenigen Neuigkeiten hier oben", meinte er. "Und was habt ihr weiter vor, wenn die Suchaktion der Polizei nachgelassen hat?" fragte ein anderer. "Zunächst in die Staaten und Geld verdienen; und dann an die Ostküste in einen der Häfen, wo täglich Schiffe nach Europa abgehen. Sind wir aber erst in Europa, dann wird sich ein Weg nach Deutschland finden lassen." Es war lange nach Mitternacht, als wir uns endlich zur Ruhe legten.


After just a few minutes we had dry clothing and were hanging our wet stuff over the warm stove. Meanwhile the count was going on in the huts; as soon as it was over a few figures scurried over to the wash house bringing food and drinks - and then we sat together for quite awhile, and the story telling wouldn't come to an end. "You were quite lucky not to enter the first hut - because Canadian workers live there; and if one of them knew about you, then it would have been over in a moment - with the news being very sparse up here," he said. "And what are your plans once the police search has ceased?" asked another. "At first to the States and earn some money; and then to the East Coast to one of the port cities where ships depart daily to Europe. Once we're in Europe, we'll find a way to get to Germany." It was long after midnight when we finally lay down to rest.

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"so correct and indeed friendly"

Treatment of Allied POWs (at least those from the West) in German POW camps was largely professional.

Here's the text of an excerpt (7:10-7:28) from the above interview with Walter Morison, a British former POW held at Sagan and then Colditz.

Well, you see, if you were a British officer, or, come to that, an American officer, the treatment which you received (from, in our case, primarily the Luftwaffe), was so correct and indeed friendly, really, that you didn't expect anything unpleasant.

For more information about his escapes and daily camp life, see his book Flak and Ferrets: One Way to Colditz.


(Enlisted men and those in larger camps probably had it rougher, especially in terms of food. Things also got considerably worse towards the end of the war -- and even in the immediate aftermath.)

Related Posts:
   1. Stalag Luft III; conditions in a German POW camp (May 06, 2010)
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The Colditz Glider (video)

The Allied POWs built a glider in one of the attics. It was never discovered by the guards, nor tested. But it was quite an inspiration, as illustrated above.

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Colditz Castle (Oflag IV-C): Paintings and Photos

Link to Colditz Castle (Oflag IV-C): Paintings and Photos
W. F. Anderson

The watercolor on the left was painted by British POW Major W. F. Anderson in 1941-1942. The photo on the right shows a similar view from 1995, after the castle had been restored closer to how it looked during medieval times. The accompanying text describes how music was used as a signal during an escape.

The site features a small art exhibition and other information, often in English and German.


Mario Bosch has a great photo gallery, though his image of the castle as it was during the war (and several decades after) is on a different page.

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Leo and Ruth Hamson

Link to Leo and Ruth Hamson
Recollections of a Guard Officer

As a postscript to our series on Leo Hamson, here are a few additional details.

Archives Canada includes a page on Ruth and Leo Hamson. Some excerpts:

Leo Hamson was born in Toronto on October 13, 1920. After graduating in 1939, he took a job at the Canadian Bank of Commerce. Leo served during the Second World War as a sergeant-instructor in a field artillery battery and was later granted a commission as a lieutenant. He sent for Ruth while posted to East Coast Harbour Defenses and they were married November 6, 1942 in St. John, New Brunswick. Leo was later sent to Europe and returned in August of 1945. Following the war he served in Calgary, Alberta, Wetaskiwin, Alberta and at a Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) camp. While discharging veterans, he met a group planning Little Smoky Farm Industries and was invited to join.

...

Leo died on August 12, 2007.

Together, Ruth and Leo had three children: Karl, Marilyn Leslie, and Laura.

Follow the link for more details.


Ruth wrote a book: Staying Alive - Tracing the Adventures of George Cornwell & W. Scott Pitzer. I found details via a used copy available from Gallowglass Books and at AbeBooks

1905 in Alberta a young canadian and his american friend, this is a harrowing tale of the disaster and survial that followed [their] exploring of the north west territories. The book is written by George Cornwell's daughter from her fathers diaries.

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Page 20: on the run for two days

Link to Page 20: on the run for two days
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

"Dasselbe. Durchgegangen von Wainwright und seit zwei Tagen unterwegs." "Großartig. Anständige Entfernung bis hierher; wie habt ihr das so schnell geschafft?" "Gehitchhiked, hatten viel Glück; und wollten hier gern ein paar Wochen unterschlupfen, bis die ärgste Polizeisuche vorbei ist; wird das gehen?" "Selbstredend; gleich kommt der Lagerführer; ein prima Kerl, mit dem müßt ihr das Nähere besprechen." Da trat er schon ein. Schnell orientierten wir ihn über uns und unsere Absichten. "Geht in Ordnung, heute nacht bleibt ihr mal im Waschhaus, morgen sehen wir weiter. Und jetzt schnell, denn um 11 ist Zählung - unser Sergeant ist ziemlich genau, gleich wird er kommen." Schon wurden wir in die nächste Hütte, das Waschhaus, geleitet. "Aber ihr seid ja völlig durchnäßt. Wartet, gleich komme ich wieder."


"The same. Escaped from Wainwright and on the run for two days." "Magnificent. That's a fair distance to here; how did you make it so quickly?" "Hitchhiked, had lots of luck; and would like to take cover here for a few weeks, until the worst of the police search is over; would that be ok?" "Of course; the camp leader will come soon; a great guy, you'll have to discuss the details with him." At that moment, he entered. Quickly we informed him about us and our intentions. "That's fine, tonight you can stay in the wash house, tomorrow we'll consider further. And now hurry, because there's a count at 11 - our sergeant is very precise, he will come soon." We were guided to the next hut, the wash house. "You guys are completely soaked. Wait, I'll be right back."

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Colditz Castle (Oflag IV-C): Movies and TV

Link to Colditz Castle (Oflag IV-C): Movies and TV
Mario Bosch, 1986

Colditz was also the subject of several movies and TV series, including (per Wikipedia):

The Colditz Story (1955):

The prisoners of Colditz are high-spirited and eager to needle the Germans. The escape officer of the British contingent, Patrick Reid (Mills), assists in the escape of other prisoners and finally carries out his own escape. The culmination of his escape, his successful crossing into Switzerland, is not depicted in the film.

Amazon.com lists a Region 2 DVD of the film (which may not work in North America).

TV: (1972-1974):

Almost all of the events depicted in the series, except for dramatic points like the Kommandant's son and Colonel Preston's wife and mother, have a basis in truth. Most of the characters are loosely based on one or several actual persons. The most obvious are Pat Grant (Patrick Reid) and Hauptmann Ulmann (Reinhold Eggers).

TV: (2005) ... though the most interesting comment is on the main Oflag IV-C page:

This tale is much more fictional than its predecessors, with fictional characters and situations that are merely based on real people and events.

(The image isn't related to the movie or TV series; I just wanted to include a pre-restoration view.)

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Colditz Castle (Oflag IV-C): Videos

YouTube includes several interesting videos on Colditz, including several by "dewARTvideo". Here's one that provides a good overview.

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Colditz Castle (Oflag IV-C): Books

Link to Colditz Castle (Oflag IV-C): Books
Mario-Bosch.nl

There were numerous successful Allied escapes from the (supposedly) high security POW "camp" in Colditz Castle (overlooking the town of Colditz in the German state of Saxony, which became part of East Germany after the war). Wikipedia covers the attempts with links to other details.

Mario Bosch has a long list of Colditz books in his collection -- spanning several languages.

One of the originals, Pat Reid's 1952 "Escape from Colditz" is available from Archive.org for those with an encryption key from the Library of Congress' National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

For the rest of us, Archive.org offers a free download (in several formats) of "Colditz: The German Side of the Story" (1962), an English translation of a book by Reinhold Eggers, the German Security Officer at Colditz.

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"Epilogue"

Link to
www.onf-nfb.gc.ca

Here is final part in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp. (minor typos corrected)

(The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)


Epilogue

Long years passed. It was not until the fall of 2001 that the National Film Board of Canada asked me to participate in a film by German-born film-maker Eva Colmers of Edmonton, along with a number of former German POWs she had located. Some of them have since passed away. It was a stunning moment on Dec 21, 2001 when director Eva Colmers brought me face-to-face for the first time in 56 years with former Oberleutnant Siegfried Osterwoldt, and had us shake hands on camera. Unknown to each other, we had been living in Edmonton for many years. Now we are close friends, trying to make up for lost time.

Titled “The Enemy Within” these are the stories of German prisoner-of-war camps in Canada told in our own words. The film opens in Regensburg, the lovely old German city on the Danube, and the original home of Eva Colmers. She went back to interview her father, a former POW in Lethbridge. As a child, Eva had heard her father many times speak gratefully of the humane and very correct treatment he had received as a prisoner of the Canadians. It was this memory that had inspired Eva Colmers to make this historic film.

Also present at the filmed meeting in Regensburg was Eva’s uncle, who had been taken prisoner on the Eastern Front where millions died and where the soldiers of neither side had any protection from the Geneva Convention. At Stalingrad and countless other battles on hundreds of miles of battlefront, hundreds of thousands of exhausted German soldiers fell into Soviet captivity. Only a very small number survived execution, starvation, and years of brutal slave labour to see their homeland again. The voice of Eva’s uncle chokes with emotion as he recalls his determined struggle to survive and see his family again.

The contrast in the experience of the two brothers is profound beyond words. Large numbers of those held captive in Canadian camps were so impressed with their treatment that they could hardly wait to return to make Canada their home. One wonders if any former prisoners of the Soviets did likewise!

Few Canadians today are aware of this episode in our history. After seeing the theatre screening of the film, my academic friend Dr. Don Kvill declared, “That made me really proud to be a Canadian!” Indeed, we should take pride in the fact that in those dark and desperate times when other nations lost their humanity and forgot the meaning of civilized behaviour, we did not. War and hatred go hand in hand. It is the real test of any people when they can treat their defeated enemies with humane decency whether they have signed a convention or not.

“The Enemy Within” won the top award in an international “World Visions” festival of documentary films in competition with 66 other films. It received its television premiere on the History Television channel September 12th, 2004.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission

Related Posts:
   1. Documentary (2003): The Enemy Within (Apr 23, 2010)
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Page 19: If only we knew

Link to Page 19: If only we knew
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Eine Hütte lag ganz zwischen den Bäumen. Mit angehaltenem Atem näherten wir uns dem Fenster. Wir erblickten einige Männer in Holzfällerkleidung um einen Tisch sitzend und sich unterhaltend. Verstehen konnten wir nichts - schade. "Wenn wir nur wüßten, ob es kanadische Zivilarbeiter oder deutsche Kriegsgefangene sind", raunte ich Heinz zu. Vorsichtig schlichen wir zur nächsten Hütte. Plötzlich geht die Tür auf, ein Mann tritt heraus und erblickt uns im vollen, herausflutenden Lichtschein. "Nanu, was wollt ihr denn hier?" spricht er uns auf deutsch an. Fast wären wir ihm um den Hals gefallen. Schnell traten wir in die Hütte, zogen den Mann hinter uns hinein und schlossen die Tür. "Gott sei Dank - also ihr seid doch deutsche Kriegsgefangene", stieß ich hastig hervor. "Na klar, was denn sonst? Und wer seid ihr?"


One hut lay right between the trees. With bated breath we neared the window. We spotted some men in lumberjack clothes sitting around a table and talking. We couldn't understand anything - too bad. "If only we knew whether they are Canadian workers or German POWs," I murmured to Heinz. Carefully we crept to the next hut. Suddenly the door opened, a man stepped outside and spotted us in the full light flooding out from the hut. "Nanu, was wollt ihr denn hier?" - "Hey, what do you want here?" he addressed us in German. We almost hugged him. We quickly entered the hut, pulled the man inside behind us and closed the door. "Thank God - so you are in fact German POWs," I said hastily. "Of course, what else? And who are you?"

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Public Domain and some image credits

Link to Public Domain and some image credits
Adapted from Clker

Here are some additional image credits from the copyright page of the book (with the links spelled out):


The pocket watch and barbed wire snippet were posted to Clker by OCAL. The site is a very useful source of public domain clip art.

The map of North America is adapted from the CIA World Factbook. As with most US Government publications, the original is in the public domain.


Anything in the public domain may be used and modified with no restrictions, and no credit given. (However, it's still polite to give credit.)

A creative work is "public domain" either if the copyright has expired (e.g. in the US, a book printed in the US prior to 1923) or if the creator has specifically relinquished all rights and placed it in the public domain. Many countries grant copyright for the life of an author plus 70 years (in Europe, Australia, etc.) or 50 years (in Canada and elsewhere).

Note that images and sound recordings generally have their own complicated rules for when copyright expires.

Some useful links:

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An aside: Creative Commons licenses

Link to An aside: Creative Commons licenses
None

Yesterday's post mentioned the CC-BY license that covers most of the images that we use on the blog and elsewhere.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that developed and promotes a family of licenses to provide an easy way for creators to specify what others may or may not do with a creative work. Each license has a simple abbreviation that adds a specific constraint:

  • BY: anyone may use and modify, as long as they indicate who the original work is by ("attribution")
  • NC: non-commercial use only (which unfortunately isn't clearly defined, e.g. what about personal blogs that display ads? And company-owned blogs (like this one) if the image isn't part of a specific ad or product?)
  • ND: no derivative works, i.e. may not modify
  • SA: share alike, a "viral" license (like GPL for software) that requires derivative works to also use a SA license

Some combinations: "cc by", "cc by-nc", "cc by-nd", "cc by-sa", "cc by-nc-sa", "cc by-nc-nd".

The set of options is generally well thought out. However, there's also a potential source of confusion. Merely saying that a work is covered under a Creative Commons license says very little. The details are critical, and it's vital to check which cc license before proceeding. It would be helpful if the organization played a stronger role in encouraging people to post the exact license rather than just using the umbrella term.

There's also one useful license option that is missing (or at least unclear): requiring that any changes to the actual work are shared, but allowing the original or derivative work to be incorporated into a larger work without forcing the larger work into a certain license. (Model: the LGPL for software.)

A tidbit: in 2009, Wikipedia migrated from the GFDL to cc by-sa.

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Flickr and some image credits

Link to Flickr and some image credits
None

I finally got a chance to upload the book posters to Flickr, with links to the original images that we adapted. All of our 'poster' blog posts include an image credit and link, but I wanted to include one at the source too.

(Still TBD: additional images used in our book trailers.)

And, here are two credits that are listed on the copyright page of the book (with the links spelled out), but haven't yet appeared on the blog:


The following 2 people were kind enough to make their photos available to all under a Creative Commons "by" attribution license, including taking the risk that adaptations do not do justice to the originals.

Thanks also to Flickr for providing a CC-BY search page.


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"A Face From the Distant Past - A Strange Encounter"

Link to
Jim Linwood at Flickr

Here is part 9 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp. (minor typos corrected)

(The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)


A Face From the Distant Past - A Strange Encounter

Years passed, memories receded, and I never met anyone again who had been at Wainwright on either side of the wire - until an amazing encounter in 1967. That year I was wandering Europe on my own, marvelling at the incredible recovery from the devastation of the war. I had gone down the Rhine by ship to Koblenz and transferred to a smaller boat on the Moselle, bound for Trier to see the impressive Roman remains there. I was the only passenger for the first part of that Sunday morning as we stopped at many pretty villages to take on or discharge freight. Alone, I sipped glasses of Moselle wine as I admired the stunning scenery. Then at one town a boisterous group obviously on an outing swarmed aboard laden with picnic baskets. Soon an accordion was unpacked and everyone joined in rollicking German songs.

They noticed me watching from a corner table and insisted that I join them, fascinated to learn that I was a Canadian. One man, about my own age, fetched the accordion case and used it as a drum. Something about him, something vaguely familiar, held my attention. He had a great scar on his face as though part of his jaw was missing.

During a lull in the festivities, he approached me on the outside deck and said that he had been in Canada once and had enjoyed our hospitality. Guardedly, I asked him when and where. “I was a prisoner-of-war,” he grinned, “In Alberta.” I sucked in my breath. “In what camp?”

“Wainwright” Then I remembered the Luftwaffe fighter pilot who had part of his jaw shot away just as he bailed out of his crippled Messerschmitt over England. “Do you remember,” I exclaimed, “how many times we stood as close to each other as we do now in the daily prisoner count at Wainwright?” He stared at me for a long moment and then seized me by the arm. “Come! We must have a drink!”

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission

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Page 18: Dreamily the huts lay in the snow

Link to Page 18: Dreamily the huts lay in the snow
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Verträumt lagen die Hütten im Schnee, friedlicher Lichtschein drang aus den Fenstern ... und wie wir dastanden und lauschten, trug uns der Nachtwind die schwachen Klänge einer Mandoline zu - "Heimatland, Heimatland!" - weit von der deutschen Heimat entfernt drang diese Melodie in die klare Märznacht Kanadas. "Wenn es uns gelingt, unbemerkt in jene Hütte zu kommen, dann sind wir für die nächsten Wochen vor der Polizei sicher", flüsterte Heinz. "Ja, die halten bestimmt dicht; ich möchte nur wissen, wie es hier draußen mit der Bewachung ist", entgegnete ich. Langsam pirschten wir uns näher an das Lager heran; es lag so still und friedlich da, alles schien in den Hütten zu sein - da, plötzlich schlägt ein Hund an, eine Taschenlampe blitzt auf, Schritte nähern sich. Mit einigen Sätzen sind wir seitwärts hinter einem Holzstapel verschwunden, kriechen im tiefen Schnee weiter - nur jetzt nicht geschnappt werden! Als wir für einen Augenblick verschnauften, war alles ruhig. Wir umschlichen das Lager, versuchten es von der anderen Seite.


Dreamily the huts lay in the snow, peaceful light glowed through the windows ... and, as we stood and listened, the night wind carried the faint sounds of a mandolin to us - "Heimatland, Heimatland!" - far away from the German homeland, this melody streamed out into the clear Canadian March night. "If we manage to slip into this hut unnoticed, then we'll be safe from the police for the next few weeks," whispered Heinz. "Yes, I'm sure they'll keep the secret; I just want to know what's up out here with the guards," I replied. Slowly we prowled toward the camp; it lay so peaceful and quiet, everyone seemed to be in the huts - there, 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 - just don't get caught now! As we caught our breath for a moment, everything was silent. We crept around the camp, tried it from the other side.

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Veterans Guard of Canada

Link to Veterans Guard of Canada
Canadian Military History Gateway

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.)

Related Posts:
   1. War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan 5-11, 1945 (Apr 19, 2010)
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Hans Krakhofer's art from a POW lumberjack camp

Link to Hans Krakhofer's art from a POW lumberjack camp
Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society

Several local museums have made an effort to collect material relating to the history of German POWs in Canada and the US. For example, the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society features a page on The Art of Hans Krakhofer. Some excerpts:

After spending nine months in a POW camp in England, Krakhofer was transferred to a camp in Monteith, Ontario, near the city of Timmins. ... the rough terrain of Northern Ontario was ideal for internment; there was little but bush to escape to.

In the Canadian camps conditions were generally good. Over the next 18 months at Monteith, Mr. Krakhofer took several university courses in navigation and mathematics, and continued to develop his artistic skills. Several of the works shown at left were done during his stay at Monteith.

In 1943, he volunteered to cut timber in a distant camp at Red Cliff Bay on the Lake of the Woods.

There's more in the article, including a sidebar with several other drawings.

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Six POW logging camps in Ontario

Link to Six POW logging camps in Ontario
Lake of the Woods

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.

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"The Long Road to Repatriation"

Link to
ingridtaylar at Flickr

Here is part 8 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp. (minor typos corrected)

(The full set of Recollections is online, with photos.)


The Long Road to Repatriation

By March 1946 operations were winding down at Wainwright, and drafts of POWs were being shipped out on the long journey eastward and eventually back to the UK and the large POW holding camp at Lodgemoor near Sheffield. Many had accumulated substantial amounts of personal effects that they could not take with them, such as phonograph records, but mostly things they had made themselves - handicrafts, works of art, suitcases and the like. What they could not take they would have to dispose of. Their only hope of salvaging any value from it was to sell it to the Canadian camp staff for whatever they could get for it. They assembled it in what today would be like a garage sale.

For trivial sums I and other camp staff officers purchased a good deal of it, sometimes bidding against each other for the more desirable items. I bought a water-colour of one of the mediaeval gates of Rothenberg-ob-Tauber in Bavaria, a plaster wall plaque of one of Columbus’ ships by one of the few survivors of the Bismark, a well-crafted suitcase made of scraps of wood, a wooden chest as a toy box for my infant son, a leather-covered hand-wound Telefunken portable record player from Col. Hauk, the senior German officer, and a large collection of 78 RPM classical records in pristine condition in fine albums. Many of the POWs had written their names and POW numbers in the albums, crossing out the preceding name as the recordings were passed around as a sort of lending library. Phonograph needles were scarce, and they showed me how they made their own from the thorns of wild roses growing in the area. They sharpened these with sandpaper, and being softer than steel needles, they were kinder to the records.

When we were living in our isolated veterans’ settlement in the north with no electricity or access to recreation or entertainment, our group would meet in one of the rough houses we built and after a hard day’s work crank up Colonel Hauk’s Telefunken 78 RPM record player and listen to these prized recordings of classical music and opera, some of them sent from Germany. It enabled us to cling to some vestige of culture as we hacked our homesteads out of the wilderness of Northern Alberta.

About five years ago, when I discovered that there was a museum in the old Wainwright railway station devoted to the vanished POW camp, I donated many of these items to their meagre collection, including my Army uniform and some items of military equipment that I had stored away all these years. I still have the wall plaque and most of the record collection in excellent condition. Being 78 RPM they are never played now.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission

Related Posts:
   1. "The Long Road to Repatriation" (Aug 30, 2010)
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Page 17: The lumberjack camp at Fawcett Lake

Link to Page 17: The lumberjack camp at Fawcett Lake
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Chapter III

Das Holzfällerlager am Fawcettlake

Der Fawcettlake ist einer jener vielen tausend Seen, die überall in den riesigen Waldgebieten Nordkanadas eingestreut liegen. An seinem Nordende befinden sich einige Blockhäuser und eine Sägemühle. Während des Krieges wurden deutsche Kriegsgefangene in starkem Maße in der Holzindustrie Kanadas eingesetzt, und so befanden sich auch seit etlichen Jahren im Fawcettsee-Lager etwa 40 deutsche Kriegsgefangene, die teils als Holzfäller, teils in der Sägemühle beschäftigt waren. Der Mond stand schon hoch am Himmel, als wir uns dem Lager näherten.


The lumberjack camp at Fawcett Lake

Fawcett Lake is one of those many thousands of lakes that are interspersed all over the huge forested areas of Northern Canada. At its Northern end, there were a few log houses and a saw mill. During the war, large numbers of German prisoners of war were used in the Canadian lumber industry, and so about 40 German POWs found themselves in Fawcett Lake Camp for several years, some of them worked as lumberjacks, others in the sawmill. The moon was already high in the sky when we were approaching the camp.

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Book trailer: Why? #2 (alternate video)

"Why? Why does a POW escape anyway, when he suffers no physical emergency and everything is done to ease psychological stress? Why does he trade a life with adequate food in well heated shelter for the danger and hardship of an almost impossible escape?" (pages 84-85)

Image adapted from ian_munroe at Flickr.

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

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"A Bitter Memory of a Personal Failure"

Link to
http://www.philaseiten.de/cgi-bin/index.pl?ME=12053#M45

Here is part 7 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp. (minor typos corrected)

(The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)


A Bitter Memory of a Personal Failure

I struck up a friendship with one officer whom I saw frequently because he worked in the Orderly Room. He spoke perfect English, the result of being educated in England. He was Oberleutnant Hans Bauermeister, and had not been a POW as long as most of the others because he was captured in Normandy in June 1944. He had a great desire to stay in Canada and asked me how this could be arranged. I told him that unfortunately we could not just fling open the gates and let them walk away now that the war was over. They would have to be transferred back to the custody of the British in England, and eventually repatriated to their homeland and demobilized. Then perhaps they could apply and join the queue of millions of other homeless refugees and civilian war victims wanting to emigrate to Canada and other parts of the world. I also told him that he would have to accept the fact that there would be some bitterness toward members of the armed forces of our recent enemies, and that they would be at the bottom of the list until those feelings gradually melted away.

He was crestfallen when I told him this, but clearly understood. He was a cultured and thoroughly decent chap, and I felt really sorry for him. He showed me photos of his elegant former home, a villa near Potsdam with chandeliers and grand piano visible. He also showed me a photo of his wife, an extraordinarily beautiful woman whom he said had been a film actress. He said he had learned that his home had been wrecked and looted by Soviet troops and his wife and children had disappeared.

I gave him an address where he could reach me when I myself was discharged, and promised that I would provide any assistance I could such as a character reference should he decide to emigrate to Canada. Months later, when I was in a remote wilderness area of the Peace River District with a group of other discharged Canadian officers in a Veterans’ Land Act co-operative land development project, I received a “Kriegsgefangenenpost” (Prisoner-of-War Post) from Lt. Bauermeister mailed from Lodgemoor, the large POW holding camp near Sheffield, England. The finely-crafted writing on the camp-issue postcard is almost microscopic.

His wife and one son had survived, but while still in Canada he learned that his second son had died a year before. His wife was working on a farm with little food and no money in the Soviet Occupation Zone, struggling to feed the extended family. He begged me to send food parcels to his family, and gave me two addresses - one to his mother in the Russian zone of Berlin, and the other to his brother in the U.S. Zone. He gave me the address of an organization to which I could send money, and they would provide and ship the food parcels.

I mentioned this postcard to my ex-officer partners. Today I profoundly regret doing that. The trauma of Normandy was still fresh in their minds. Two of them had been severely wounded - one of them, a major, while getting his tank squadron ashore on D-Day in an action for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. They were outraged that this recent enemy should beg for food from me when millions of victims of the Nazis were starving and homeless. They made it clear that I would be in serious trouble with them if I complied with Bauermeister’s plea.

I did not answer it, and put the postcard away with feelings of great discomfort.

Some months later I received a lengthy illicit letter from the same camp. He begged me, in any reply I might make, not to refer to the fact that he had written a full letter rather than the officially-allowed post card. I think they were allowed two per month. I cannot imagine why, with the war long over, the British would continue with such harsh restrictions on letter-writing by these lonely men, most of whom had been prisoners for years far from their homeland and families. There could be no security threat in their letters, now that Germany had surrendered long before, After all, they were defeated soldiers, not criminals.

He remembered fondly the many pleasant conversations we had while working in the Orderly Room at Wainwright POW Camp. He went into some detail about his family and their condition in Germany. He said he had sustained a crushed thumb while working on a farm with other POWs near Sheffield, and was in hospital, greatly chagrinned that after being unscathed in five years of war he should be injured as a POW a year and a half after fighting ended.

In this letter he made two remarks about himself that today bring a lump to my throat when I read them - “More and more I have the intention to emigrate with my family and my brother to your country because our future in Germany will be darker and darker and we do not see any hope to live in Europe. Is any chance for this idea in a reasonable space of time for the hated Germans? Please let me know your opinion in this affair. It is very urgent for me.” And… “At last, please remember if you want, and if you have time enough for a man who is unfortunately a German!”

Deferring to the strong feelings of my partners with whom I had to live, I did not answer this letter either.

Later I received a third letter, this one from Washington D.C. dated 21 Jan 1947. The writer was Herbert William Hirsch, resident in London, but temporarily in Washington on a mission for the British Government. In his surreptitious letter, Hans Bauermeister had advised me that I would be hearing from his old friend and former pre-war boss when Hirsch was director of a large manufacturing concern in Berlin. He had left Germany and moved to London in 1936 (a wise move for him!). He said that Mr. Hirsch would be at liberty to write more about his former employee’s problems than could be written on a POW postcard. The pleas for help were repeated in a very dignified way.

This letter too I put away and did not answer.

Today, when I look at these letters, my eyes well with tears. How I wish I could turn back the years and set things right! I had turned my back on a man in distress whom I had promised to help. What if he was a former enemy officer? A promise is a promise, and under the officer’s code of honour, it should have been kept. I can rationalize now that conditions had changed, that I and my partners and our families were facing unforseen hardships in a remote wilderness and having difficulty feeding ourselves, and there was the unforgiving attitudes of my fellow-officers who had suffered much on the battlefields of Europe.

But that does nothing to diminish my feelings of guilt. I had betrayed a trust for the only time in my life. I have helped numerous people over the years, including some who did not deserve it, but failed one of the most deserving of all for reasons that were weak and invalid.

I have often wondered what became of Oberleutnant Hans Helmut Bauermeister. Did he succeed in making a good life for himself and his family in spite of my failure to help him? Did he ever make it back to Canada? Could he still be alive? If we met, how would I explain what happened? I have learned from another former Wainwright POW, Siegfried Osterwoldt, that there is a society of former POWs in Germany and this dwindling group of elderly German veterans meets once a year and keeps a roll of their names.

Inquiries do not reveal the name of Hans Bauermeister. He haunts me still.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission

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Page 16: the land between Athabasca and Peace River

Link to Page 16: the land between Athabasca and Peace River
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Zum Glück war der Trapper selbst sehr redselig, denn er hatte scheinbar selten Gelegenheit, sich zu unterhalten. So erfuhren wir bald alles Wissenswerte über das Land zwischen Athabasca und Peace River, einer Ortschaft einige hundert Meilen weiter nördlich. "Well, boys, ich glaube, wir werden uns bald wiedersehen", meinte der Trapper, als er uns gegen Abend an einem Seitenweg absetzte und machte ein vielsagendes Gesicht. "Was er wohl gemeint hat mit diesen Worten beim Abschied", bemerkte ich nach einer Weile, als wir schon ein gutes Stück waldeinwärts marschiert waren. "Und dieses merkwürdige Mienenspiel um seine Augen, als wenn er ..." Heinz sprach nicht weiter, und jeder hing seinen Gedanken nach; irgendein unangenehmes Gefühl beschlich mich aber, sooft ich an den Trapper dachte. Wir kamen gut vorwärts auf unserem Weg, denn ein Schneepflug hatte den Schnee geräumt; als es zu dämmern begann, waren wir nur noch etwa zwei Stunden von dem Holzfällerlager der Firma Mc. Millan entfernt, in dem wir deutsche Kriegsgefangene wußten.


Luckily, the trapper himself was quite chatty, apparently because he seldom had the opportunity to engage in conversation. So we soon learned everything worth knowing about the land between Athabasca and Peace River, a town a few hundred miles farther north. "Well, boys, I believe we will see each other again soon," said the trapper, as he dropped us off at a back road toward evening, and made a telling face. "What indeed had he meant with these words of farewell," I remarked after awhile, as we had already marched a good bit into the woods. "And this strange expression in his eyes, as if he ..." Heinz spoke no further, and we each kept our own thoughts; but an unpleasant feeling crept over me whenever I thought of the trapper. We made good progress on our way since a snow plow had cleared the snow; as twilight set in we were about two hours away from the lumberjack camp of the Mc. Millan Company, which we knew housed German prisoners of war.

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Book trailer: Why?

"Why? Why does a POW escape anyway, when he suffers no physical emergency and everything is done to ease psychological stress? Why does he trade a life with adequate food in well heated shelter for the danger and hardship of an almost impossible escape?" (pages 84-85)

Image adapted and composited from unplain-jane and jamescridland at Flickr.

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

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Artwork by German POW "Walter Gotz" in 1945

Link to Artwork by German POW
None

Here's a portrait from the same source as yesterday: The Okie Legacy, Volume 8, Issue 39.

"This is the pencil sketch of a young girl in 1945, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Do you have any idea of the value of these items or can you direct me to someone who can help me. Thank you so much. I have no idea who the painting of house artist was." -- Marianne

(Follow the link to add a comment or contact the current owner.)

Text on the back (as best I can read it): "Mary Schreiber of Lebanon, PA painted by Walter Gotz (Götz?) year 1945 while stationed here as a German P.O.W.".

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Artwork by German POW "W. Vogely" in 1943

Link to Artwork by German POW
None

I found this oil painting in The Okie Legacy, Volume 8, Issue 39.

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"Making the Best of Lost Years"

Link to
From the collection of David J. Carter

Here is part 6 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp. (minor typos corrected)

(The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)

Photo caption: "Das große Lager-Orchester unter Ltg. v. Ha" (?)
translation: The large camp-orchestra under Conductor von Ha (?)
(the name is probably cut off)


Making the Best of Lost Years

I spent no more time than I had to inside the stockade, being pre-occupied with concerns about my own future. As a result, I have few memories of the daily routines of the POWs. When we did go inside the wire, we left our weapons outside. I recall that many of the prisoners kept fit and occupied with sports, while others created handicrafts with amazing skill and ingenuity. Quite a number diligently studied a variety of university-level subjects in make-shift classrooms. In a large group of well-educated members of the Officer Corps, a significant number of former high school teachers and university professors could be found. Occasionally I would make brief visits to one of these classes and stand unobtrusively at the back of the room. Classes in English and mathematics were very popular.

Once I noticed a teacher trying painfully to write on a blackboard with a tiny stub of chalk. On my next trip into town I stopped at a school and called on the principal. When I explained things to him, I had no difficulty obtaining a whole box of chalk packed in sawdust - a neat wooden box with a slide top. When I presented this to the struggling POW teacher, his eyes widened as though I had given him a box of gold.

I remember one POW who had been an opera tenor. His barrack-mates objected and evicted him when he did his vocal exercises, running up and down the scale. He would stand alone at night in the farthest corner of the compound, his fine voice soaring in the darkness. I made a point of guessing when he would be out, so that I could go to the nearest guard tower to watch and listen to him as he broke into some romantic lieder. There was something unbearably poignant and heart-rending about his lonely performance, singing to the unheeding barbed wire fence in this wintry land so far, so very far, from his homeland. I wondered what operas he had performed, and in what grand opera houses across Europe.

He had survived. But I thought of the countless others like him, our brightest and best in every field of endeavour, on both sides of this conflict, who could have done so much to advance our civilisation, but who perished in the furnace of war.

Musical instruments and phonograph records were supplied by the YMCA and orchestras were formed. Sadly, I cannot recall hearing them perform. Likely I was always elsewhere on those occasions. Recently, in discussing this with Siegfried Osterwoldt, I learned that one POW had been the director of a school for symphony orchestra conductors in Germany. He quickly formed a 45-piece orchestra and drove them with military discipline as they performed Beethoven and Mozart with a high degree of excellence. That was in Camp 44 at Grande Ligne, Quebec, where Mr. Osterwoldt and many others were held before being moved to the newly-built camp at Wainwright.

There was a good library, and some POWs became very proficient at repairing and re-binding books. Handicrafts were popular pastimes, and beautiful art-works in painting, sculpture and wood-carving were produced with amazing skill. They could make useful things out of almost any kind of scrap material. Others retreated to their quarters with text-books, diligently studying for some future profession when they were finally released into an uncertain world.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission

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Page 15: The wilderness began

Link to Page 15: The wilderness began
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Kein Fahrzeug kam um diese Stunde daher. Endlich wurde es Tag. Gleich der erste Lkw, dem wir winkten, nahm uns mit. Immer weiter nach Norden gelangten wir, immer tiefer in die riesigen Waldgebiete Nord-West-Kanadas. Wälder, Wälder, soweit das Auge reichte, dazwischen einige Seen, hin und wieder ein Gehöft, ganz selten eine Ortschaft.

Der Urwald begann ...

Am Nachmittag erreichten wir Athabasca. Letzter Ausläufer der Zivilisation, eine Sägemühle, ein Kino, eine Bar - und dann beginnt der Urwald endgültig seine Herrschaft. Weiter nach Norden führte nur ein ganz selten befahrener Weg. Es war wirklich ein großer Zufall, daß ein Trapper mit seinem Vehikel daherkam und uns mitnahm. Diese Breiten sind so dünn besiedelt, daß jedes fremde Gesicht sofort auffällt. Wie ein Inquisitor fragte uns der neuigkeitshungernde Mann aus - und was wußten denn wir von der Welt außerhalb des Stacheldrahtes?


No car came along at this hour. Finally it became day. The first truck that we waived down gave us a ride. Ever farther to the north we went, ever deeper into the vast forested areas of Northwest Canada. Forests, forests, as far as the eye could see, some lakes in between, now and again a farmhouse, quite seldom a town.

The wilderness began ...

In the afternoon, we reached Athabasca. The last outpost of civilization, a sawmill, a theater, a bar - and then the wild forest finally began its reign. The only way to go farther north was a rarely used path. It was really a great coincidence, that a trapper came along with his vehicle and gave us a ride. These zones are so sparsely populated, that every strange face immediately stands out. Like an inquisitor, the news-starved man questioned us - but what did we know of the world outside the barbed wire?

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Book trailer: How much longer now?

"Sure, we could have made some noise - they would have gotten us out and given us something to drink - but it would have been the end of our escape, the end of our freedom. Our moral stamina was still stronger than the thirst, we still forced ourselves to keep quiet - but how much longer now?" (page 84, second excerpt)

Image adapted and composited from jmegjmeg, nattu, leecohen, and onecog2many at Flickr.

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

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Peter Krug in Time Magazine, July 13, 1942

Link to Peter Krug in Time Magazine, July 13, 1942
Field Marshal Rommel, Time, July 13, 1942

Peter Krug's capture and trial was covered in the July 13, 1942 issue of Time Magazine:

Into a crowded Detroit courtroom strutted 22-year-old Oberleutnant Hans Peter Krug, cocky in the slate-blue uniform of the Luftwaffe. He clicked his heels, saluted a startled bailiff. German-English dictionary in hand, he mounted the witness stand.

Dark, sharp-faced Peter Krug, who had been shot down over Britain, had escaped in April from a Canadian prison camp. He made his way to Detroit, there met a naturalized German named Max Stephan, who ran a small tavern and still loved his Vaterland. Short, pudgy Max Stephan gave the fugitive money, food & drink. He helped the Nazi flyer on toward Mexico. But Peter Krug was caught in San Antonio. Last week he turned on Kamerad Stephan.

Blandly the cool young Nazi indicated that he had no further use for the tavern-keeper who had the stupidity to be caught. Peter Krug informed the court: "It is not my intention to testify against Max Stephan. I have only to clear out the facts and tell the truth." Coldly, in a heavy guttural, he told the facts in detail. The jury took but 83 minutes to convict Max Stephan of treason, the first such conviction under Federal statute since the Whiskey Rebellion trials in 1795. Since the Government did not demand his death, Max Stephan will probably escape the hangman.

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Peter Krug and Erich Boehle escape from Bowmanville

Link to Peter Krug and Erich Boehle escape from Bowmanville
Virtual Motor City

The daily count wasn't always sufficient to determine that prisoners were missing.

The Camp 30 commandant, Colonel Bull, received a phone call from the Niagara Falls Police Department asking him if he were missing any prisoners. Colonel Bull ensured the constable that indeed he was not. The constable insisted and asked him to check again specifically for one Erich Boehle. Yes, they did have a PoW named Erich Boehle but at roll call he was not missing, how could this be?

...

After a double count of PoWs, still no one was missing. Colonel Bull ordered a oral count where all PoWs would have to call out when their names were called and it was only then that it was found that not only was Leutnant Boehle missing but Oberleutnant Krug as well.

We've already seen the answer:

The theatrical group had made dummies using papier-mâché, a uniform, and plenty of paper stuffing. The dummies had been hauled out for each roll call and strategically placed in the middle of the bunch while being held upright by PoWs on either side.

Read Lynn Philip Hodgson's entire article for the rest of the story.

Related Posts:
   1. A dummy at roll call (Jul 28, 2010)
   2. Page 2: The last morning count (May 21, 2010)
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"The Ritual of the Daily Head Count"

Link to
 

Here is part 5 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp. (minor typos corrected; Col. Hauk might actually be 'Hauck')

(Update: The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)


The Ritual of the Daily Head Count

I shall never forget my first participation and supervision of the daily head count. As it was winter, the POWs were assembled in parade formation in the large drill hall. Some distance away two guards stood facing each other two paces apart. In line with them and about twenty feet further along, stood a third guard. I paced slowly about watching the procedure and looking important as the duty officer. As our bored charges filed in and formed up, I eyed them with a curious mixture of curiosity, awe, respect, and resentment. We had just come through the greatest man-made catastrophe ever inflicted on humanity, and for us these were the guys that did it.

Did those Luftwaffe airmen lined up over there take part in the blitz against defenceless, peaceful Rotterdam, rain bombs on civilians in London Bristol, and scores of other cities, and devastate non-military cultural centres like Bath, Exeter, and Canterbury? I thought of all the friends and class-mates I had lost. I had to struggle to repress these thoughts and focus on the job I had to do.

I learned later that some of these men had been prisoners for five years - most of the war - and could not have been involved in the later horrors. Large numbers were members of the Afrika Korps, captured in North Africa after the defeat of Rommel in 1942 and 1943.

When they had all formed up, nearly a thousand German officers from all branches of the service, they made quite a spectacle in their various uniforms. I wondered why some were immaculately turned out with their medals and decorations as though for inspection by the Fuhrer, while others looked sloppy and careless in old sweaters and shirts. Were the former the career officers, and the latter the unwilling who had been swept up in the war? Some chatted with those next to them, others read books or magazines, while still others stared vacantly at the floor or ceiling. They looked very different from the disheveled, hungry, battle-shocked prisoners in tattered uniforms that we had rounded up when German resistance collapsed.

When all were assembled, the sergeant barked an order and the first rank of prisoners filed between the two guards facing each other, and then past the guard further on. Each guard silently counted. When that rank was finished and formed up at the far end of the drill hall, all three guards compared their counts. If they disagreed, they were marched though again. I then entered the figure on my clip-board. The total of POWs varied slightly from time to time, but during my tour of duty it was 956. That number is burned in my memory. God help us if we could only find 955! That total would never be paraded in the drill hall. Some would be on sick list, others at work in such places as the kitchen. Runners would make the rounds to include them in the total. During the count, Col. Hauk, the senior German officer responsible for discipline, and spokesman to the Canadian commandant, stood on the stage.

The prisoners would not be dismissed until we were satisfied that all was in order. Any count disagreements or delays meant they had to stand there for long periods, and this of course irritated them. I was told that while the war was still on, some prisoners passing by the counters would quicken their pace and even start doubling up to confuse and harass their guards. But unless this was a ploy to cover and gain time for an escaper, it tended to raise the ire of their fellow prisoners, because they all had to stand there while the count was repeated.

On one memorable occasion we were one short. We counted them all again, and scouts, including some POWs, were despatched on a search of the camp. As tension and the tempers of the standing POWs mounted, they glanced through their ranks speculating who was missing. A murmur rippled through to me…. “It’s the little engineer!”

Then I remembered our most unusual prisoner - unusual because he was a civilian and no-one seemed to know why he was in this camp for German officers. The story was that he was the engineer on a train carrying German troops that got shot up by R.A.F. Typhoons and was then surrounded and captured by British troops. They did not know what to do with the civilian locomotive driver, so scooped him up with the military prisoners. He ended up in Wainwright. He was a very short stocky man, and naturally conspicuous among his uniformed fellow prisoners.

As time dragged on and some of the prisoners sat on the floor, Col. Hauk paced the stage angrily, and asked to speak to me. He said that since we knew the identity of the missing man, there was no reason for not dismissing the parade. I refused. Standing Orders had to be followed.

Finally, the large double doors of the drill hall opened, and we were treated to a most unusual sight. Silhouetted against the outside daylight, two large Germans marched in. Between them they carried the little engineer by the arms, his legs pedalling the air off the ground. The ranks of the POWs parted to let them pass, and they hurled epithets at the cause of their inconvenience. They marched right up to the stage and plunked the trembling man on the floor in front of Col. Hauk who glared down at him with legs apart and fists on his hips. It turned out that the searchers had found him sitting fast asleep on the toilet.

I dismissed the parade, and as they filed out I walked over to the stage and stood behind the cringing engineer. The colonel looked at me and said crisply, “I shall take care of the matter, Lieutenant.” That was my cue to depart with my clip-board and my assistants, and as I went out the door I glanced back and saw the colonel still glaring down at the wretched engineer, and I wondered what punishment would be meted out. I hoped Col. Hauk had a sense of humour.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission

Related Posts:
   1. Page 2: The last morning count (May 21, 2010)
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Page 14: back on the country road

Link to Page 14: back on the country road
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Bald befanden wir uns wieder auf der Landstraße und marschierten rüstig gen Norden. Noch einmal wurden wir ein Stück Wegs mitgenommen. Schnell wurde es Nacht. Ein Strohschober diente als Lager. Wir waren bald eingeschlafen. Plötzlich fuhren wir hoch. Ein langgezogenes Heulen hatte uns geweckt. Jetzt vernahmen wir es wieder - ganz nahe - und dazwischen ein merkwürdiges Kläffen. Präriehunde, eine Schakalart, mußten es sein. "Stehen wir auf", meinte Heinz, "zum Schlafen kommen wir doch nicht mehr bei der Kälte." Wir fröstelten und rieben die klammen Hände. "Zu dumm, daß wir wegen der enggespannten Drähte nicht mehr anziehen konnten", bemerkte ich "aber das Durchschlüpfen durch den Zaun war schon so schwierig genug gewesen." Im Dunkeln trotteten wir auf der Landstraße weiter, die wie ausgestorben schien.


Soon we found ourselves back on the country road and marching vigorously northward. Once again we found a ride for part of the way. Quickly it became night. A haystack served as camp. We had soon fallen asleep. Suddenly, we shot up. A long drawn out howl had awakened us. We heard it again - very close - and a strange yapping in between. It must be wild dogs, some type of jackal. "Let's get up," suggested Heinz, "we won't be getting back to sleep in this cold." We were freezing and rubbed our damp hands. "Too bad that because of the narrowly spanned wires we couldn't put on more clothes," I remarked "but slipping through the fence was already hard enough." In the dark, we jogged farther along the country road, which seemed deserted.

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Book trailer: Thirst

"The worst part was the thirst... Outside lay snow, only a few meters away and yet unreachable for us." (page 84)

Image adapted from one that was available on Flickr as CC-BY (attribution license) but is now private.

Music from Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Opus 61, first movement: http://www.musopen.com/music.php?type=piece&id=454

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Corn

Link to Corn
stevendepolo at Flickr (CC-BY)

Here's an interesting bit of history that shows how cultural differences can affect how a good deed is perceived:

The introduction of corn and corn flour beginning in June into the German diet was taken by many Germans as a form of reprisal, since until then corn had been considered in Germany only suitable as feed for chickens.

(I heard this story in the past, perhaps from my Uncle.)

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Food shortages in Germany

Link to Food shortages in Germany
http://www.heimat-kleve.de/geschichte/chronik/19.htm

As noted yesterday, there were severe food shortages in Germany after the war. Those continued for several years. Here are some details from "The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany, 1944-1946" by Earl F. Ziemke.

For the average German, however, the most pressing concern in the spring of 1946 was food. The daily ration for the normal consumer in the British zone dropped to 1,042 calories a day in March and in the French zone to 980 calories..

Germany was feeling the impact not only of its own but of a worldwide food shortage.

The ration in the U.S. zone was 1,550 calories per day, but reduced grain imports would no longer support that.

Clay ... reduced the ration in the U.S. zone on 1 April to 1,275 calories, which was still about a third more than the indigenous supplies could sustain. In the fourth week of May he had to reduce again to 1,180 calories. To meet these levels the Army in April and May released from its own stocks over 30,000 tons of cereals, canned goods (corn, peas, and tomatoes), dried skim milk, dehydrated potatoes, and dessert powder.

("Clay" is General Lucius D. Clay, who went on to play a key role in the Berlin Airlift.)


Here's a separate account (in German) about rations in Vienna, Austria in 1945:

  • 833 calories: ordinary consumers
  • 970 calories: employed
  • 1,315 calories: workers
  • 1,620 calories: heavy labor

In November 1947, the ordinary ration was up to 1,700 calories. Most restrictions were removed in 1950.

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"Dreary Prospects For a POW"

Link to
Glenbow Archives (?) via CFB/ASU Wainwright presentation

Here is part 4 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp. (minor typos corrected)

(Update: The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)


Dreary Prospects For a POW

However, any harsh conditions and rigid regulations had softened greatly by the time I arrived at Wainwright. The war had ended several months before, and attitudes had changed considerably. Germany had lost the long and bloody war, and our unwilling guests were no longer considered a dangerous threat to our security. At that point in time, the only possible motive for escape was to become illegal immigrants to Canada, with the hope of melting undetected into our population. All thoughts, for captives and captors alike, were on salvaging all they could from ruined lives.

For us, the victors, there were bright hopes in a country that despite the great cost of our victory, was spared the physical blight of war. For the vanquished, there was despair and uncertainty, knowing that their homeland was now largely in smoking ruins. It must have been a terrible thing to have suffered so much on far-flung battlefields and to know that it was all for nothing. They too were victims of the greatest episode of mass insanity in human history.

It was not generally realized that officially these men were prisoners of the British, and they were being incarcerated in Canada at the request of the British Government for obvious reasons. In Britain they were short of food and space, and any escapers posed more of a threat to security in what was literally a war zone. Britain retained control, and their wishes had to be complied with. I was not aware at the time of an extraordinarily harsh and pointless order concerning the treatment of POWs that came from Britain after the war ended. I learned of this only recently from the reminiscences of former Wainwright POW Siegfried Osterwoldt.

Rations were reduced to 900 calories per day, barely above subsistence level. The reasoning behind this is obscure. Was it to punish the Germans for the starvation and deprivation among war victims across Europe? To let them know what real hunger felt like after living so well on Canadian rations that they had difficulty buttoning their uniforms? I have no idea of what the Canadian authorities thought of this order from the British Government, but under the bilateral agreement the Canadians had no option but to comply. I learned recently that the American government at the same time imposed the same ration restrictions on the thousands of POWs they held in the U.S.A. One thing was certain - with the defeat of Germany and the liberation of our men from their POW camps, there was no danger of retaliation.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission


The rations were apparently reduced to the level that prevailed in Germany at the time (due to the extreme food shortages after the war). That was also about what Allied POWs were receiving in German camps towards the end of the war.

From his personal contacts with former German POWs (who were generally quite appreciative of their good treatment in Canada), David J. Carter adds:

The reduction in rations was never explained to the POW - and remained a festering sore for decades!!

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Page 13: artful trap doors cut into the floors

Link to Page 13: artful trap doors cut into the floors
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

kunstvolle Falltüren waren in die Fußböden geschnitten worden, um bei Zählungen im Haus unbemerkt von einem Stockwerk ins andere zu gelangen - um sich dort anstelle des fehlenden Kameraden zum zweiten Male zählen zu lassen. Plötzlich wurden wir in unseren Gedanken unterbrochen; das Radioprogramm, das geräuschvoll aus dem Lautsprecher tönte - brach ab. Würden wir jetzt unseren Steckbrief hören? Die Eier schmeckten uns auf einmal nicht mehr. Auch nicht der Whisky, den unser Freund uns noch hinterher spendierte. Augenzwinkernd gestand er uns, er sei ein Deserteur. Aber als wir ihm nicht die Bruderhand reichten, die er wohl erwartet hatte, da wurde ihm, dem legalen Kanadier, anscheinend bange vor seiner Redseligkeit - und er verabschiedete sich rasch. Daß er auch uns für Deserteure gehalten hatte, war gar nicht so verwunderlich, denn zu jener Zeit hielten sich in den Wäldern Nordkanadas viele Deserteure auf, vornehmlich Franco-Kanadier aus den französischen Provinzen Kanadas, die sich geweigert hatten, nach Übersee zu gehen.


artful trap doors cut into the floors to be able to move unnoticed from one floor to another while a count was going on in the house - to be counted there a second time in place of the missing comrade. Suddenly our thoughts were interrupted; the radio program that boomed noisily from the speakers - broke off. Would we now hear our escape announced? All of a sudden the eggs no longer tasted good. Nor did the whiskey that our friend had sprung for afterward. Winking, he confessed to us: he was a deserter. But when we didn't accept his brotherly handshake, which he had indeed expected, then he, the legal Canadian, seemed to regret that he was so talkative - and he made a quick farewell. That he took us for fellow deserters wasn't surprising, because at that time, many deserters were staying in the woods of Northern Canada, mainly Franco-Canadians from the French provinces of Canada, who had refused to go overseas.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 12: two hay dolls with their gypsum heads (Jul 23, 2010)
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Book trailer: into our hideout

"'OK, into our hideout' ... the floorboards were put back into place above us, a crossbar was secured from below to make it impossible to lift our covering" (page 74)

Images adapted from Mr. Thinktank and MNgilen at Flickr.

Music from Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Opus 61, first movement: http://www.musopen.com/music.php?type=piece&id=454

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A dummy at roll call

Link to A dummy at roll call
David Carter

Page 12 (posted last week) noted that Klaus Conrad and Heinz Meuche left behind two dummies as "stand ins" for the evening count.

David J. Carter posted a great picture from a different camp:

This 'dummy' was used during an escape attempt from Camp 30 - Bowmanville, Ontario. 'He' stood in line during roll call.

Related Posts:
   1. Peter Krug and Erich Boehle escape from Bowmanville (Aug 10, 2010)
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"The golden cage"

Link to
Slide 68, traces.org/buseum_2_tour/Fritz-Ritz-slide-show/

Here's a worthwhile excerpt from an article that I've covered before:

Life within the camps was so comfortable that one German prisoner wrote his family and described his temporary home as a "golden cage" and, conversely, some Alabama residents resented what they perceived as the POWs' pampering while they endured rationing.

(The image is not from the article but I think it's a good match.)

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"A Prisoner’s Paradise?"

Link to
David J. Carter; used with permission

Here is part 3 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp.

(Update: The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)


A Prisoner’s Paradise?

The next morning was my first day on the job, and I was told to check all the sentries at the gates and in the guard towers. The towers were quite a climb. I was astounded to see scores of POWs streaming out the open gate of the POW compound carrying skis over their shoulders. NOW what was going on? The tower guard on duty was observing this calmly without a word. I scrambled down from the tower and hurried to the gate and the small building beside it through which the ski-laden POWs were trooping. I saw that each one was signing a form as he passed through. I picked one up and read it. It was printed in both English and German. I wish now that I had kept one.

To the best of my recollection it said something to the effect… “I declare on my honour as a German Officer that I will not attempt to escape while outside the POW compound on this parole, that I will stay within the prescribed area, that I will not approach any civilians, that I will not go near the railroad tracks, and that I will return and report in to the gate not later than 4.00 o’clock. I acknowledge that any violation of this parole may result not only in the prescribed punishment for me but cancellation of this privilege for all German officers in this camp indefinitely.”

Thereafter I became accustomed to watching them with my binoculars from the towers as they enjoyed themselves on the gentle slopes with skis supplied by, I believe, the Y.M.C.A., Red Cross, and other charitable organizations. Was this a prison camp or a resort? I often observed them stopping to look at their watches, wondering if they had time for one more slide down the slope before time was up. We had warned them that the gate would be closed at the appointed time, and anyone locked out would be declared an escapee in very serious trouble and in danger of being shot. The siren would then sound to alert the whole camp and army base. For those not involved in skiing, there were escorted exercise walks in large groups outside the wire.

Not once was this parole ever violated deliberately. In the curious irony governing prisoner-of-war camps and the Geneva Convention, the parole ended as soon as they were back inside the stockade. Then they were legally and honourably entitled to use all their wits, guile, and resources to attempt escape, and in every way give their captors as much trouble as possible. Some considered it their duty, as they were still soldiers at war with their enemies. They could be shot while fleeing, but not after they had surrendered. Thirty days solitary confinement was the usual punishment for escape attempts.

These were the rules of the game for both sides in World War II for signatories to the Geneva Convention. Compliance was monitored by a neutral “Protecting Power”, usually Switzerland, and reports were made to the respective governments of the belligerents. Generally, the rules were adhered to with correctness by both sides, but there were a number of tragic and brutal lapses involving mass murder of helpless Allied prisoners, including Canadians in Normandy, by the Nazi S.S. and the Gestapo.

As is usual with crimes of the winning side, much less is known of the hundreds of thousands[1] of German prisoners left to perish in an open field surrounded by barbed wire without shelter, food, or water after the final German surrender on May 8, 1945. It is alleged that this apparent war crime was carried out on the orders of the Allied Commander-in-Chief, American General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission


[1] This allegation was made prominent in a book published in 1989, and refuted by a panel of historians in 1990 (published as a book in 1992). From a subsequent article: "There was never any serious disagreement that the German POWs were treated badly by the U.S. Army and suffered egregiously in these camps in the first weeks after the end of the war. ... But there was NO AMERICAN POLICY to starve them to death as Bacque asserts and NO COVER UP either after the war."

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Page 12: two hay dolls with their gypsum heads

Link to Page 12: two hay dolls with their gypsum heads
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

und wenn es mit den beiden Strohpuppen und ihren aufgesetzten Gipsköpfen, die bei der Zählung im dritten Glied mitgeführt wurden, nicht geklappt hatte, dann mußte uns die Polizei schon auf den Fersen sein. Anfang des Krieges, da hatten wir einmal mit einer solchen Puppe den Ausbruch eines Kameraden fünf Tage lang tarnen können - aber seither hatten auch unsere Bewachungsmannschaften allerlei dazu gelernt. Während der Zählung mußte jede Kolonne nach dem Abschreiten der Front durch den zählenden Sergeanten mehrere Schritte vorrücken - und ob die beiden mitgeführten Puppen mit ihren künstlichen Gelenken das mitmachen würden, ohne aufzufallen, war die Frage. Auf welche Ideen waren wir nicht schon gekommen, um die Kanadier bei den Zählungen zu täuschen; Köpfe aus Gips, aus Holz und aus Pappmachee waren modelliert worden, im Krankenrevier lagen lebensgroße Puppen, deren Brust sich in regelmäßigen Abständen hob und senkte, betätigt durch eine feine Schnur, die zum Nachbarbett führte,


and if the two hay dolls with their gypsum heads that replaced us in the third column hadn't done the job, the police must already be on our heels. At the beginning of the war we were able to cover a comrade's escape with such a dummy for five days - but the guard teams had learned a lot since then. During the count, every column had to move a few steps forward after the inspection of the front by the counting sergeant - and whether the two carried dolls with their artificial joints would take part without being noticed - that was the question. Such ideas had we not already thought up to deceive the Canadians at roll call; gypsum heads on dummies modeled out of wood and paper mache, in the sick bay lay life-sized dolls, whose chests moved up and down at regular intervals, operated by a thin cord leading to the neighboring bed,

Related Posts:
   1. Page 13: artful trap doors cut into the floors (Jul 30, 2010)
   2. Page 11: we must be careful (Jul 16, 2010)
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Book trailer: 30 miles still lay ahead of us

"But we were met with a new mishap; I twisted my knee. ... 30 miles still lay ahead of us; 30 miles of icy road between impenetrable forests, 30 miles of path through the wilderness without any human settlement, without any possibility of help if we couldn't go any farther, 30 miles of nothing but woods, snow and ice." (pages 60-61)

Images adapted from --mike-- and pinkmoose at Flickr. (The second image is of the North Saskatchewan River at Edmonton.)

Music from Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Opus 61, first movement: http://www.musopen.com/music.php?type=piece&id=454

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Big red circle

Link to Big red circle
David Carter

Although German POWs often wore their military uniforms, it was important to have distinctive work clothing to make it harder to blend into the population if they escaped.

From David J. Carter:

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.

Jill Browne (and Robert Henderson in the comments) offer some additional details (and a fun cartoon) on The Uniform of the German POWs in Canada:

the uniforms had a big red circle on the back and a broad red stripe down the pant leg ... 11 cm wide

Related Posts:
   1. Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135 - more details (Sep 27, 2010)
   2. Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire (Apr 27, 2010)
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"My Introduction to a World Behind Barbed Wire"

Link to
Glenbow Archives via CFB/ASU Wainwright presentation

Here is part 2 in our series of recollections by Canadian Lt. Leo L. Hamson, regarding his time as a guard at the Wainwright POW camp.

(Update: The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)

I opened the series last week with his story of Klaus Conrad's escape, though this entry actually comes first. I think it must have taken place in the Winter of 1945-1946, i.e. after the war was over but before POWs were sent back to Germany.


My Introduction to a World Behind Barbed Wire

I cannot now remember the date that I was posted to the Wainwright POW camp in Northern Alberta other than it was in the depth of winter. And I am not certain to this day that it was because they actually needed me, or because they did not know what else to do with a surplus 25-year-old artillery lieutenant recently returned from overseas who was declining to take his discharge but still had to earn his keep.

On arrival at the railroad station, I was met by a private of the Veterans’ Guard Of Canada driving an open jeep and my trunk was slung in the back. As we entered the precincts of the camp in brilliant winter sunshine, I saw for the first time the great prisoner-of-war stockade consisting of two high fences about twelve feet apart. The massive posts and criss-crossed barbed wire enclosed several acres, with neat rows of barracks of the style that was standard for the Canadian Army, an equivalency for the POWs as prescribed by the Geneva Convention. At intervals along the fence were the formidable guard towers, large structures with several flights of wooden stairs to reach the top-most glassed-in deck from which the armed guards kept watch. It was a chilling sight.

We passed a hockey rink set up outside the barbed wire stockade. A vigorous game was in progress. I commented to my driver, “Oh! I see you play hockey here.”

“Yes sir!” he responded cheerily, “Today the guards are playing the POWs”

I was too shocked to make any reply. Evidently fraternization with the enemy was alive and well in Wainwright Prisoner-of-War Camp 135.

After getting installed in my room in the Officers’ Quarters, I went to the H.Q. building and reported to Major Shanks, the commandant of Veterans’ Guard of Canada No. 27 Company. While eyeing me up and down, he noted the empty holster on my belt and asked me where my revolver was. I said that after returning from overseas I saw no further need for lugging the heavy thing around and turned it in to the quartermaster in Calgary. He said, “Well, you will need one here. Go to the Q.M. Stores and draw one!” He indicated a building in the distance on a slight rise.

On the road to the building, I saw three figures approaching, marching briskly. As they passed me, they saluted me smartly. I was stunned to realize they were German officers, and we were outside the stockade! I had automatically returned their salute, and then remembered the order of the vengeful General Eisenhower overseas that we were not to return the salutes of German prisoners. I had felt uncomfortable and embarrassed by this ban on what had always been considered an honourable military courtesy, even for a defeated enemy.

When I entered the building, I found the usual quartermaster stores with shelves loaded with clothing, boots, equipment, tools, and weapons, all behind a long counter. At first there appeared to be no-one there, but suddenly a man at a desk behind the counter leaped to his feet and saluted me. I could hardly believe my eyes. He was dressed impeccably in the uniform of a German captain. Something was terribly wrong here. Mindful of what I had come for, I stammered, “There must be some mistake.” and turned to leave.

Before I could reach the door, he called out in excellent English “You must be Lieutenant Hamson. I had a phone call from the Orderly Room about you. You have come for this.” He then reached under the counter and placed a regulation Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver on the counter. From a drawer he withdrew a box of cartridges, opened it to ensure that it was full and correct, and pushed the two items toward me. Then, as I stood there speechless, he pushed a book toward me. “Please sign here.”

In a state of shock, I fumbled as I stowed the revolver in my holster, put the cartridges in my belt pouch, and walked unsteadily out the door. What kind of a place was this? Alice in Wonderland? A prisoner issuing me a GUN?

When I went into the Orderly Room, I was in for a further shock. The people working busily at filing cabinets, typewriters and the switchboard were German officers. A Veteran’s guard lounged in a corner, smoking a pipe and reading a newspaper. When I encountered the commandant later, I let him know of my total astonishment to find the place apparently being run by the prisoners. “Of course!” he said, “The ones you see outside the stockade have signed a parole and they love having something useful to do. They are very good at it too…Teutonic efficiency and all that sort of thing, you know. And that gives us more time to spend in the mess drinking beer!” He then glanced at his watch. “My goodness! Time for four o’clock tea! Come along!”

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission

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Page 11: we must be careful

Link to Page 11: we must be careful
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Die gleiche Frage mochte er sich in Bezug auf uns beide vorlegen, denn bald begann er eine Unterhaltung und fragte so viel, daß wir achtgeben mußten, uns nicht in Widersprüche zu verwickeln. Es war am späten Nachmittag, als wir in Edmonton, der Hauptstadt Albertas und Metropole Nord-West-Kanadas eintrafen. Teils unserem eigenen Hunger, teils der freundlichen Aufforderung unseres Fahrers folgend, suchten wir eine kleine Speisebar auf. Beklommenen Herzens traten wir ein, denn wir hatten ja so gut wie kein Geld außer den paar Silbermünzen, die von illegalen Tauschgeschäften mit kanadischen Posten im Lager stammten. An der Theke bekamen wir Kaffee, Sandwiches und ein paar Eier, und als wir verlegen mit unseren wenigen Münzen klimperten, da bezahlte der junge Mann die Rechnung für uns mit. Es schlug sechs. In jähem Schrecken sahen wir uns an. Vor einer Stunde war Zählung gewesen im Kriegsgefangenenlager Wainwright ...


He might have been asking himself the same question about us, because soon he started a conversation and asked so much that we must be careful not to get entangled in contradictions. It was late afternoon when we reached Edmonton, the capital of Alberta and metropolis of Northwestern Canada. Partly because of our own hunger, partly because of the driver's friendly invitation, we found a little diner. We entered with anxious hearts, since we had as good as no money except the few silver coins from our illegal trading activities with the Canadian guards inside the camp. At the counter we were served coffee, sandwiches and some eggs, and when we sheepishly jingled our few coins the young man paid the bill for us. The clock struck six. In sudden fear, we looked at each other. An hour ago the count had taken place in the Wainwright POW camp ...

Related Posts:
   1. Page 12: two hay dolls with their gypsum heads (Jul 23, 2010)
   2. Page 10: I've slipped through his fingers again (Jul 09, 2010)
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Book trailer: The black brew reached up to my chest

"An attempt to get to the open waters through the broad belt of reeds (in order to swim across the river) failed. I sunk ever deeper into the marsh and was nearly pulled under there. The black brew reached up to my chest, stinking bubbles rising up (and) by gathering all my strength I pulled myself back to the shore again using the reeds." (page 49)

Images adapted from randwill, Gilder, clairity, avramishin at Flickr. (The middle 2 were composited: black brew in the front, shoreline in the back.)

This music is from a different composer than previous videos: Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Opus 61, first movement: http://www.musopen.com/music.php?type=piece&id=454

Related Posts:
   1. Book poster: gathering all my strength (Apr 24, 2010)
   2. Book poster: black brew (Apr 24, 2010)
   3. Book poster: failed (Apr 24, 2010)
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Earning, spending and saving at POW Camp Algona (Iowa)

Link to Earning, spending and saving at POW Camp Algona (Iowa)
traces.org

Traces assembled some interesting facts on money at Camp Algona.

From Lt. Col. Arthur T. Lobdell, Commandant:

The P.W. was never paid in money but he was paid in coupons, which they could spend in their canteen for such items as: newspapers, books, soap, haircuts and other non-rationed items. At first they spent all of their earnings, but toward the spring of 1945 they began saving and when they left Algona in the winter of 1946 each averaged about $135.00 of savings to take to Germany.

Some details:

  • chits instead of coins: 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢
  • $805,000 in chits printed
  • coupon booklets: $1, $3, $5, and $10
  • printed by Kelsey Coupon Company in Cincinnati, OH

There's lots more in the slide show by Steve Feller: Scrip of the PW Camp at Algona, IA. (Flash required)

Related Posts:
   1. Bus-eum Tour: Held in the Heartland: German POWs in the Midwest 1943-46 (Apr 07, 2010)
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POW camp stores

Link to POW camp stores
icrc.org

Here's another part of camp life covered by the Geneva Convention. (emphasis added)

Art 12. ... In all camps, canteens shall be installed at which prisoners shall be able to procure, at the local market price, food commodities and ordinary articles. The profits accruing to the administrations of the camps from the canteens shall be utilised for the benefit of the prisoners.

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"A Brilliant Escape"

Link to
Glenbow Archives (?) via CFB/ASU Wainwright presentation

Lieutenant Leo Hamson returned to Canada after fighting in Europe, and was sent to Camp Wainwright as a guard. This entry is the first in a series, reprinted with permission. (emphasis added; 1 paragraph break added; 1 typo corrected)

(Update: The full set of Recollections is back online, with photos.)


A Brilliant Escape

At dinner one night in the Officers’ Mess, I was regaled with the story of a successful escape by two POW officers that occurred when Wainwright first opened for business. The tale was told by the Veterans’ Guard officers with great relish and obvious admiration. It seems that a trainload of POWs arrived before the camp construction was quite finished, much to the consternation of the senior Canadian officer. The buildings were complete, but the stockade fences were not. The barbed wire was still being strung by the army engineers. The exasperated Canadian colonel ordered the POWs herded into their barracks with armed guards at the doors until the wiring was finished.

The POWs watched the work from the windows. They noted that the khaki denim material of the work coveralls worn by the Canadians was of the same material covering the mattresses on their double-decker army beds. The senior German officer put out a call for anyone with tailoring experience. Hans Pfeffel stepped forward, and very soon had fashioned passable replicas of the coveralls. These were donned by Lt. E. Meuche and Lt. Klaus Conrad. While the others feigned a scuffle among themselves to distract the guards, these two slipped out and joined the fencing crew, giving a friendly wave to the tower guards as they passed under them. The guards cheefully returned the gesture.

They unrolled a large spool of barbed wire along the line of posts, but veered from the line towards a copse of trees, then bolted unnoticed. They reached the railroad tracks and leaped aboard a passing freight train. Knowing nothing of Alberta geography[*], the next train they boarded was heading north to Lesser Slave Lake before they realized they would never reach the Fatherland that way. They caught a south-bound train, and were not apprehended until a month later in Gary Indiana. They were not returned to Wainwrght, but to the camp at Gravenhurst.

There was a strange post-script to this story. Hans Pfeffel returned to Canada, settled in Coaldale, in Southern Alberta, opened a clothing store, and raised a family. He had a major part in the National Film Board documentary “The Enemy Within,” which I shall refer to later, and also provided some harmonica background music for the film. As my son-in-law now residing in England was born and raised in the small town of Coaldale, I was amazed when my inquiries revealed that the two families had been friends for years.

Last year, although battling terminal cancer, Hans was determined to meet us, and made the very long journey to Edmonton with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. We were joined at a luncheon in our garden by another former Wainwright POW, Siegfried Osterwoldt and his wife, and by Eva Colmers, who made and directed the film. A few weeks later, Hans passed away. We shall be forever grateful for his valiant effort in making the arduous journey that made possible an unforgettable reunion after nearly six decades.

Copyright 2004 by Leo Hamson; used with permission


* I think that heading north was planned, but in any case it's great to have an account direct from the Canadian side.

Related Posts:
   1. Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135 - more details (Sep 27, 2010)
   2. Documentary (2003): The Enemy Within (Apr 23, 2010)
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Page 10: I've slipped through his fingers again

Link to Page 10: I've slipped through his fingers again
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

"Den Sergeanten möchte ich sehen, wenn er feststellt, daß ich ihm schon wieder durchgegangen bin", entgegnete ich "aber ein verdammtes Gefühl in der Kehle war das, als er vorhin auf uns zukam. Und noch sind wir in bedrohlicher Nähe des Lagers, hoffentlich kommt bald ein Auto und nimmt uns mit." "Per Anhalter fahren" ist ein etwas umständlicher deutscher Ausdruck. Er ist sicherlich noch nicht alt. Die Amerikaner haben ein Verbum dafür: "to hitchhike", und das zeigt, wie gang und gäbe bei ihnen diese Reisemethode ist. Wir gingen also die Straße entlang und bald kam auch ein etwas klappriger Wagen, der sofort bereitwillig anhielt. "Going to Edmonton?" - "Fahren Sie nach Edmonton?" "That's right", sagte der einzige Insasse und nahm uns mit. Er war ein junger Mann, kaum älter als wir selber, und übrigens voll strotzender Gesundheit. Wieso war er nicht Soldat?


"I want to see the sergeant when he finds out that I've slipped through his fingers again," I replied "but I had such a damned feeling in my throat when he was approaching us earlier. We're still dangerously close to the camp, hopefully a car comes soon and takes us along." "Per Anhalter fahren" is a somewhat circuitous German expression. It certainly can't be very old yet. The Americans have a verb for it: "to hitchhike," and that shows how commonplace this method of travel is with them. So we went alongside the road and soon a somewhat rickety car came along, that immediately stopped, unhesitant. "Going to Edmonton?" "That's right," said the sole occupant and took us with him. He was a young man, barely older than us and, incidentally, brimming with health. How was he not a soldier?

Related Posts:
   1. Page 11: we must be careful (Jul 16, 2010)
   2. Page 9: Freedom, Joy (Jul 02, 2010)
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Book trailer: My heart pounded in my throat

"The guards turned around again, coming back step by step. Ever closer they moved. A few steps away from me they stopped. My heart pounded in my throat; I hardly dared to breathe." (page 42)

Images (loosely!) adapted from isafmedia, soldiersmediacenter, soldiersmediacenter, and thejointstaff at Flickr

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

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POW housing and food

Link to POW housing and food
icrc.org

According to the 1929 Geneva Convention, captured troops were to receive the same housing and food as the country's own troops. Here are some excerpts from SECTION II - PRISONERS OF WAR CAMPS. (emphasis added)

Art. 10. Prisoners of war shall be lodged in buildings or huts which afford all possible safeguards as regards hygiene and salubrity. The premises must be entirely free from damp, and adequately heated and lighted. All precautions shall be taken against the danger of fire. As regards dormitories, their total area, minimum cubic air space, fittings and bedding material, the conditions shall be the same as for the depot troops of the detaining Power.
...
Art. 11. The food ration of prisoners of war shall be equivalent in quantity and quality to that of the depot troops. Prisoners shall also be afforded the means of preparing for themselves such additional articles of food as they may possess. Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied to them. The use of tobacco shall be authorized. Prisoners may be employed in the kitchens. All collective disciplinary measures affecting food are prohibited.

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Postwar Germany

Link to Postwar Germany
Mrs. Gerald Stabler

Life was not easy after returning to Germany. Here are two letters from former POWs at Camp Aliceville in Alabama.

June 8, 1947

I often think on the days I spent in Alabama as a prisoner of war. In this time I never was hungry. But today in Germany I am always hungry. There is very little bread, we have no potatoes, no flour and no sugar. We have also very little fat and dripping. There are days, my mother does not know what to cook for the family. But we hope it will be better in autumn, when the harvest is brought in. But I think till this time, there will be very bitter days. When I am hungry, I often wish to be a prisoner in the U.S.A. That’s very sad. That’s the same with the clothes. When [I became] a soldier I was a young man and no[w] all my clothes are to[o] small. I am very glad that there is now summer. But what will happen in winter?

Gerhard Stroh
Tubingen am Neckar
French Zone
Germany

September 15, 1947

For a long time I was PW in the camp [at Aliceville]. Often I have gone through your town. I am sorry that I was not able to speak often with the American people, but I can say, that I have been treated there very well. Now I am discharged. When I came to Germany, [I discovered] that I have lost all and often I must think of the good li[f]e, we have had in your country. Although I was a PW at that time, I have not to take care for [clothing] and food. Both are very scanty here.

Johannes Peters
Kreis Schleswig
British Zone
Germany

Related Posts:
   1. POWs arrive in Aliceville (Jun 16, 2010)
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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: May 1946

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

A full year after "Victory in Europe" day...

Excerpts from May 1946: (emphasis added; skipped days are not marked; all typos in original)

8 - Dull, overcast. One year ago Proclamation announcing end of the war with Germany was read to the PW. To-day, remaining PW in Camp are still anticipating a return to their homeland. Very strong wind with dust storm in afternoon.

9 - Quite cool and clearing. Snow flurries at 0830 hrs.

14 - Cool and overcast. Telegraphic warning that Draft Ten, PW to U.K., received. (562) all ranks to go. No other instructions as yet. Preparation going forward.

19 - Clear and bright in A.M. ... Final Identification, search of personal and hand luggage, also Medical and Dental Inspection of Draft Ten, being transferred to UK carried out. ... Entrainment of Draft Ten commenced at 2225 hrs. Completed and train moved away from Camp Spur at 0050 hrs. 20 May 46. Final exit from Enclosure and Entrainment proceeded smoothy and without incident.

23 - ... Movement Instructions arrived at 1330 hrs. and all is set for final exit of PW.

24 - Bright and warm. Search of PW hand baggage at 0900 hrs. completed at noon. Identification Parade of PW at 1700 hrs. and entrainment commenced at 1715 hrs. in groups of (45). Entrainment completed at 1615 hrs. and PW train left with (250) Offices and (25) O.Rs. on board from Camp Spur at 1840 hrs. Major Hamilton in charge. This leaves Camp 135 at Nil PW strength.

27 - Clear and warm. Preparation for closing of Camp going forward.


June

14 - Weather clear and warm. Internment Camp 135 and No. 27 Company, Veterans Guard of Canada were reduced to " Nil " Strength.

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Page 9: Freedom, Joy

Link to Page 9: Freedom, Joy
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

(Page 8 is blank so that this chapter starts on the right-side page.)

Chapter II

Per Anhalter nach Edmonton

Eine unbeschreibliche Freude überkam uns, während wir mit jeder Minute unseren Abstand zum Lager vergrößerten. In diesen Augenblicken kam uns der Begriff "Freiheit" so recht zum Bewußtsein. Das Glücksgefühl über den gelungenen Ausbruch beflügelte unsere Schritte, und wir begannen vor Freude zu laufen. "Was werden die für Augen machen, wenn sie merken, daß zwei fehlen", frohlockte Heinz, als wir endlich verschnauften.


Hitchhiking to Edmonton

An indescribable feeling of joy overcame us, as, with every passing minute, we increased our distance from the camp. In these moments, the concept "freedom" came so directly into our consciousness. The feeling of happiness from the successful escape quickened our steps, and we began running out of joy. "How surprised they're going to be when they notice that two are missing," rejoiced Heinz, when we finally paused for breath.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 10: I've slipped through his fingers again (Jul 09, 2010)
   2. Page 7: We were free. (Jun 25, 2010)
   3. Book trailer: Joy! (Jun 17, 2010)
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Book trailer: Northern Lights ... unforgettable

"Those nights when the Northern Lights interrupted the darkness for minutes at a time will remain especially unforgettable; a fairy tale-esque gleam and twinkle ran across the sky and we were witness to this phenomenon only visible in the Arctic regions." (page 33)

Images adapted from Jökull Másson, nick_russill and Image Editor at Flickr

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

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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
None

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)

January:

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

February:

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

March:

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

April:

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
None

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
eastalabama.org/pow_camp.htm

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)
0 comments, 0 trackbacks (URL) , Tags: video trailer

POWs arrive in Aliceville

Link to POWs arrive in Aliceville
alabamaheritage.com

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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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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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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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: April 2-19

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: April 2-19
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

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

2nd - Monday - Continued fine weather. Parole walks started at 1400 hours by PW.

5th - Thursday - Still cloudy and cool. No 36 Coy was relieved by No 30 Coy. V.G.C.,the latter arriving at 1120 hours and the former leaving at 1620 hours. Guard re-inforced during hours of darkness by roving Patrol back from Wire from Tower 4 to Tower 7. Lt.-Col. Jull of District H.Q. arrived to complete Court of Inquiry re Escapes of 2 PW. Camp all C.B'd and everyone on the Alert in case of PW trouble, trying to take advantage of New Guard Coy. Col. Jull and Capt. Ashbury made Special Check of Guard Towers at Midnight.

7th - Saturday - More snow in morning but warmer after dinner. ... Advise received from Ottawa that 46 PW from Grand Ligne & 283 from Bowmanville are to arrive here next week.

12th - Thursday - Snowed at 0800 hours, cleared up later. ... Total PW Count now 1094. President Roosevelt passed away (63 yrs old)

13th - Friday - Sunny & warmer. ... Commandant permitted 4 dogs, brought from Bowmanville, to be kept in Enclosure.

15th - Sunday - Cloudy with strong, cold wind, snow flurries. Church Services in Recreation Hut for All Ranks, the theme being in all cases,eulogies of the late President, who was buried this date at Hyde Park, N.Y.

18th - Wednesday - Mild & Sunny. Capt. Pierce of R.C.E. in Camp to destroy bombs found by PW in Parole Area. A PW Officer Gundlach was removed from the Enclosure at the urgent request of Camp Spokesman who claimed his life was in danger from other PW. PW O.R. Luszak paraded to the Interpreter and admitted he was impersonating PW Baumann from Grande Ligne, as PW Dental Identification was in prospect.

19th - Thursday - Snow flurry early morning, cloudy & cool. S/Sgt from H.Q. arrived to fumigate PW Quarters that are reported to have bedbugs. Careless thrown cigarette butt by one of PW on Parole Walk, cause a grass fire, which was brought under control in 3/4 of an hour.Rehabilitation Questionnaires called in from VGC Personnel in Camp.

Stay tuned for next week's post....

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Page 3: Once we were within earshot...

Link to Page 3: Once we were within earshot...
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

The book posters are running ahead of the pages ... so, back to the story.

Als wir auf Rufweite heranwaren, wurde gerade ein Arbeiter von außen hereingelassen; er glaubte, zwei seiner Arbeitskollegen kommen zu sehen, und machte Anstalten, auf uns zu warten. "Der hat uns gerade noch gefehlt!" flüsterte Heinz hinter mir. Wir legten die Drahtrolle ab und machten uns an ihr zu schaffen, bis dem Wartenden die Zeit zu lang wurde und er von dannen trottete. Erleichtert setzten wir unseren Weg fort. Kaltblütig schritten wir auf den diensthabenden Posten zu, als seien wir schon hundertmal diesen Weg gegangen. Wie würde er sich verhalten? Interessiert schaute er uns entgegen. Wenn er nur kein Gespräch mit uns anfängt! Wir waren aufs höchste gespannt; nur wenige Schritte trennten uns - da näherte sich von außen her ein Offizier. Dienstbeflissen eilte der Soldat ans äußere Tor. Während er es umständlich aufschloß, traten wir durch das offene Tor des inneren Zaunringes und gelangten unbehelligt in den schmalen Gang zwischen den beiden Zäunen. Einen Zaun hatten wir überwunden, aber der zweite äußere trennte uns noch von der Freiheit.


Once we were within earshot, a worker was being let in from outside; he thought he saw two of his coworkers coming, and proceeded to wait for us. "That's the last thing we needed!" whispered Heinz behind me. We set the wire roll down and started fiddling around with it, until the time dragged on too long for the waiting worker and he trotted away. Relieved, we continued on our way. Coolly we strode toward the guard on duty, as if we had gone this way a hundred times before. How would he react? Interested, he looked over at us. If only he wouldn't start a conversation with us! We had the utmost anxiety; very few steps remained - then an officer approached from outside. Diligent in his duty, the soldier hurried toward the outer gate. While he laboriously opened it, we stepped through the open gate of the inner fence ring and arrived unharmed in the narrow path between the two fences. We had passed one fence, but the second, outer, still separated us from freedom.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 4: Slowly we strode along, stopping here and there... (Jun 04, 2010)
   2. Page 2: The last morning count (May 21, 2010)
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Book poster: Joy! (scenic)

Link to Book poster: Joy! (scenic)
(Image adapted from wili, varun, and varun at Flickr)

Here's another take on yesterday's quote.

The temperature was still cold in Alberta, Canada in March 1945, so the grass was probably brown and partially covered with snow. But perhaps this lush scene reflects how Klaus and Heinz felt immediately after their escape (page 9):

The feeling of happiness from the successful escape quickened our steps, and we began running out of joy.

Related Posts:
   1. Book trailer: Joy! (Jun 17, 2010)
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Book poster: Joy! (abstract)

Link to Book poster: Joy! (abstract)
(Image adapted from varun, varun and psd at Flickr)

Immediately after their escape (page 9):

The feeling of happiness from the successful escape quickened our steps, and we began running out of joy.

Related Posts:
   1. Book trailer: Joy! (Jun 17, 2010)
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Book poster: We were free.

Link to Book poster: We were free.
(Image adapted from pinkmoose at Flickr)

Yesterday's blog post covered the official report of the March 19 escape. Here's our poster for their initial success, with text from the end of Chapter 1 (page 7). The full quote is below, with the missing text in italics.

Soon we had crossed the railroad tracks and reached the main road into Edmonton. We were free.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 7: We were free. (Jun 25, 2010)
   2. Book trailer: We were free. (Jun 10, 2010)
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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Mar 19 escaped!

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Mar 19 escaped!
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

I included the previous War Diary entries to give a sense of daily camp life. Here's where the diary overlaps the beginning of Canadian Escapades.

Excerpts from March 1945: (emphasis added; skipped days are not marked)

19th - Monday - Reported that Two PW had climbed through Wire. Count held at 1600 hrs.-2 Missing. Identification Parade attempted but PW refused to co-operate. The whole Camp was C.B. and an all-night vigil kept in Admin. Bldg to await developments. Lt.-Col. Pender and Capt. Yule,(Intelligence) interviewed Commandant & Lt. Sorensen. Capt. Geo Les Strange of Ordnance transferred to Calgary.

20th - Tuesday - Fine & Sunny. Identification Parade at 1430 hrs established that PW Lt. Meuche, E and PW Lt. Conrad, K. were the two missing. Camp was declared 'A Detention Camp' at 1030 hrs, later lifted at 1930 hrs. Lt.-Col. Coombs, D.S. & T.O. in Camp. "Sundown" & "Ferry Pilot" shown in Recreation Hut at 1930 hrs. were appreciated as CB still in force.

21st - Wednesday - Dull & mild. Court of Inquiry ordered to inquire into and report upon the circumstances surrounding the escape of Two PW. Camp Standing Orders being distributed a total of 34 copies issued. "This is the Army"-Technicolor shown at 1930 hrs.

23rd - Friday - Clear, mild. ... Major Gibson presided at Court of Inquiry re Escape of 2 PW Officers. Five PW Officers transferred to Int. Camp, Seebe, Alta. "Secret Command" shown in camp at night.

27th - Tuesday - Clear & mild. ... Major J. Gibson concluding Court of Inquiry relative the escape of 2 PW. Bingo played in Recreation Hut-1900 hrs.

28th - Wednesday - Lt. Col. Parsons and Major Young of HQ MD 13 accompanied by Major Ramsay NDHQ were visitors in Camp.

29th - Thursday - Major T.O.B. Gore- Hickman and Major Sheppard were visitors from DHQ also Col. Cunnington who made an inspection of Camp with Major J.Gibson

31 - Saturday - Clear and mild. Routine normal.


Glossary:

Alta. - Alberta

C.B. - Confined to Barracks

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Page 2: The last morning count

Link to Page 2: The last morning count
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Continuing from last Friday:

Die letzte Morgenzählung

Etwas beklommen, nach links und rechts schielend, wohnten wir noch der Morgenzählung bei - zum letzten Male! Der diensthabende Sergeant schritt die Reihen entlang - für den Bruchteil einer Sekunde ruhten seine Augen in den meinen; ahnte er etwas? Mir war plötzlich ganz trocken in der Kehle - schon war er vorbei; die nächste Kolonne, die übernächste. "Zählung beendet!" ertönte der Ruf. "Nun aber schnell!" sagte Heinz, "wenn's jetzt klappt, dann sucht uns niemand mehr bis zur Abendzählung um 5 Uhr - und dann sind wir über alle Berge ..." Rasch hatten wir unsere Zivilanzüge angezogen und darüber blaue Overalls gestreift, wie sie von jedem Arbeiter in Nordamerika getragen werden. Schlecht rasiert und ein wenig geschminkt, um älter auszusehen, schlenderten wir über den Lagersportplatz, steckten eine Tragstange durch eine Stacheldrahtrolle, die von Zaunausbesserungen liegengeblieben war und schritten damit zum Tor.


The last morning count

Quite anxious, glancing right and left, we attended the morning count - for the last time! The sergeant on duty was walking along the rows - for a split-second his eyes met mine; did he suspect something? It was suddenly quite dry in my throat - then he passed by; to the next column, then the one after that. "Count finished!" the call sounded. "Now; quickly!" said Heinz, "if it works now, then nobody will look for us until the evening count at 5 o'clock - and then we'll be far away ..." Quickly we had put on our civilian clothes and then blue striped overalls, the kind worn by every worker in North America. Badly shaven and with a little makeup to look older, we sauntered across the camp's sports field, stuck a bar through a roll of barbed wire that was left behind after fence repair work, and strode with it to the gate.

Related Posts:
   1. Peter Krug and Erich Boehle escape from Bowmanville (Aug 10, 2010)
   2. "The Ritual of the Daily Head Count" (Aug 09, 2010)
   3. Page 3: Once we were within earshot... (May 28, 2010)
   4. Page 1: Finally all preparations were completed. (May 14, 2010)
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Karl Rabe's 4 escape attempts from Lethbridge

Link to Karl Rabe's 4 escape attempts from Lethbridge
Google Maps

German POW Karl Rabe, in 1943:

Each evening big empty plywood boxes for the handling of bread were placed between the inner and outer main camp gates. One night he got into one of the boxes and with a handmade saw started to saw his way out of the box at a time when he calculated no guard was around. However in the silence of the prairie night his sawblade together with the vibrating of the pliable plywood made a terrible noise. Soon a sentry came to the box to watch he was joined by about twenty guards who watched him emerge from the box. His hair was shaved and he received two weeks detention.

Later in the heat of the summer Rabe having studied the drainage system the camp, decided to escape via the storm sewers.

...

Escape attempt number three involved power lines connecting the camp buildings. On a rainy night Rabe attached two wheels with handles protruding on top of the wires and rolled off into the night.

...

The most ambitious escape attempt by this escape-a-holic was the preparation of a hot air balloon to fly over the barbed wire.

Read the omitted details (along with an earlier escape in Ontario) at the u-35 profile. Original source: David J. Carter's POW - Behind Canadian Barbed Wire.

Related Posts:
   1. Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire (Apr 27, 2010)
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Military courtesy between enemies: Werner Lott and Lord Mountbatten

Link to Military courtesy between enemies: Werner Lott and Lord Mountbatten
see entire image at u-35.com

An interesting account from December 1939:

The entire crew of U-35 was taken to the Tower of London, arriving there on 03 December 1939. Placed immediately in his own, very cold cell, Werner Lott, commander of U-35, said he would go on a hunger strike until he was seen by an officer. On the second day, Werner Lott was visited by Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, commander of the destroyer flotilla which had sunk U-35. Lord Mountbatten arranged for him to be seen by the military commandant and soon afterwards Werner Lott was moved to new quarters, where he accepted an offered meal, honour now satisfied.

The Admiralty sent apologies, via Lord Mountbatten, for the way that Werner Lott had been treated and offered as recompense a 'splendid' meal - an invitation for Werner Lott to dine at Scott's Restaurant. Werner Lott accepted on the condition that his second-in-command, Heinz Erchen, could accompany him. The two Germans, under promise not to attempt to escape, were given parole for the evening. Dressed in civilian clothes, they were escorted across the drawbridge to a waiting Admiralty limousine. After a very convivial dinner with two British naval officers (one being Commander Halahan), whom both had known in Gibraltar in 1938, the Germans returned to the Tower.


Mountbatten correctly analyzed how the war would unfold, though I wonder whether he suspected how long it would take:

Lott: ... next Summer when we invade England and take over ...

Mountbatten: I am afraid you don’t understand what is going to happen in this war; yet you should as you are a naval officer. In the 1914/18 war your army was victorious everywhere but the Royal Navy blockaded you to the point of starvation, surrender and revolution. In this war your army will unquestionably be victorious in Europe when they come to over- run France next year but you still have got to cross the sea to invade England. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will prevent that. You will find the Germans confined to a conquered continent without having conquered the United Kingdom.

Then in due course Hitler will make the same mistake that the Kaiser made which will involve the United States of America coming into the war on our side. When that happens it will be we who will invade the continent and defeat Hitler on land. That will be the end of the war with victory for us and defeat for you. I think therefore you had better start learning English and preparing yourself for the difficult times you will find in Germany after your release.

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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Mar 4-19

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Mar 4-19
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

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

4th - Sunday - Quite Cold. Usual Church Services for R.C. Personnel. Protestant Padre unable to get here - couldn't start his car and Camp Cars also Frozen up.

6th - Tuesday - Warmer. PW Officer had acute appendicitis at night. Bingo played in Recreation Hut at 1900 hours.

7th - Wednesday - Weather mild. As Municipal Hospital at Wainwright refused admittance to PW Officer operation was performed by M.O. in our M.I.R. The nurses from the Hospital volunteered to help and also loaned the necessary instruments. The operation was a success.

14th - Wednesday - Snowed but later cleared up. Pay Parade at 1300 hrs for HQ Staff. ...

16th - Friday - Cloudy. A total of $236.00 collected for the Red Cross from Camp Personnel. "The Reckless Age" and "The Rainbow", the latter a Russian Film, were shown at 1930 hours in K. of C. Hut at South Side of Camp.

19th - Monday - Frosty and sunny. Mr Maag, representing Int. Red Cross was in Camp.

The rest of Monday's entry deserves its own post....


Glossary:

  • M.O. - Medical Officer
  • M.I.R. - Medical Inspection Room ?
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Page 1: Finally all preparations were completed.

Link to Page 1: Finally all preparations were completed.
(Copyright 2009 by Klaus Conrad and Germancosm)

Here's an unformatted copy of this page, in German and English:

Chapter I

Endlich waren alle Vorbereitungen abgeschlossen. Fieberhaft hatte ein kleiner Kreis Eingeweihter Tag und Nacht mitgeholfen, alle die vielen Dinge, die zu einer Flucht gehörten, fertigzustellen. Aus alten Decken waren Zivilanzüge entstanden, Arbeitermützen waren gefertigt, Karten gezeichnet, Ausweise gefälscht und sogar etwas Geld aufgetrieben worden. Seit Wochen schon hatten wir die Gewohnheiten der einzelnen Wachposten genau studiert und uns ihren Wachturnus gemerkt. Da gab es Schläfrige und Wachsame, Unpünktliche und Genaue, solche, die sich durch das geringste Geräusch gleich in Aufregung versetzen ließen und sofort schössen, und andere, die im Stehen zu schlafen verstanden.

Finally all preparations were completed. Feverishly, a small circle of insiders had helped day and night to complete all the many things needed for an escape. Old blankets were turned into civilian clothing, worker hats were made, maps drawn, IDs forged and even some money was obtained. For weeks we had closely studied the habits of every guard and memorized their shifts. There were sleepy and alert guards, tardy and punctual guards, some who would get agitated by the slightest noise and immediately shoot, and others who tried to sleep standing up.

Related Posts:
   1. Page 2: The last morning count (May 21, 2010)
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Setting the stage...

Link to Setting the stage...
(Adapted from the CIA World Factbook)

After being shot down over England in 1941, German Air Force officer Klaus Conrad was captured as a prisoner of war. He was taken to Canada in 1942. This story begins in March 1945 at a POW camp near the town of Wainwright, Alberta. Although the first POWs arrived at the camp on January 29, 1945, construction work on the fence continued for several months.

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Introduction

Link to Introduction
 

Here's the book's intro:

This first edition, quite intentionally, preserves the author's informal style, including long sentences with several ideas joined by commas, as may be more appropriate for retelling the story in front of a campfire, but which, like this sentence, surely exceed what might otherwise be expected in print. Some compound sentences have been split to make the dual-language alignment more clear – though the lines that start with a lowercase letter may stand out a bit. If enough readers express a preference for the usual conventions of print, we may release a new edition.

We may also release an English-only edition in the future. Meanwhile, I hope that readers who aren't interested in German will still enjoy what I think is a great story.

For those who are interested in language, I made the translation into English as literal as I could while trying to follow English rules and style. Feedback welcome! (The first two translation passes were done by others, but any awkwardness that remains may well be my doing.)

The format of this bilingual edition is designed to encourage those who are still learning the other language (whether English or German) to read the story in that language. If you don't understand a sentence after reading it carefully, just glance at the other column. No tedious dictionary lookup is required. (Tip: but otherwise keep that side covered. It's too easy to get wrapped up in the story and continue in whichever language you find easier. To quote from the book: "die schönsten Früchte fallen uns nicht mühelos in den Schoß".)

Scott S. Lawton
November 2009

P.S. I should probably disclose that, although related only by marriage, Dr. Klaus Conrad is my uncle's uncle. I've met him twice, but only recently learned of his adventures -- and, more importantly, that he had written them down several years ago for family and friends. I'm pleased to take the opportunity to present his escapades to a wider audience.

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Friendly German guard at Stalag 4 B

Link to Friendly German guard at Stalag 4 B
prinsrichard at Flickr

A story worth sharing, from American POW Robert M. Fecht:

As you know, or have heard, the Nazi’s had no love for the Catholics. Our Commandant, who must have been indoctrinated by Hitler himself, had a very special dislike for them.

...

One Sunday, when the Commandant was supposed to have been gone, one of the guards, whose name was Herr Engle, called me into his room. Upon entering, I noticed a woman sitting at a small table. She smiled as the guard shut the door, motioning me to be quiet and, at the same time, she handed me a small sugar bowl full of strawberry sauce. Thinking the world had come to an end, I hurriedly ate them. I don’t think anything tasted as good to me as they did right then.

Then, to my astonishment, she pulled out a rosary and pointed to herself and the guard and said, "Catholic." I looked at the guard and he nodded and was all smiles. Just then, the door opened and there stood the Commandant.

Read the rest to see how Fecht saved the day.

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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Feb 10-28

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Feb 10-28
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

Someone else's escape attempt!

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

10th - Saturday - Mild, grounds quite icy. Preparations being made to receive PW now En Route from Gravenhurst. At 2040 hrs. telephone Message received from Dist. H.Q., Calgary that there was trouble on PW Train and to have a strong Guard ready to assist on arrival. Commandant returned from Edmonton.

11th - Sunday - Clear and cool. 172 Officers and 73 O.Rs. all PW arrived at 0900 hrs. from Gravenhurst. One PW Officer under Arrest, having attempted to escape on the way. Escort from 40 Coy. VGC under Capt. Montgomery, Officer i/c Train. Total PW Count in Camp now 769.

12th - Monday - Weather fine. ... PW 51981 Oblt. Malischewski, B. sentenced to 28 days detention for attempting to escape from the train bringing him from Gravenhurst to this camp. PW 91083 O/Lieut. Koke, W. paraded before Commandant for Impersonation and was remanded in custody of Camp Spokesman until instructions receieved from D.H.Q.

15th - Thursday - ... Temperature 38 degrees below zero with strong wind blowing and all Quarters very cold.

16th - Friday - Very cold, wind moderating. Search of Effects from PW from Gravenhurst continuing; large library of Books and Gramaphone Records creating quite a problem. The extreme cold is holding up work of putting up Inside Wire Enclosure Fence. ...

17th - Saturday - Clear, moderating, no wind. Mr Boeschlin, Swiss Consul finished interviewing PW and reported to Camp Commandant that PW have no complaints. The PW from Gravenhurst objecting to Mail being distributed to each Man individually by Camp Interpreter. ...

19th - Monday - Sunny. PW 19630 Hpt./G. BRUENDEL, E. was awarded 5 days Detention for Insolence to the Camp Interpreter. Mr. Dale Brown of International Y.M.C.A. visited Camp and had an interview with 5 PW Officers. ...

27th - Tuesday - ... M 35842 Pte. Cardinal, W. J. (Cook) appointed A/Cpl. (Unpaid) Meals in the Mens Mess have shown considerable improvement since his arrival. ...

28th - Wednesday - ... Strengths:- PW Strength is 575 Officers, 15 Civilians and 179 O.Rs. Total - 769.

H.Q. Personnel:- 7 Officers and 34 O.Rs.

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Stalag Luft III; conditions in a German POW camp

Link to Stalag Luft III; conditions in a German POW camp
usafa.edu

There were many horrors of WW2. Those issues are well covered elsewhere, so not addressed on this blog. Instead, I want to highlight courage and dignity on both sides.

In Real Great Escape - Conditions, Rob Davis writes:

Allied aircrew shot down during World War II were incarcerated after interrogation in Air Force Prisoner of War camps run by the Luftwaffe, called Stalag Luft, short for Stammlager Luft or Permanent Camps for Airmen. Stalag Luft III was situated in Sagan, 100 miles south-east of Berlin, now called Zagan, in Upper Silesia, Poland.

It must be made clear that the German Luftwaffe, who were responsible for Air Force prisoners of war, maintained a degree of professional respect for fellow flyers, and the general attitude of the camp security officers and guards should not be confused with the SS or Gestapo. The Luftwaffe treated the PoWs well, despite an erratic and inconsistent supply of food.

Also noteworthy:

the Luftwaffe was (the least Nazified of the three German forces)


I haven't read much about the other Stalag Luft camps, but this note is interesting:

Compared to other prisoner of war camps throughout the Axis world, it was a model of civilized internment.

Related Posts:
   1. "so correct and indeed friendly" (Sep 23, 2010)
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Book (1950, 2004): The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill

Link to Book (1950, 2004): The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill
 

Paul Brickhill was born in Melbourne, Australia and began his career as a journalist at the Sydney Sun. He joined the war effort, trained as a pilot, was shot down in March 1943 and sent to Stalag Luft III. In addition to helping plan the famous escape, he put his writing skills to good use.

In 1946, he first published Escape to Danger with fellow POW Conrad Norton, illustrated by Ley Kenyon. Here's a review:

Simply an amazing collection of stories.... Very easy to read and hard to put down.

His famous book came next

It was suggested that ... the mass escape - might merit a book of its own.

(Source: a reprint of the April 1991 obituary in The Guardian: "Inescapable fears of the wartime hero".)

The Great Escape was published in 1950 or 1951, and was the primary source for the 1963 movie of the same name.

Two of his later books were also made into movies:

  • The Dam Busters (1951 book, 1955 movie, 2001 documentary ... and a new movie in production)
  • Reach for the Sky: Legless Ace of the Battle of Britain (1954 book, 1956 movie)
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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Feb 1-9

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Feb 1-9
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

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

1st - Thursday - Clear and cold. PW being counted 3 times daily, at 0815, 1315 and 2145 hours. Camp Commandant held a conference with Camp Spokesman and his Adjutant. ...

3rd - Saturday - ... PW Fire Piquet consisting of 10 Officers & 10 O.Rs., had Fire Drill.

4th - Sunday - ... PW Counts changed to twice a day. ... Camp Church Parades held R.Cs. at 0830 hours and Protestants at 1030 hours.

5th - Monday - ... Information received that more Prisoners would arrive from Gravenhurst on Saturday, namely 174 Officers and 74 O.Rs. Moving Picture "Double Indemnity" shown in Mens Canteen at 1900 hours.

6th - Tuesday - ... Camp Engineer Officer and Camp Q.M. busy making minor adjustments within Enclosure, as requested by PW. ...

7th - Wednesday - ... Representatives of T. Eaton Co., Edmonton visited Camp in connection with purchases by PW. ...

8th - Thursday - ... Vehicles supplied to Camp in very bad shape, and in spite of RCEME Detail working all the time, are constantly breaking down.

9th - Friday - Sunny and cool. PW 91083 O/Lieut. KOKE, W. was discovered to be impersonating PW 54741 Lieut. VON HAGEN, Wilhelm and was brought before Major J. Gibson who remanded him to appear before Lt.0-Col. C.G. Bradshaw, when he returns to Camp. ...


Glossary and notes:

PW - Prisoners of War

T. Eaton Co. - a large department store

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Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire

Link to Book (1980, 2004): POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire
 

David J. Carter's book "POW Behind Canadian Barbed Wire" is subtitled "Alien, Refugee and Prisoner of War Camps in Canada, 1914-1920 and 1939-1946". There are lots of details on his site.

The book consists of 254 pages packed with information, plus 8 pages of glossy photos. The appendix has lists of the camps, a sample daily routine, a weekly list of rations for POWs, and more.

Among countless other stories, here are some excerpts from page 80 regarding an escape from the Angler POW camp:

Horst Liebeck and Karl Heinz Grund were both Luftwaffe pilots.... [They] reached a curve in the railway line where a freight train had to slow down and they climbed aboard....

There were still hoboes riding the rails and so the escapees didn't look completely out of the ordinary.

"By the time we reached Saskatchewan we realized people took us for tramps. We weren't even attempting to hide."

Five days after their escape, near Medicine Hat, Alberta their luck ran out, almost twelve hundred miles west of Angler.

(Wikipedia has an overview of the escape.)

You can order the book directly from Eagle Butte Press (in Canada but ships worldwide), or from Amazon -- including one seller in Montana that offers signed copies.

Related Posts:
   1. Big red circle (Jul 21, 2010)
   2. Karl Rabe's 4 escape attempts from Lethbridge (May 19, 2010)
   3. Video (2003): Behind Canadian barbed wire (Apr 28, 2010)
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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan 15-31

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan 15-31
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

Excerpts from January 1945: (emphasis added; skipped days are not marked)

15th - Monday - Quarters now available for Officers but no Cook. Weather, continued mild. Moving Pictures shown 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Mr B.C. Garrity K. of C. Supervisor in charge. Tonight "The Great Moment" was shown at 1900 hrs.

18th - Thursday - Dull and moderate wind. Engineers rushing completion of Outside Wire. ... Free Bingo for the Men in the evening in the K. of C. Hut.

20th - Saturday - Clear and cold, 20 degrees below at 0600 hrs. Capt. McFadyen, Medical Officer and Lt. Hankey, Interpreter reported.

24th - Wednesday - No change in weather. Fire caused by a Gas Explosion in Hut 11 within the Enclosure at 1630 hrs. Fire Brigade responded promptly and had blaze extinguished at 1650 hrs. Court of Inquiry ordered immediately by Camp Commandant.

Information received that first batch of PW consisting of 403 Officers, 105 O.Rs. and 15 Civilians would arrive at 0650 hrs. 29 Jan 45; 36 Coy V.G.C. to suply the Escort.

26th - Friday - ... Moving Picture, "Adventures of Tartu" shown in K. of C. Hut at 1900 hrs. Dance held at 2100 hrs. in Separate School Hall for the benefit of the Camp Personnel.

29th - Monday - Weather quite cool, 13 degrees below. 523 PW arrived from Seebe Camp, unloading started at 0845 hrs and all PW searched and in quarters by Noon. Tower Guard mounted at 0800 hrs. Moving Picture shown "Then We Were Young and Gay" at 1900 hrs.

30th - Tuesday - Still quite cool. Engineers rushing Inside Enclosure Fence. ...

31st - Wednesday - Very cold. PW getting settled. ... Strength of Headquarters at this date: 6 Officers and 29 O.Rs.


Glossary:

K. of C. - Knights of Columbus (?)

Related Posts:
   1. Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135 - more details (Sep 27, 2010)
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Book poster: gathering all my strength

Link to Book poster: gathering all my strength
(Image adapted from avramishin at Flickr)

This quote follows the other 2.

... by gathering all my strength I pulled myself back to the shore again using the reeds.

Related Posts:
   1. Book trailer: The black brew reached up to my chest (Jul 15, 2010)
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Book poster: black brew

Link to Book poster: black brew
(Image adapted from Gilder and clairity at Flickr)

I love the phrase: "black brew". (I hope the quote stands alone as a poster. FYI: it occurs immediately after the quote in the previous post.)

I sunk ever deeper into the marsh and was nearly pulled under there.

The black brew reached up to my chest, stinking bubbles rising up...

Related Posts:
   1. Book trailer: The black brew reached up to my chest (Jul 15, 2010)
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Book poster: failed

Link to Book poster: failed
(Image adapted from randwill at Flickr)

Is this book poster enough to raise your curiosity?

Here's the full quote (from page 49), with the missing part in italics:

An attempt to get to the open waters through the broad belt of reeds in order to swim across the river failed.

(As noted in the book's intro, we preserved the author's informal style -- including long sentences.)

Related Posts:
   1. Book trailer: The black brew reached up to my chest (Jul 15, 2010)
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War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan 5-11, 1945

Link to War Diary of Internment Camp No. 135: Jan 5-11, 1945
(courtesy of CFB/ASU Wainwright)

As noted last Monday, POW camp Wainwright was known as Internment Camp No. 135. Here's the first of several excerpts from the official War Diary.

January 1945

5th - Friday - Capt. B.G. Ashbury, Adjutant was first member of Camp Staff to arrive.

6th - Saturday - Lt. Col. C.G. Bradshaw, New Camp Commandant and Capt. St.G.D. Clarke, QuarterMaster arrived. As no quarters or Rations were available, they had to go "On Command" and live at Wainwright Hotel.

7th - Sunday - Camp Staff consists of 3 Officers and the Colonel's Batman Smillie. Everyone busy trying to get equipment to start an Orderly Room.

8th - Monday - ... Two Officers and 54 O.Rs of No. 36 Coy. V.G.C. arrived from Medicine Hat.

9th - Tuesday - ... One officer and 20 O.Rs. of No. 36 Coy V.G.C. Advance Guard from Neys Camp, arrived.

10th - Wednesday - Ordnance removing Stores from buildings that will be inside Enclosure. 150 Engineers and 40 Civilians working on Enclosure Wire and lights. Frost has gone into ground 5'7", so digging post holes is a slow job.

11th - Thursday - Weather mild. Two Officers and 113 O.Rs. belonging to No. 36 Coy V.G.C. arrived to act as Guard Coy. ...


Glossary

Batman Smillie - [updated] a batman is an officer's orderly or servant

O.R. - Other Ranks (enlisted men)

V.G.C. - Veterans Guard of Canada (emphasis added):

Corps of First World War veterans between the ages of 40 and 65, formed in May 1940, for full-time and reserve service during the Second World War. It grew to 10,000 men in 1944 with another 8,000 on part-time service. The great majority served in Canada with a few companies in Newfoundland, London (England), Nassau (Bahamas) and Georgetown (Guyana). Some veterans stood guard power plants, factories and other installations deemed essential to the war effort but most served as guards at the POW and enemy aliens internment camps in Canada. In 1944-1945, some went to India and Burma as “mule skinners”. The Veteran’s Guard continued to serve after the war until March 1947 when the last veterans were disbanded.

Related Posts:
   1. Veterans Guard of Canada (Sep 02, 2010)
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Book excerpt: the wanted poster (p. 46-47)

Link to Book excerpt: the wanted poster (p. 46-47)
 

The above image should be easy to read, but here's the text in case it's useful:

Der Marktplatz war etwas erleuchtet, und als ich an einer Hauswand entlangschlich, blieb ich plötzlich wie angewurzelt stehen, starrte an die Wand ... Mein eigenes Bild blickte mich an, darunter stand meine Personalbeschreibung – kalt lief es mir den Rücken herunter; das Gefühl, vor dem eigenen Steckbrief zu stehen, ist nur schwer zu beschreiben; aber ich hatte nicht lange Zeit, meinen Gefühlen nachzuhängen, - nur schnell aus diesem Ort hinaus, dachte ich und eilte weiter.

The market place was barely lit and while sneaking along the wall of a building, I stopped suddenly as if rooted to the ground, stared at the wall ... My own picture looked back at me, underneath was my description – chills ran down my back; the feeling of standing in front of your own wanted poster is quite hard to describe; but I didn’t have a long time to dwell on my feelings, - just quickly get out of this place, I thought and hurried along.

Related Posts:
   1. Book poster: WANTED for forging this ID in March 1945 (Apr 17, 2010)
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Book poster: WANTED for forging this ID in March 1945

Link to Book poster: WANTED for forging this ID in March 1945
 

Another book poster!

Wanted: Klaus Conrad. Neither armed nor dangerous.

Canadian Escapades. The exciting tale of a man's desire to be free.


Klaus Conrad's encounter with the real "wanted" poster is described on page 47 of the book. This poster is just our fun variation.

Related Posts:
   1. Book excerpt: the wanted poster (p. 46-47) (Apr 17, 2010)
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Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135, then and now

Link to Wainwright Internment Camp No. 135, then and now
ASU Wainwright

Page 1 of Canadian Escapades opens in POW camp Wainwright, officially known as "Internment Camp No. 135". The camp is located in the village of Denwood, Alberta, very close to the town of Wainwright.

(The above image include a reproduction of the POW camp guard towers.)

Some history:

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!

(That passage also made the Wikipedia page for CFB Wainwright.)

The military base now includes the Canadian Forces Base/Area Support Unit (CFB/ASU Wainwright), the Land Force Western Area Training Centre (LFWA TC) and the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre (CMTC).


Oh, and what came before the POW camp? Buffalo National Park from 1909-1939.

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.

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Review: "It was an amusing and enlightening read."

Link to Review:
 

That's pretty short as reviews go, but well worth quoting (even if anonymously).

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Book poster: Nearly 2,000 miles in pursuit of freedom

Link to Book poster: Nearly 2,000 miles in pursuit of freedom
 

Movies have posters, so how about books? Here's the first of many.

These men travelled nearly 2,000 miles in pursuit of freedom.

From left to right:

  • Lt. Heinz Meuche
  • Lt. Klaus Conrad

(The original image is from the Chicago Tribune; April 21, 1945. We cropped, colorized and added the text.)

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Documentary: Hitler's Canadians (with video excerpt)

Link to Documentary: Hitler's Canadians (with video excerpt)
Hitler's Canadians

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.

Meanwhile, here's an intro (1:03).

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Let the blogging begin!

Link to Let the blogging begin!
clker

In addition to being a (true) adventure story, Canadian Escapades sheds light on an interesting period of history. I'll bet that few people in the US and Canada realize how many POWs were held here. (None of us did.)

We're certainly not experts, but we've been doing some research and are ready to start sharing what we learn. There are lots of good stories to tell!

If you have suggestions, corrections, tips, links, etc. please add a comment or send us email.

Of course we'll also cover news about the book -- it's not too late to request a free review copy!

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Our new online store

Link to Our new online store
clker

We just finished setting up our online store. We accept credit cards and PayPal, and ship worldwide.

If you prefer to buy from Amazon.com, please use this link.

We haven't had a chance to reach out to independent bookstores, but if you can get your local store to contact us, we'll be happy to work with them.

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Bloggers: please ask us about a FREE review copy!

Link to Bloggers: please ask us about a FREE review copy!
clker

Does the book sound interesting?  Do you like to review books for your blog?  If so, please contact us to request a review copy.  Free.  No shipping and handling charge; nothing ... except that you agree to write an honest review and post it on the Web.

We're looking for active bloggers, preferably several posts per week for the past year.  That's not a hard and fast rule, e.g. people who have a solid blog and are active on Twitter are welcome to apply.

Send us the URL of your blog (or other Web site).  If you're not sure we can see an immediate fit just by glancing at the site, then a very short "pitch" would be useful.  Rough blog stats and such wouldn't hurt, but are certainly not required.  A small but dedicated audience is perfectly fine.

We plan to send out LOTS of review copies! If you have ideas on how we can get in touch with people who would really enjoy reading the book and writing a review, please let us know.

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Who will enjoy the book most?

I think the book has unusually broad appeal. Granted, I'm now writing as the publisher. But my enthusiasm after reading the text is what turned me into a publisher!

First and foremost, Canadian Escapades is a great story. There's plenty of action, balanced by the little details that bring scenes to life. It's a tale of courage and daring, without glossing over the nervousness and moments of despair. It's about longing for freedom, and working hard to obtain it.

It's a true story, packed with the combination of setbacks and lucky breaks that one expects from a carefully plotted novel.

I think you'll like it, even if you usually skip categories like action/adventure, survival, memoir, history, WWII, military life, reluctant reader, or German. The book is a quick read -- the equivalent of about 60 pages in each language (with English and German presented side-by-side, aligned by sentence).

It's a great gift for (nearly?) everyone on your holiday list! You can purchase directly from (updated) our store or from Amazon.com. The "look inside" feature works; read a few pages and see what you think.

If you do enjoy some of the genres mentioned above, then read on for details.

# # #

Action and adventure: 3 different escapes, each from a different camp using different tricks. Every chapter brings something new.

Survival: injury, cold, hunger, thirst ... and then triumph against the elements.

Memoir: the author tells the story in his own words, covering what happened and his personal reflections.

History: the book provides direct insight into the little-known topic of POWs in North America. (It's not a book of facts and figures; we'll be covering some of those here on the blog.)

WWII: it's a familiar tale ... with the roles reversed. (However, the book is NOT about the war itself, nor about the German perspective. It makes no attempt to address the awful realities taking place on the other side of the ocean.)

Military life: the story shows how members of the military go out of their way to help those on the same side (both colleagues and strangers) -- and also the respect and fair treatment that is often given to those on the other side.

Reluctant readers: the book is short, fast-paced and "high interest", so should hold the attention of many people (high school and beyond) who struggle with other books. The vocabulary is diverse, but words that are less common should be clear in context. (There are a FEW mild curse words, and a historically-accurate acceptance of smoking that some parents may want to explain.)

Bilingual (dual-language): I realize that only a small portion of our English-speaking readers happen to be learning German. But I want people to be able to share the book without regard to language.

If you have questions, please ask!

(Post updated to link to our new store. Updated again to add bold.)

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Canadian Escapades - new book takes readers on an electrifying journey

We may eventually create a separate section of the site for press releases. Meanwhile:


Canadian Escapades - new book takes readers on an electrifying journey

The true story of the author's 3 escapes from WW2 POW camps

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chelmsford, MA -- November 20, 2009 -- Germancosm is pleased to announce the publication of a new book: "Canadian Escapades: The true story of the author's 3 escapes from WW2 POW camps" by Klaus Conrad.

It's an exciting adventure ... with moments of quiet reflection. It's about longing for freedom, and working hard to obtain it. It's a story of individual courage, of friendship, and the selfless efforts of strangers who help along the way. It's about survival in the face of injury, cold, hunger, and thirst.

Contrary to the usual narrative, the author isn't escaping FROM the Germans, he is a German. His third escape takes him nearly 2,000 miles across Canada and into the US. Join Klaus Conrad on his journey.

From the book:

But we were met with a new mishap; I twisted my knee. ... About 30 miles still lay ahead of us; 30 miles of icy road between impenetrable forests, 30 miles of path through the wilderness without any human settlement, without any possibility of help if we couldn't go any farther, 30 miles of nothing but woods, snow and ice.

...

Those nights when the Northern Lights interrupted the darkness for minutes at a time will remain especially unforgettable; a fairy tale-esque gleam and twinkle ran across the sky.

...

The worst part was the thirst; ... Outside lay snow, only a few meters away and yet unreachable for us. We took turns pressing an eye against the peephole -- we thought we could smell, feel and taste the individual flakes coming down.

...

Then suddenly, as if they grew out of the earth, three guards stood in front of me - not ten steps separating us. 'Hands up!' -- I was told simultaneously from multiple sides.

...

I sunk ever deeper into the marsh and was nearly pulled under there. The black brew reached up to my chest, stinking bubbles rising up.

...

Why? Why does a POW escape anyway, when he suffers no physical emergency and everything is done to ease psychological stress? Why does he trade a life with adequate food in well heated shelter for the danger and hardship of an almost impossible escape?

# # #

Rather than releasing a separate edition for English-speaking readers, we've included the original German text along with a faithful translation. The two languages are presented side-by-side on each page, aligned by sentence for the convenience of those who are learning the other language.

The book is a quick read at 132 pages. Retail price: $12.95. Available for immediate purchase at (updated) http://can-esc.com/page/store/ -- coming soon to and at Amazon.com. More details on the book are available at http://Can-Esc.com/.

   Canadian Escapades - Kanadische Eskapaden
   The true story of the author's 3 escapes from WW2 POW camps
   by Klaus Conrad
   Translated by Maximilian Franck and Scott S. Lawton
   ISBN 978-0-9843271-0-2  (ISBN-10: 0-9843271-0-X)
   132 pages, 6" x 9", US Trade Paperback
   $12.95 US
   Published by Germancosm
   

# # #

Germancosm is a new publisher of bilingual books (dual-language: English and German).

Media contact:

       Scott S. Lawton, Founder
       Germancosm
       24 Colonial Dr.
       Chelmsford, MA  01824
       office: 800-856-4493
       mobile: 781-526-2462
       http://Can-Esc.com/
   

We welcome inquiries for review copies or additional excerpts.

Historical footnote: In World War II, there were about 33,000 POWs held in camps across Canada, with an additional 425,000 throughout the US.

(Post updated 12/22/09 to link to our store and Amazon.)

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Welcome to the Canadian Escapades blog

Hello!

After reading a good book or watching an interesting movie, I often want to learn more. We set up this blog to share information about the story and the time period. We'll link to information that we find around the Web, and cover books and movies that we think may appeal to readers.

We welcome your replies in the comments, or send questions to feedback@can-esc.com.

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