German Prisoners arrive at Roanne, 1914

German Prisoners arrive at Roanne, 1914


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German Prisoners arrive at Roanne, 1914

An early batch of German prisoners arrive at Roanne in central France, soon after the outbreak of war in 1914.


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In 1946, the year after the end of World War Two, more than 400,000 German prisoners of war (POWs) were still being held in Britain, with POW camps on the outskirts of most towns. Clement Attlee's post-war government deliberately ignored the Geneva Convention by refusing to let the Germans return home until well after the war was over.

During 1946, up to one fifth of all farm work in Britain was being done by German POWs, and they were also employed on road works and building sites. Fraternisation between the soldiers and the local population was strictly forbidden by the British government, and repatriation progressed extremely slowly. Then the ban on fraternisation was finally lifted - just in time for Christmas 1946. In towns across Britain, many people chose to put the war behind them and invite German POWs to join them for a family Christmas - the first the men had experienced in years.

In Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, one Methodist minister, Mr Howe, asked his congregation whether they'd like to invite a German POW to their homes for Christmas day. The response was warm-hearted and generous. Sixty POWs found themselves in private homes that day.

Mary Clarke, who worked at a typewriting bureau in the town, and her family took in two prisoners. As did Fred Haworth, recently returned from six years in the RAF: 'No-one could speak English, and we couldn't speak German. But we managed, with a bit of sign language and pointing at this and that. Language is no barrier sometimes.'

Ex-POW Heinz Hermann recalls that 'it was wonderful. After all those years of war and captivity, to be in a private home again. Welcomed by good people. It was a beautiful Christmas Day, which I'll never forget 'til the day I die.' Heinz's mother in Germany was surprised and touched to receive food parcels sent by English friends Heinz had made in Oswaldtwistle.


Was Soviet captivity hell for German POWs?

To implement the Barbarossa plan &ndash the invasion of the USSR &ndash Germany used a wide range of allies, satellite states and volunteers from around Europe. It is therefore not surprising that POWs in the Soviet Union counted dozens of nationalities: Germans, Italians, Romanians, Hungarians, Finns, Croats, Swedes etc.

In the Soviet Union, German POWs were not a topic for public discussion. Even today the total number of Germans and Axis allies in Soviet captivity remains a contentious issue. The figure varies from 2.3 to 3.4 million.

Romanian POWs at the Odessa prison camp in August 1941.

Over 300 camps in the rearmost territories of the Soviet Union were built to keep prisoners. They were not large, each camp contained from a hundred to several thousand prisoners. Some camps existed just several months, some remained active for years.

German POWs were actively used for logging, building houses, construction of bridges and dams, and other types of work. As Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov once said, not a single German prisoner would return home until Stalingrad was rebuilt.

The work of German prisoners in the Soviet Union was far from being slave labor. The working day was no longer than eight hours, and prisoners were also paid, although not much. Those who exceeded their quotas got an additional bonus that could be put in a bank account. Some freed prisoners bought up all the jewelry in local shops before they left for home.

Romanian POWs at the Odessa prison camp in August 1941.

Attitudes to prisoners from other Axis countries were better than to those from Germany. They had some privileges and could even work in the kitchen. That&rsquos why many Germans tried to hide their true identity and distance themselves from the &ldquonation of aggressors.&rdquo

POWs were not always well-behaved. Sometimes prison breaks occurred. From 1942 to 1948, over 11 000 prisoners tried to flee, but only 3% of them got lucky.

There were even revolts and riots. In January 1945, POWs at a camp near Minsk were displeased with the poor level of nutrition. They barricaded the barracks and took the guards hostage. When attempts to negotiate failed, the Soviet artillery moved in. Over 100 people died.

The repatriation of POWs from the Soviet Union began shortly after the war, when in 1946 the sick and disabled were sent to their home countries. About 2 million prisoners were repatriated from 1946 to 1955. The final amnesty took place in 1955 after a visit by FRG Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to the Soviet Union.

According to data, almost 15% of Axis POWs died in Soviet captivity. Most of the deaths occurred during the war years, when there was a serious lack of food, warm clothes and adequate housing. Still, the number was small compared to the proportion of Soviet POWs who died in Germany &ndash 58%.

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German Prisoners arrive at Roanne, 1914 - History

Glimpses of the Past
People, Places, and Things in Letchworth Park History

Letchworth Park's Prisoner of War Camp

The following glimpse of the German Prisoner of War Camp at Letchworth Park is far from complete. We don't have any images or detailed accounts of the camp ­ if any visitors have additional information, memories, or photographs to share ­ please send them to us!

We would like to thank the historical staff at Letchworth Park as well Cathy Parker and Jim Little at the Castile Historical House for providing material for this story and for their ongoing search for information!

T he story of Letchworth's prisoner of war camp goes back to the middle of World War II. The successful Allied offensive in North Africa had led to the need to house the thousands of German soldiers captured during the campaign. The War Department decided the best approach would be to build POW camps within the United States, resulting in almost every state in the Union having at least one prisoner or war camp by 1945. New York State would have several, including the one in Letchworth State Park.

T he first POW camp in New York was set up at Pine Camp (now Fort Drum) in northern New York in 1943. The camp first held Italian prisoners, but soon German POWs began to arrive. To handle the rising numbers, many prisoners were sent to branch camps, some of which were in Western New York. The long distances between the base and branch camps led to the establishment of a second base camp at Fort Niagara by June of 1944. The military personal at Fort Niagara oversaw the establishment of a number of additional branch camps throughout the area, including Attica, Geneseo, Rochester, Hamlin Beach, Oakfield, Medina, and Letchworth State Park.

A lthough in Geneseo and some of the other locales the camp had to be built from scratch, the old C.C.C. camps at Letchworth and Hamlin Beach proved to be useful. As early as the fall of 1943 former CCC buildings at Letchworth had already provided housing for "Bohemian laborers, both male and female". Park Commissioner Secretary Van Arsdale reported in June of 1944 "that the former CCC Camp building in both Hamlin Beach and Letchworth Parks are to be used in housing German Prisoners of War to help relieve the labor shortage in harvesting and canning of fruits and vegetables." He also indicated that the Gibsonville Cabin Area (modern day cabin area C) that had been built by CCC workers had been leased to the Birds-Eye-Snider Division of General Foods to house female workers at the nearby canning factory in Mount Morris.

C amp SP 49, the former CCC camp just northwest of the Lower Falls (behind the present day swimming pool) was chosen to house the German soldiers. Fences were erected, and soon the prisoners began to arrive. According to a local newspaper account from nearby Castile, there were 200 German Prisoners at the Camp, with 60 military police to guard them.

L ife for the German POWs was not overly difficult. According to one former POW who returned to Western NY for a visit in 1987, the Letchworth barracks were somewhat small, housing thirty to fifty men each. If they were similar to other POW barracks, they were furnished in military style with open squad rooms with rows of steel cots. They were heated by coal stoves and had both electric lights and hot and cold running water.

T he POWs ate well and received medical care ­ Erhard Dallman, a former POW who returned to Western NY in the 1980's, remembered that he had spent much of his captivity driving a doctor from Fort Niagara to the various branch camps in order care for the sick and injured.

T he Prisoners also organized their own activities (with American supervision) and in some camps they started their own band, school, and newspaper. They played a variety of sports, especially soccer, and were given some radios to listen to musical performances and American radio shows.

M any area people remember seeing the POWs working in the local canning factories and farm fields. One resident of the Geneseo area remember that as a young girl working in the canning factory in Geneseo, she made friends with a prisoner who worked with her, often bringing him candy and other small gifts. After the war she received a card in the mail from one of the former POWs who had returned home ­ in it was a photograph of her German friend in his military uniform and a note of thanks for her kindness to an "enemy" soldier.

L ocal farm families also recall the soldiers working in the fields helping with the harvest. The soldiers received pay for their work ­ the standard pay was 80 cents a day in "canteen coupons". What they didn't spend was credited to them at the end of the war went they were repatriated to Germany.

A lthough the Letchworth Camp had barbed wire, it was probably more to ease the concerns of local residents than hold the prisoners. According to Dallman, some prisoners were actually allowed to sign in and out of the camp. Mazuzan and Walker were told by one Geneseo resident that he once saw three German prisoners sitting at the curb at the county courthouse ­ with no guard in sight. When he asked what they were during, they told him they were waiting for the truck to take them back to camp. What kept them from escaping? One of the prisoner asked "Where would we go"?

T he German prisoners were still at the Lower Falls Camp well after the end of the War. In fact, the POW population peaked in Western New York at 4,194 in October of 1945, several months after the War ended. This may be due to the shifting of prisoners from western camps in preparation to returning them back to Germany. It is not clear when the last POW's left Letchworth, but in the winter of 1946 the Commission's charman reported that "Most of the buildings in both CCC Camp Sp-49 (Lower Falls) Letchworth Park and CCC Camp- 53 Hamlin Beach Park were taken down and removed to Buffalo to reconstructed for Veteran's housing by a contractor under arrangements by the State Housing Authority." It was during this project that Archie Maker, probably working for that contractor, found the artifacts left behind by one of the prisoners. ( See our Pieces of the Past )

O ne can still find some traces of the old CCC camp just behind the pool at the Lower Falls. The story of the Lower Falls CCC camp is an important part of the Letchworth Story. We should also remember another chapter of that story ­ the days of the German Prison Camp during World War II.

Genesee State Park Commission Minutes 1943-46
Historical Files, Castile Historical House, Castile NY
Interview with Ada Beebe by Tom Cook circa 1975
Interview of Erhard Dallman by Tom Breslin May 24, 1987
Mazuzan, George T and Nancy Walker, "Restricted Areas: German Prisoner-of-War Camps in Western New York, 1944-46", in New York History , January 1978 pp 55-72


The unusual tale of the German military ship that arrived in the USA during World War I

In this brilliant article, Bill Edwards-Bodmer tells the tale of the Konprinz Wilhelm, a converted German ship that terrorized Allied shipping in the Atlantic during World War I. Well, until it had to dock in Hampton Roads, Virginia – so leading to a fascinating interaction, including the formation of a German village on American soil.

On the morning of April 11, 1915, residents in Hampton Roads, Virginia awoke to a stranger in their midst. Looming just off Ocean View at Norfolk was the gray, rusting behemoth of a ship, Kronprinz Wilhelm. Despite its battered appearance,Kronprinz Wilhelm was something of a celebrity, and a mystery. For the past 8 months, the German luxury-liner-turned-commerce-raider had been terrorizing Allied shipping during the opening year of World War I. Now here it was in Hampton Roads, seeking much-needed repairs and refuge from the British navy lurking just beyond the Chesapeake Bay.

Kronprinz Wilhelm in Hampton Roads, April 11, 1915

In its heyday, Kronprinz Wilhelm appeared as one of the grandest passenger liners of its era, sleek black and sparkling white. Named in honor of the young heir to the German throne, the ship was launched on March 30, 1901 by AG Vulcan Shipbuilding Company at Stettin, Germany. Kronprinz Wilhelm was one of a small, but prestigious, group of ships known as “four-stackers” renowned for their size and the fact that they had four funnels or smoke stacks (Titanic was part of this group as well). Built for speed, Kronprinz Wilhelm plied the Bremen-New York route, setting record times for Atlantic crossings. The ship was advertised as part of the “Royal Family” of the North German Lloyd Steamship Line and its lavish accommodations made it especially popular among wealthy passengers. Prince Heinrich of Prussia even chose to sail on Kronprinz Wilhelm on an official state visit to the United States in 1902. But this was no ordinary steamship anymore. On the morning of April 11, 1915, the ship presented a naval appearance, painted dark gray and stained and scarred from months of hard service at sea.

Kronprinz Wilhelm as passenger liner

At the outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914, Kronprinz Wilhelm was docked at New York. Recently overhauled, the ship had been scheduled to make a passenger run to Bremen in early August, but all North German Lloyd passages were cancelled in late July, as tensions mounted in Europe. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia. The next day, the ship’s captain, K. Grahn, received orders to take on supplies and proceed at once to sea, with a second set of sealed orders to be opened once clear of U.S. waters. Immediately, Kronprinz Wilhelm began to take on extra quantities of coal, food, and other provisions. At 8:10pm the following evening, assisted by eight tugs and empty of any passengers, Kronprinz Wilhelm steamed out of the harbor towards the Atlantic. Speculation mounted as to what the ship was up to. The New York Times andWashington Post both noted that the ship was officially cleared by U.S. Customs to sail for Bremen. Both papers also pointed out that this was highly unlikely, with the Post article stating, “What she might really do after passing out of the harbor, however, was a question…”(1) Both papers surmised that Kronprinz Wilhelm was heading to refuel German navy vessels at sea. Adding to the mystery was a large, unusually shaped crate on the ship’s forward deck, which, according to the New York Times, “might very well cover a naval gun, mounted for use.”(2) Alfred von Niezychowski, a lieutenant on Kronprinz Wilhelm, makes no mention of the mystery crate in his memoir, The Cruise of Kronprinz Wilhelm Wilhelm.

Rendezvous and Transformation To Commerce Raider

Once at sea, Captain Grahn opened his sealed orders and saw that he was to sail to a specified rendezvous at sea with the German cruiser SMS Karlsruhe. When the two ships met on August 6, Karlsruhe transferred two 88 mm guns and other arms and ammunition to Kronprinz Wilhelm in exchange for coal and provisions. The liner also received a new captain, Lieutenant Commander Paul Thierfelder, formerly Karlsruhe’s navigation officer. With this change in command, Kronprinz Wilhelm officially became an auxiliary cruiser in the German Navy. Its mission: to hunt down and destroy Allied merchant shipping.

The rendezvous with Karlsruhe almost proved to be the undoing of both ships. As the Germans were nearly finished transferring supplies, they spotted a British naval vessel, the cruiser Bristol, heading for them. The German ships quickly pulled apart, and the chase was on. Bristol gave chase to Karlsruhe, but the wireless operator on Kronprinz Wilhelm picked up British messages and knew that other British ships would soon be on the path of the commerce raider. Niezychowski described in his memoir how the crew in the boiler room, the “fiendlike toilers,” kept up a furious pace shoveling coal into ship’s hungry fires to keep steam up and put distance between Kronprinz Wilhelm and the British ships.(3)

Once clear of danger, Captain Thierfelder ordered the crew to continue the transformation of Kronprinz Wilhelm into a war ship. Before meeting Karlsruhe,Kronprinz Wilhelm was painted a dull gray to help disguise its identity and aid in camouflage at sea. Now the crew set about removing glass and wood paneling to prevent flying shrapnel in the event of battle. Mattresses and carpeting were used to pad vulnerable areas on deck. The first-class smoking room was converted into a sick bay and the “now purposeless grand saloon, which from a chamber of palatial magnificence was thus brutally metamorphosed into a reserve coal bin.” Carrying extra coal was of particular concern as the ship burned through it at the furious pace of 500 tons a day. The crew also mounted the two 88 mm guns, nicknamed White Arrow and Base Drum, to the port and starboard sides of the forecastle. A movable machine gun, called the Riveter, was installed on the bridge.(4) Kronprinz Wilhelm was now ready to prey on Allied shipping.

First Prize

It didn’t have to wait long. On the night of September 4, the crew spotted a one-funneled steamer that turned out to be the British merchant ship Indian Prince. After a brief chase, the British ship surrendered. Passengers and supplies, including the always-needed coal, from Indian Prince were transferred to the German raider. Passengers were given rooms in the first-class accommodations on Kronprinz Wilhelm. Later accounts from prisoners taken by the German raider attest to the hospitable treatment they received aboard Kronprinz Wilhelm. And after all of that, needed supplies had been brought over, the seacocks on Indian Prince were opened, and the British ship soon slipped beneath the waves.Kronprinz Wilhelm had taken its first prize.

Over the next 251 days, Kronprinz Wilhelm steamed 37,666 miles around the south Atlantic and destroyed some 60,000 tons of Allied shipping from fourteen ships, a majority of which were either British or French. Most ships were scuttled by opening their seacocks and/or exploding dynamite in the bottom of the hulls. On one occasion, though, Captain Thierfelder decided ramming was the best option, and set about cutting the British schooner Wilfred M. in two by plowing the massive German ship straight through the much smaller sailing vessel. Word ofKronprinz Wilhelm’s path of destruction reached Allied authorities, and the British sent several ships to the Atlantic to track down and destroy the German raider.

Crew of Kronprinz Wilhelm with souvenir from prize


The German POWs Who Lived, Worked, and Loved in Texas

Some went to work as hospital orderlies. Others picked cotton, baled hay, or tilled soil, living in accommodations near farmland. They ate dinner with families and caught the eyes of single women, running off with them whenever and however they could.

The only thing separating the visitors from the locals of Hearne, Texas was the “PW” insignia stitched into their clothing—that, and the fact many couldn't speak English.

The men were Germans who had been captured by Allied forces, and from 1943 through 1945, more than 400,000 of them were sent to the United States for detention in barracks. Between 500 and 600 centers were set up across the country, but many of the prisoners wound up in Texas because of the available space and warm climate.

Almost overnight, the people of Huntsville, Hearne, Mexia, and other towns experienced a kind of cruel magic trick. Their loved ones had disappeared, sent overseas to contest World War II captured Germans materialized in their place, taking on the role of laborer. Those that refused work peered from behind 10-foot tall fencing capped with barbed wire as teenagers drove by to stare at the faces of the enemy.

Whatever their imaginations had conjured up, it didn’t match the reality: The men behind the fence looked less evil than bored. And by the time the U.S. government was done with them, many would reconsider what they were fighting for.

Inside "the Fritz Ritz"

The German march into small-town America was a result of Great Britain's plight, which was experiencing a surplus of captured or surrendering enemy soldiers but had no room to place them or food to feed them. Back in the States, towns that had experienced labor shortages saw an opportunity to fill their fields with working bodies. Bizarre as it may have been, enemy prisoners seemed like the answer to a sagging economy on the home front.

Camp Huntsville was the first to be set up in Texas. Construction across 837 acres took place for nearly a year, and its 400 buildings were ready for occupancy by the spring of 1943. Texas would eventually see twice as many camps (with a total of 78,000 occupants) as any other state, and for a simple reason: the Geneva Convention of 1929 specified that POWs must be placed in a similar climate as the one they were captured in. Because so many Germans surrendered in North Africa and lacked clothing or supplies for colder weather, many were sent to Texas.

The curiosity of locals quickly gave way to resentment. Even though these men had orders to kill brothers, fathers, and friends, accommodations in Huntsville and other camps were surprisingly comfortable. Prisoners were allowed to sunbathe, play soccer, and stretch out in 40 square feet of personal space with sheets and blankets. (Officers got 120 square feet.) Food was fresh and showers were warm. College credits earned would count at universities back in Germany. They even got bottles of beer.

For Americans rationing food from their own table, the civility of the German accommodations stung. Despite the complaints—locals took to calling camps “the Fritz Ritz”—the U.S. government was simply abiding by Geneva mandates, which required that POWs share the same living conditions as the soldiers guarding them.

Not that they needed a whole lot of supervision. Ranking officers were responsible for keeping subordinates in line, and treatment was so generous that relatively few tried to escape. Those that did appeared to move with no sense of urgency, strolling along highways or drifting along in makeshift rafts. Punishment for attempts were equally lax: most got 30 days of confinement to the barracks.

The POWs were not required to work: that, too, would not be tolerated under wartime provisions. But boredom and the potential for money or coupons for the canteen motivated many of the prisoners to head for agricultural jobs tending to crops. Cotton was a popular harvest in Texas, but peanuts, potatoes, and corn were in dire need of attention in other states. One farmer in Oklahoma took on 40 prisoners, paying the government $1.50 a head, to salvage the 3,000 acres that were neglected when his laborers left for factory work. It was not unheard of for some Germans to put on aprons and head to kosher businesses. The 80 cents they earned in a day went a long way in the general stores back at the barracks.

Re-education

While many soldiers were content to ride out the war well-fed and treated with respect, a different faction was growing restless. Officers committed to Nazi ideals found themselves separating from their apathetic bunkmates who began to see the American way of life as something to be envied, not extinguished.

The so-called “Anti-Nazi” POWs of Huntsville were given latitude to organize what the War Department referred to as re-education courses. Prisoners were grouped into classes and given lessons in American history and democracy the works of famous Jewish musicians and writers were studied newspapers were written and printed that called into doubt the ideology that had been drilled into the heads of Germans from the time they were children. Some sat and watched film reels depicting Nazi butchery. The hope was that they’d eventually return to Germany re-wired and spreading a message of peace.

Unless they asked to be sent to sympathetic camps, however, Germans who expressed a willingness to lower their swords could find themselves the target of Hitler’s loyalists. Hugo Krauss, a prisoner who was frequently seen talking to guards and was believed to have given up the location of a smuggled shortwave radio, was sent to the hospital after being beaten with lead pipes and wooden boards. He died three days later.

Homeward Bound?

By 1945, as many as 60,000 prisoners were being sent to America every month. When V-E Day was declared, the government began immediate drainage of the imported workers. Like a rewound tape, the Germans found themselves leaving branch camps near farms to head back to base camps or military installations. From there, some made stops in France or Great Britain to help repair the damage caused by the war before returning to Germany.

Most of the camps rolled over into something useful, if not always practical: Camp Huntsville is now a golf course. Camp Hearne, however, stands as a piece of living history, with partially rebuilt quarters and guided tours available weekly.

Heino Erichsen, who had gotten a head full of Nazi propaganda as a youth, had found himself in Hearne. Just 19 at the time of capture, he had heard the thudding sounds of Krauss being beaten to death nearby. After being shipped back to Germany, he applied for and received his American citizenship.

Hans-Jochem Sembach held a similar desire. After being shuttled to Fair Park, New York, Sembach tried sneaking back to his camp in Dallas. Caught, he found himself in Germany, where he wrote a letter to the Dallas Morning News in 1951. It read, in part: “I am a German former war prisoner and was a reader of your newspaper….Texas became my first tranquil home after harsh years of war….I want back in old Texas and I can work. Who can help me?”

Additional Sources:
“Camp Huntsville: The First World War II POW Camp in Texas [PDF].”


German Prisoners of War in Australia WW2

After the sinking of HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran in 1941, a considerable number of Kriegsmarine survivors were rescued and became prisoners of war. This account details some of their experiences in POW camps in Australia.

On 24 November 1941, the British tanker Trocas, bound for Fremantle, reported she had rescued 27 German sailors from a rubber raft 115 miles WNW of Carnarvon. The following day a RAAF aircraft reported sighting two boats 70 miles NNW of Carnarvon, followed by a third boat. During the day, two more boats were observed. It was not until the 26th that the boat carrying Fregattenkapitan Detmers was spotted and the occupants were rescued by SS Centaur. Fearing the Germans might attempt to take over the ship, the Kormoran’s lifeboat was taken in tow until they reached the small Western Australian township of Carnarvon. HMAS Yandra brought in one and another was brought in by SS Koolinda. A fifth boat reached shore north of Carnarvon, followed by a sixth which had escaped detection from the air. The six boats landed 266 men of Kormoran’s complement. No further survivors were found at sea but on 27 November at 08.30 the troopship Aquitania reported she had on board 26 German sailors from a rubber raft found off the West Australian coast just a day before the British tanker Trocas reported her rescue.

Of the Kormoran’s complement of 393 officers and crew, 315 were rescued along with three of the four Chinese taken captive when the raider sank the SS Eurylochus ten months earlier. Twenty had been killed in the battle and the remainder had drowned due to rough seas and overcrowding in the first life raft. Except for the prisoners picked up by the Aquitania, which had continued her voyage to Sydney, and those rescued by the Trocas which proceeded directly to Fremantle, the prisoners were taken to Carnarvon where the preliminary interrogations took place.

All the prisoners were eventually transferred to Fremantle for treatment, recuperation and a thorough interrogation. Nineteen were taken to hospital, the remainder were distributed between the Fremantle Detention Barracks, Swanbourne Barracks and the internment camp at Harvey, 87 miles south of Perth. After their interrogation the prisoners were transferred to Melbourne, the officers on 13 December aboard the SS Duntroon and the ‘other ranks’ in two groups by train, one on 27 December and the other in early January. They were all sent to a POW camp at Murchison in north western country Victoria, where they spent their first Christmas and New Year behind barbed wire. The officers were transferred to the ‘officers only’ camp at a homestead property at Dhurringile, about 10 miles from the Murchison camp, which had been converted into a detention camp. Here there were already 60 officers from the Luftwaffe and the Army, mostly from Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Two prisoners who were too ill to travel at the time remained behind in the hospital in Fremantle. Unfortunately, one torpedo-man, Erich Meyer, died of lung cancer three weeks later and was buried with full military honours in the Lutheran section of the Karrakatta cemetery. His grave was kindly looked after by the mother of one of the sailors killed on the Sydney until his reinterment in the German cemetery in the Victorian country town of Tatura, a few miles north of Dhurringile.

Censorship failure

News of the action and the presumed loss of HMAS Sydney were publicly announced in an official statement by the Prime Minister Mr. Curtin on 30 November 1941. The next of kin had already been informed by personal telegram three days earlier. Unfortunately, through a failure to observe correct censorship by Government and Naval authorities, information had leaked out on 25 November and gave rise to rumours which spread quickly throughout Australia, and caused deep distress to the next of kin of the Sydney’s crew. Because the only accounts of the encounter were, and still are, from the Kormoran’s survivors, it left many with the perception then and in the years that followed that the whole story was not being told.

Compared with the German and especially the Japanese POW camps, the German and Italian prisoners of war were on a holiday. The Australian Government took its Geneva Convention obligations seriously, so much so that both German and Italian ex-prisoners were unanimous in their praise of the generally humane treatment they received from the military authorities. In the Victorian camps, there was a cordial understanding between the officers and men who guarded the prisoners and the officers and men who were the prisoners but most trouble came from the Germans. No matter how well they were treated, there was the sheer frustration of being a POW in a strange country almost on the other side of the world with no news from the Fatherland or their loved ones. They were crowded together with differences of opinion on a great many issues, especially between Austrians and Germans, Nazi and non-Nazi. Trouble simmered. The bars of their cage could have been made with gold but those bars still prevented their freedom. Escape plans began to hatch. The Germans quickly realised that if they escaped they were not going to be lined up against a wall and shot. There were no secret police such as the Gestapo or Kempi Tai, but they also understood that because Australia was such a vast island nation, there was nowhere to go. Escape was almost impossible unless they were able to somehow get aboard a neutral ship. Escaping became a sort of therapy to relieve the tension of camp life although a few were actually trying to get home. It was a constant problem for the military and civilian authorities.

Australian ‘fair go’

Initially, the local population was apprehensive when the first escapes took place but over a period of time they became more relaxed when they realised the Germans were not going to murder them in their beds. Many recaptured POWs told of the locals giving them the Australian ‘fair go‘ or sporting chance, such as being given food and directions and told they have 8 hours before they must be reported or given work on farms. They escaped from working parties using clever ruses, dug tunnels and employed a great amount of ingenuity in their escape efforts but for the most part, none got very far or were at liberty for long. Their escape preparations did not need to be as well thought out or equipped as their counterparts in Europe or Asia, who could possibly be shot if caught. One way the Government sought to ease the tension in the camps was the formal agreement reached in 1943 between the belligerent countries to allow POWs to send airmail letters. Australia was the only country in the world to issue airmail postage for the exclusive use of POWs and internees.

On 5 August 1944, a total of 1,100 Japanese prisoners broke out from their prison camp near the small rural township of Cowra in New South Wales, stabbing or bludgeoning four unfortunate guards to death and wounding four others. The Japanese actively sought death. They wanted to be killed. Only death would wipe away the shame of being captured, the disgrace to their parents, to the Emperor and to Japan. The escape sent shock waves throughout the local communities and caused tremendous concern throughout country Victoria, and it was to temporarily stifle escape attempts for the Germans at Camp 13 at Murchison. The military authorities killed 183 Japanese while trying to prevent the escape.

When Fregattenkapitan Detmers arrived in Dhurringile, he was the most senior officer there. He became the Camp Leader responsible (in cooperation with the military authorities) for the day to day running of four compounds and the historical Dhurringile mansion where the higher ranking officers and their batmen lived. Detmers carried out his duties as camp leader efficiently and was respected by authorities and prisoners alike but in 1944 something was not right. His men had all been awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for their action against the Australian cruiser. He had also been awarded the Knights Cross in addition to his Iron Cross First Class. His crew were still in the area plotting escapes, playing chess, exercising or out on various work parties. Life in the camp was going along without too many problems but at some point he must have decided do something different. Perhaps a sense of adventure to rekindle his Hilfkreuzer days or simply a final fling!

Escape tunnel

On 11 January 1945 the most successful escape of the camp was carried out from the old Dhurringile mansion by 17 officers and 3 batmen. Detmers was one of the escapees. They had tunnelled from a large crockery room, down to a depth of 14 feet in the sandy soil then out under the compound yard, under the perimeter fence and a good distance beyond the wire, a total length of 120 yards. When they were all out, the prisoners scattered in all directions. Detmers had teamed up with Oberstleutnant Helmut Bertram and initially the pair made good progress considering Detmers was twice as old as the other escapees. When they were eventually recaptured about a week later by two local police, Detmers looked ill.

As punishment for his part in the escape, Detmers was sent for a month to the Old Melbourne Gaol, a bluestone relic built by convict labour back in 1842-45. When he arrived, the gaol was being used as a military detention centre. Detmers returned to his duties at the camp after his detention time was over but on 13 March he suffered a stroke during the night and was paralysed. He had been under a lot of strain running the camp, he smoked too much and the physical effort of the escape had taken its toll on his health. Detmers was transferred to a military hospital in Melbourne where he stayed for three months. He recovered from his illness but returned to Dhurringile partly paralysed and unable to resume his duties as camp leader. His fellow escapee, Oberstleutnant Bertram, took over the duties of camp leader until the war ended in 1945.

Repatriation

The war may have finished but for 2,500 Germans and Italians in the Victorian internment camps it would not be until 21 January 1947 that they boarded the RMS Orontes at Port Melbourne and were able to finally return home to Europe. Detmers was going with them but this time in the ship’s hospital. He may have looked out the porthole, noticed the ship moored at the pier opposite and wondered about the fickleness of fate. Perhaps some of his crew may have also noticed the real Straat Malakka berthed opposite.

Fregattenkapitan Theodore Detmers arrived in Cuxhaven, Germany on February 28, still with his crew. He remained slightly crippled from his stroke and retired from the Kriegsmarine on a pension. He lived in Hamburg, where he and his wife were often visited by former crew members until his death in 1976.

Both the Sydney and the Kormoran crews fought a fierce battle with bravery and tenacity, but the loss of the 645 Australian crew was not the worst in Australian maritime history. In 1942, the American submarine, Sturgeon sank the Japanese ship Montevideo Maru with a loss of 1,050 Australian POWs and internees.

The most puzzling question – why Captain Burnett brought his warship so close to the raider – is open to a whole range of explanations. He may have simply been a victim of a well-thought out ruse. Besides, he was in fact, successful (although at a terrible cost) in preventing the Kormoran from laying mines along the Australian coast, and with its demise, stopped the potential sinking of more ships, and the loss of more lives and essential cargoes. They did everything they could to destroy the enemy in the best naval tradition, and had succeeded.

The Sydney/Kormoran debate still continues to this day, causing deep divisions among various interested parties. Historians, researchers, authors and individuals all have their own ideas about what happened on that fatal evening. Even the actual site of the engagement seems to be in doubt among researchers.

Allied warships had a standard procedure that suspicious vessels must be approached from the starboard quarter. This was considered to be a safe position. The German Navy were aware of this tactic in the early stages of the war and equipped their later raiders such as the Kormoran with underwater torpedo tubes positioned at an angle of 125-135 degrees to cover this ‘safe spot’. Detmers had carried out successful trials using the angled torpedo tubes so he certainly had the capability to use them. Did he use his normal starboard torpedoes with his battle flag raised or did he use his underwater torpedoes whilst still under Dutch colours? This seems to be the main question many want settled first.

Detmers’ concern

On page 202 of his book, Detmers wrote in part, ‘I felt sure I should have to face an enemy [Australian] court martial over the business.‘ It is a proven fact that Detmers did conduct his raider war with chivalry and respect for his enemies, therefore his concern about a court martial may have simply been related to his war conduct as a raider in general.

However it is absolutely essential that both Captain Burnett and Fregattenkapitan Detmers should not be judged too quickly over their respective actions until conclusive proof is established. The truth is becoming harder to find. As time moves on, the only remaining witnesses are becoming fewer and fewer, which increases the reality that the mystery may never be solved.

The Australian Government did attempt to put the debate into some sort of rational perspective and perhaps give some form of closure. In March 1999, the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia published a 192 page report by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade called: Report on the Loss of HMAS Sydney. The Committee received 201 submissions, debated extensively all the issues, tried to reach logical conclusions and sadly, at the end of the last chapter of the report, stated:

It is important that information and theories be shared and examined. The Committee strongly believes there is a need for all involved in the Sydney debate to move beyond animosity and antagonism and find common ground. No one ‘owns’ the Sydney, or has a monopoly on the truth. The Committee hopes that future researchers will rise above the personal acrimony and suspicion that has marred so much of this debate thus far. The ‘dialogue of the deaf’ that characterises so much of this debate is counter-productive. An exchange of differing views is a positive process, and can only lead to a better understanding of the events of November 1941. HMAS Sydney deserves no less.

The author is indebted to:

  • The Naval Historical Society of Australia. Garden Island, New South Wales, Australia.
  • The National Archives of Australia publication:
  • The Sinking of HMAS Sydney Prisoners of War, 1999
  • Commonwealth of Australia for permission to use material from their publications.
  • German Raiders of World War 2. Pan Books, Karl August Muggenthaler.1980.
  • The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia [Joint Standing Committee].1999. Canberra.
  • The Raider Kormoran. Captain T Detmers. William Kimber, London. 1959.
  • Frank Macdonough. West Essendon. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
  • Tatura & District Historical Society Inc. Tatura, Victoria, Australia.
  • Mac. Gregory. macden@melbpc.org.au
  • Barbara Winters. Stalag Australia. Angus and Robertson. 1986.
  • National Archives of Australia. Canberra, ACT, Australia.

(The author is a writer of naval and military history from his own research in Melbourne, who contributes to newspapers and magazines. Ed.)


Articles

Arnold KrammerMarch 2015

Arnold Krammer was professor of history at Texas A&M University, specializing in modern European and German history. He authored several books, including Nazi Prisoners of War in America (New York: Stein & Day, 1979, Scarborough, 1983, 1996). His essay, "When the Afrika Korps Came to Texas" examines the history of the nearly eighty thousand German, Italian, and Japanese prisoners of war held in Texas during the Second World War. The essay, which is excerpted here, is included in the book Invisible Texans: Women and Minorities in Texas History (McGraw-Hill, 2005), a collection of eighteen essays exploring those who have been under-represented in previous writings about Texas history.

The full text of Arnold Krammer’s essay "When the Afrika Korps Came to Texas" is here available for dowload as a PDF.

Just a year and a half after the attack on Pearl Harbor that embroiled America in the world war, more than 150,000 German prisoners poured in after the surrender of the Afrika Korps in the spring of 1943. After that, an average of 20,000 POWs arrived each month, and following the Normandy invasion of June 1944, the numbers soared to 30,000 per month. During the last months of the war, prisoners poured in at the astonishing rate of 60,000 per month. By the end of the war, the United States found itself holding more than 425,000 prisoners of war: 372,000 Germans, 53,000 Italians, and 5,000 Japanese. Some 90,000 spent their war years in Texas.

But where to put them? The United States had never held large numbers of foreign war prisoners before. The War Department moved fast and together with the Corps of Engineers began scouring the country for temporary camp sites. County fairgrounds, auditoriums, abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps, and hastily erected tent cities were held in readiness. At the same time, in mid-January, 1942, Washington DC commissioned a study for potential sites for large, permanent camps, although it frankly did not know if the prisoners were going to be enemy troops or so-called "Enemy Aliens"—dangerous German or Italian or Japanese citizens living in the United States. (Indeed, within months, three separate government programs would evolve, each with its own network of camps: the Justice Department's Enemy Alien Program, which rounded-up some twenty-four thousand enemy citizens and their families the War Relocation Program, which arrested a whopping 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans, largely from the West Coast and Hawaii and finally, the Prisoner of War program, under the control of the Army's Provost Marshal General's Office).

When considering places to construct POW camps, Washington looked to the South. First, there was lots of available land in the southern United States, more than could be found in the crowded North. Second, Texas, in particular, was located far from the critical war industries on the East and West Coasts. Also, the mild climate assured minimal construction and operation costs. Eager Texas businessmen and farmers lobbied vigorously for camps in their labor-starved state, with the idea of using the incoming prisoners to fill the huge gap left by the military's needs. Finally, there was the precedent of the Geneva Accords of 1929. Created after World War I, the Geneva Accords established the rules of war, and contained guidelines on matters ranging from the prohibition of explosive or dum-dum bullets to the care of prisoners of war. Of interest to the War Department were the passages that guaranteed prisoners' treatment equal to the conditions of the army in charge, and the recommendation by the Geneva Accords that prisoners be taken to a climate similar to that in which they had been captured. Since the climate most similar to that of Tunisia, where the Afrika Korps surrendered in early 1943, was the American South and, in particular, the state of Texas (although dozens of camps sprang up in Louisiana, New Mexico, and surrounding states), construction began in the Lone Star State.

Nearly all six permanent camps [Camp Huntsville, Camp McLean, Camp Mexia, Camp Brady, Camp Hereford, and Camp Hearne] were finished and ready for occupancy by January 1943. Each was expected to hold about 3,000 men, with the possibility of expanding the number up to 4,500. Admirable as this early planning and construction was, it quickly became evident that six permanent camps, holding between 3,000 and 4,000 POWs would not account for even a quarter of the incoming prisoners. The War Department decided to authorize a second type of POW camp on sections of existing Army bases. The advantages were many: these POW sections could be easily guarded since sentry towers and fences were already in place the prisoners could be used to help maintain the bases, thus freeing numerous American soldiers for shipment overseas and nearby communities would be calmed to know that the thousands of possibly hostile enemy captives were surrounded by many more thousands of armed American soldiers.

Four military bases in Texas were enlarged to receive POWs in 1942—Camp Swift (Bastrop), Camp Bowie (Brownwood), Camp Fannin (Tyler), and Camp Maxey (Paris), with the largest having the whopping capacity of nearly 9,000 men. Three more camps were authorized in 1943: Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio), which was little more than a tent-city with 170 six-man tents for both POWs and their American guards Camp Howze (Gainesville) and Camp Hood North (Killeen). With the expected invasion of France in 1944 and the prospect of many thousands of new prisoners, seven more POW camps were built on military bases in 1944, at Camp Wolters (Mineral Wells), Camp Wallace (Hitchcock), Camp D. A. Russell (Marfa), Fort Bliss (El Paso), Camp Crockett (Galveston), Camp Barkeley (Abilene), and tiny Camp Hulen (Palacios), which could hold only 250 POWs. In 1945, German POWs were farmed out to work in Harmon General Hospital in Longview, Ashburn General Hospital in McKinney, Camp Cushing in San Antonio, Biggs Air Field in El Paso, Ellington Air Field in Houston, and in work camps in Lubbock, Childress, Amarillo, Dumas, Big Spring, Pyote, Alto, and Dalhart. Even after the war was over, in August 1945, one last camp was created at the Flour Bluff Army Air Field in Corpus Christi.

Together, the fifteen camps could hold an impressive 34,000 enemy prisoners, but there was still not enough space for the arriving thousands. The problem of overcrowding was solved by creating satellite camps attached to the major camps, which served the additional purpose of bringing the POWs closer to the agricultural worksites where they were most needed. There were more than thirty satellite camps in Texas. Most were located in the coastal rice-producing area in an arc reaching from Orange County to Matagorda County, and in East Texas. Branch camps sprouted up in Kaufman, Princeton, Navasota, Alto, Chireno, Humble, Denison, Milam, Kirbyville, Liberty, Orange, Anahuac, Alvin, Rosenberg, Angleton, Forney, Wharton, El Campo, Ganado, Eagle Lake, Bannister, Patroon, Kenedy, Mont Belvieu, Center, China, Lufkin, Bay City, and Garwood. Even remote El Paso County hosted four agricultural branch camps at Ysleta, Fabens, Canutillo, and El Paso.

Texans didn't have to wait long. The Afrika Korps surrendered in April 1943, and the first POWs from North Africa arrived aboard Liberty ships the following month. The prisoners were unloaded at Camp Shanks, New York, and transported on heavily guarded trains southwest across the country to their new homes. When they arrived at their camps, entire towns turned out to watch. For example, on June 4, 1943, the anxious residents of Mexia, Texas, lined Railroad Street to stare open-mouthed at the 1,850 Afrika Korps veterans as they jumped down from railroad cars and marched in orderly rows to the camp four miles west of town. Young men had become a rare sight since the war began, and suddenly here were several thousand tanned, healthy enemy soldiers marching in defiant cadence down the main street of town. Moreover, they weren't even all Germans. The incoming prisoners contained Frenchmen, who had been pressed into the German Army, and a platoon of Arabs from the North African campaign. Among the rest were three hundred naval officers, almost one thousand German Army officers, an admiral, and four generals.

Camp Hereford had a different experience. The Hereford camp was designated strictly for Italian prisoners, all captured during the African campaign. From early June 1943, until its closing in mid-February 1946, Camp Hereford was home to some 850 Italian officers and an average of 2,200 enlisted men. Italian POWs were also held in Fort Bliss, Dalhart, and various other camps.

While they were no less troublesome than the Germans, nor particularly good agricultural workers, or less likely to escape, the Italians were in a peculiar position. Italy changed sides in the middle of the war, and its leader, Mussolini, was shot. Technically then, the Italian POWs in America were no longer enemies. Yet many were dangerous fascists whose loyalty to Mussolini and fascism remained undaunted. The solution depended largely on the experiences of each American camp commander: some Italian POWs were shifted from camp to camp to prevent trouble others were worked as before and still others were given wide latitude to take college correspondence courses, participate in escorted sight-seeing day trips to nearby cities, and even hold dances and social events with local women's groups!

While the three thousand German POWs in Fort Bliss lived in spartan conditions and were mistrusted by the guards and American and Mexican populations, the one thousand Italians at the nearby Coliseum branch camp, near El Paso, swam in the Washington Park pool, attended Mass, consumed record amounts of beer, and chatted with girls at the fences. Young girls often threw notes wrapped around stones over the fences, until such antics prompted the passage of a city ordinance prohibiting "loitering within one hundred feet of the enclosure of the El Paso war prisoner sub-camp, or throwing or passing any object into or against said enclosure. . . ." Very few Italians left America after the war with complaints.

Texas had only a few hundred Japanese prisoners most of the five thousand soldiers brought to the U.S. for interrogation were held at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and Camp Clarinda, Iowa. However, the best-known Japanese captive, referred to as "POW No. 1," was interned at Kenedy, Texas, in an old Depression-era CCC camp which held three separate groups: Germans, Japanese, and civilian Alien Internees. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki had commanded a midget submarine, part of the attack force at Pearl Harbor. His submarine was damaged and he swam ashore at Waimanalo Beach on Oahu. Sakamaki was grabbed by patrolling American MPs and went into the history books as the first American POW of World War II. Other Japanese prisoners were also held at Kenedy, Camp Huntsville, and Camp Hearne.

Within two months of their arrival the Germans had decorated their mess halls with paintings, chandeliers, and Christmas ornaments, and had adorned their walls with family photographs. They transformed the appearance of the camps by planting grass, adding attractive flower beds, constructing beer gardens, staking out soccer fields, and making picnic tables. At Camp Hearne, Texas, the prisoners even constructed a complicated concrete fountain and a waist-high castle, complete with turrets and a moat, which still exists today.

In some camps, POWs even kept pets, something harmless that they had found in camp or smuggled back from a work detail. And the food! From their first meals, the incoming prisoners sat down to see foods that most of them had not tasted in years: meat, eggs, tomatoes, green vegetables, milk, and real coffee—sometimes even ice cream. Not only that, but they found that cigarettes and, in some camps, beer and wine were available at the camp PX, purchasable with the canteen coupons with which the government paid their military salaries and wages for daily work.

Many camps tried to maintain a regular Sunday chapel program for Catholics and Protestants, although, because of language difficulties and boycotts by the Nazis in the POW population, attendance was disappointingly low. More successful was the authorized publication of mimeographed German-language POW newspapers in many camps, most quite sophisticated, with in-depth articles, soccer scores, and even classified ads. Washington generally encouraged these newspapers for two reasons: the German prisoners experienced freedom, many for the first time in their young lives and, at the same time, the American authorities could gauge mood in a given camp by monitoring these weekly newspapers. . . . In addition, most camps were permitted to maintain subscriptions to American newspapers, magazines, and a New York-based German language paper called the Neue Deutsche Volks-Zeitung, unless the camp was being punished for refusal to work or for excessive Nazi activities.

As if the good food, religious services, and newspapers were not enough to preoccupy the enemy prisoners, most camps offered educational courses taught by qualified experts among the POWs. If there was a strong demand for a course about which few prisoners were knowledgeable, say, American history or politics, the course might be taught by an approved civilian living or teaching nearby. Prisoners could enroll in basic courses in physics, chemistry, history, arts, literature, carpentry, foreign languages, mathematics, veterinary medicine, and stenography, depending on the size of the camp. In traditional German style, the professors required examinations, conducted classroom discussions, issued final grades, and gave graduation certificates. At Fort Russell, for example, prisoners could enroll in any of twelve different courses and, by January 1945, a total of 314 POWs had done so. Many German prisoners returned home after the war with mimeographed graduation certificates from "The University of Howzie" or "The University of Wolters"—which, since the courses were taught by German experts, were accepted for full credit by German universities.

The War Department even arranged for extension courses through local universities for POWs who wanted courses that were not available inside their camps, a program which benefitted both the POWs and cash-strapped colleges. . . . Numerous graduates of these college arrangements rose to become prominent political, artistic, and industrial leaders in post-war Germany.

Sports were especially popular. Smaller camps might boast only a circular track and perhaps a volleyball court and a high-jump bar, while larger camps maintained a breathtaking array of athletic programs. Camp Brady, for instance, had an outdoor bowling alley, four regulation handball courts, a track, twelve regulation volleyball courts, and more—all built by the prisoners themselves. But large or small, every camp was crazed about soccer. Team try-outs were anxiously awaited and the games themselves became weekly holidays. Guards bet on their favorite teams, and it was not unusual for local Texas families out on a Sunday drive to pull up along the fence and cheer the teams on.

Mail could be freely sent and received and, at one point, the prisoners at Camp Brady received twelve thousand cards, letters, and parcels in a single week. Radios and phonographs, donated by the YMCA or purchased by the prisoners themselves, could be found in every camp, and their favorite record, Bing Crosby singing "Don't Fence Me In," could be heard well into any evening. Almost every camp maintained a library of donated books and magazines, some large enough to do justice to an average high school. Camp Fannin, for example, maintained a well-stocked library of over 2,500 books with an 80 percent circulation rate. Movies were shown on Saturday nights, often the same film for weeks, and several hundred POWs would recite the well-known lines from favorite Western movies or break into cheers and wolf-whistles if the movie had a scantily-clad, or for that matter, any reasonably attractive female.

On Galveston Island, a section of Fort Crockett was allocated for the German prisoners. It was built along the present boundaries of Avenue Q on the north, Seawall Boulevard on the south, 53rd Street on the east, and 57th Street on the west, an area about four blocks wide and eight blocks long. The compound fence went across Seawall Boulevard, across the beach, and into the water. Galvestonians sweating in mid-summer frequently watched the German prisoners cavorting in the surf.

To make sure that conditions in the POW camps remained adequate, teams of Swiss inspectors and International Red Cross representatives visited each camp every several months. The inspectors usually stayed for a day or two investigating POW complaints and checking basic services. The American camp authorities were understandably anxious about these visits since the Swiss reports were forwarded to the German authorities and might jeopardize the treatment of the ninety thousand American POWs in their hands. The prisoners on the other hand, used these inspections to vent their spleens and elevate petty concerns, but the resulting reports were generally fair to both sides, and most camps passed their inspections with flying colors.

Ultimately, the conditions in each camp as well as the attitude and cooperativeness of the POWs, depended largely on the American camp commandant. At Camp Mexia, for example, one commander was so lax that he allowed prisoners to wear civilian clothing, to eat and drink in their barracks, to post Nazi signs on the outside walls of their barracks, to censor the incoming mail of other prisoners, and to ignore military courtesies to American officers. He was eventually transferred to another camp, where he presumably continued the same practices. A different commander at the same camp was a no-nonsense career military man who eventually had four POWs brought up on morals charges (the exact nature of their crimes is not known), court-martialed, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. For the prisoners at any camp, it was the luck of the draw.

Townspeople were not always pleased to have the camps right outside of town. Every Texas town had a small minority who were understandably disturbed at the thought of having "dangerous" Nazis in their midst while their sons and husbands were overseas fighting Nazism. What if they escaped? Or murdered decent Americans in their sleep? People locked their doors and fathers warned their daughters to be on their guard. Over time, however, most people grew cautiously optimistic about having a prisoner of war camp in the neighborhood, especially since the camps and their American staffs relied heavily on local carpenters, repairmen, grocers, gasoline stations, florists, and taverns—funneling welcome money into local economies. As the war progressed and the humanness of the nearby prisoners became evident, even the nervous minority came to realize the logic of taking care of the German prisoners as a way of protecting American captives in Germany. Where POW labor was available, farmers grew dependent on the nearby camps and actually protested their closing at the end of the war.

The use of POW labor started soon after their arrival. The labor shortage had reached crisis proportions since every able-bodied young American man was in the military, and there was no one to plant or harvest. By the peak harvest season of 1943, Texas had a shortage of over three hundred thousand workers. The War Department, after serious consideration about issues like potential sabotage, escapes, and the effect of our policy on American captives in Germany, finally authorized the use of POWs. Tens of thousands of German prisoners were mobilized to work in hundreds of Texas industries, factories, hospitals, and state agencies, but most important, in agriculture. Texas farmers were delighted. The Germans chopped cotton, harvested fruit in the Rio Grande Valley, cut sugar cane, and tended fields all over the state. Enlisted men had to work but sergeants, NCOs, and officers were not required to do physical labor, and only about 7 percent volunteered. Enlisted POWs who refused to work, whether as a political protest or out of adolescent defiance, quickly felt the weight of Washington's "No Work-No Eat" policy.

When a few POWs refused to work, punishment was routine: loss of privileges, time in the brig, suspension of pay—but when the sit-down strike involved a large part of the prisoner population, camp officials had to become resourceful. Punishment for all was common, with the hope that the cooperative POWs would force the others back to work. Sometimes the working POWs were rewarded with a truckload of watermelon or a barrel of ice cream, while uncooperative POWs looked unhappily on. Most often, the offending prisoners were simply marched to the open soccer field and forced to strip down to their underwear. There, under a boiling sun, there were made to contemplate the seriousness of their cause. Usually, after only a few hours of sitting in the hot Texas sun, they reconsidered and went back to work. At Camp Wolters, the commandant created a fenced-in pen, where protesters were dutifully marched to sit in view of their happier (working) fellow prisoners.

The relationship between the German POWs and American farmers was often quite close, and it was not unusual for the POW to eat lunch with the farm family, or for the prisoner to give the farmer a hand-made gift. A number of friendships lasted well past the end of the war, with the farmers sending CARE packages and even acting as official sponsors for those immigrating to the United States. At Camp San Augustine, a POW named Otto Rinkenauer fell in love with a local girl, Amelia Keidel after the war he returned from Germany, and they were married. They built Keidel's Motel in San Augustine, which stands to this day. On one notable occasion, a farmer who died many years after the war left his farm to his former German POW worker.

But not all the POWs were happy. Prison was still prison, after all, and the monotony brought out numerous complaints, real and contrived.

Mostly the Italian prisoners escaped. They dug numerous tunnels from beneath their barracks to distant corn fields. The largest tunnel was five hundred feet long and big enough to stand in, with a sophisticated ventilation system. They dug so many tunnels, in fact, that local residents continued to discover them as late as 1981. The Italians tirelessly repeated the same cycle: escape, get caught a day or two later, be returned to camp to rejoin their cheering comrades, and escape again.

Regardless of the camp, the escapees were a mixed lot. Career militarists among them believed that they were under orders to escape, others were wild-eyed about the safety of their families in war-torn Europe, some were simply homesick and wanted desperately to find their way home, and still others just wanted to tour the United States and meet girls. Since there was no serious punishment involved beyond several weeks in the brig and loss of pay if the effort failed, escape became a game. Stronger punishment, it was felt, would jeopardize the safety of American prisoners in enemy hands who would doubtless escape if possible.

And escape they did. The POWs burrowed under the fences and pole-vaulted over them they hung underneath laundry trucks that entered and left camp, posed as American guards and walked out the front gate, and slipped away from work details. Escape attempts were always in progress and their uniqueness was limited only by the imaginations of the prisoners and the tools at hand. At Camp Brady, as at Hereford, the prisoners dug and maintained a tunnel under the floor of their barracks into a nearby field. Local legend in Brady has it that some of the prisoners used the tunnel to visit around town for a few hours and return undetected. Whether fact or fiction, a suspicious guard alerted the authorities and the Brady Volunteer Fire Department came out and flooded the tunnel.

Most of the time, the escapes were mundane and short-lived. At Camp Mexia on February 7, 1944, for example, the 5:15 p.m. roll revealed the absence of five German officers. Camp authorities hastily notified the FBI, the Texas Rangers, the Texas Highway Patrol, and local law enforcement officers in the surrounding areas. Scores of agents and officers combed the countryside, checking all roads, highways, and train boxcars—to no avail. Two days later the Germans were spotted by a route carrier for the Waco News-Tribune, and three of the escapees were picked up as they walked along a moonlit highway between Mount Calm and their destination, Waco. The remaining two had hopped a freight train four hundred miles to Corpus Christi. There they tried to check into a tourist motel, in full German uniforms and unable to speak English, and were startled when the clerk called the police. They were back at Camp Mexia the following day where they were greeted like heroes by their fellow prisoners. On October 8, 1944, after much preparation, two other POWs escaped from Mexia. They had spare uniforms, cigarettes, surplus food, and compasses, but they were caught the following day about ten miles from the camp. Another escape attempt, this also from Mexia, involved several home-made dummies, which the escapees had taken their places at roll-call while they drifted away. Everything worked fine until one of the dummies fell over. The Germans were back in camp by nightfall. Two final examples of escapes from Mexia: in one case, an escaped POW was found after two days, huddled and hungry, in an old railcar on an unused spur line in downtown Mexia. He had been waiting for the out-of-commission railcar to speed him away. On a different occasion, an escapee crossing a pasture was run up a tree by an angry Brahma bull. The American guards searching the nearby roads were alerted by his cries for help. He was grateful to be escorted back to the safety of the POW camp.

Overall, most of the escapees were captured within three days, often sooner, and few remained at large for more than three weeks. One of the longest escapes involved the Italian POWs at Camp Fabens, about thirty miles south of Fort Bliss. On the evening of July 3, 1944, two Italians escaped and eluded capture for an entire year. After recapture both were transferred to Camp Hereford. A week later, on July 9, 1944, six other Italians escaped from Fabens, and made it across into Mexico. Three were arrested separately two weeks later in Gomez, Palacio, and Durango, and the other three in Villa Ahumada, Chihuahua. When they were finally arrested, all gave the straight-arm fascist salute and were taken back to camp, vowing to escape again.

Punishments ranged from loss of privileges to fourteen days in the cooler on a diet of bread and water. Only in the case of theft or outright sabotage could an escapee face prison time, as happened to two Germans from Camp Fannin who stole a skiff to paddle to safety and exchanged the good life at Camp Fannin for eight years of hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. At Camp Hereford, three Italian prisoners escaped on Christmas 1944, and stole a Plymouth from an area resident. The men were soon recaptured tooling down the back-roads like a bunch of high school kids, tried for theft, and were sent to Leavenworth for a three-year stint.

The largest and best-organized mass escape attempt in the Texas POW system occurred at Camp Barkeley, a branch camp of Camp Bowie, located about seventy miles northwest of Brownwood near Abilene. It was one of the ugliest and most primitive camps in Texas, made up of fifty-eight wooden, one-story, black tarpapered barracks. Two coal stoves heated the quarters during winter, and the POWs slept on canvas cots topped with straw mattresses. The barracks had no waterproofing, and the strong West Texas wind and rain penetrated even the best constructed buildings. The 550 POWs escaped at every opportunity. MPs frequently found POWs sleeping in the gazebo at the Abilene court house or napping in the old band stand in Abilene's central park. The big break occurred after lights-out on March 28, 1944, when a dozen German prisoners escaped through an impressive tunnel eight feet deep and sixty feet long, with electric lighting, timber shoring, and air bellows to blow fresh air down the length of the tunnel. Each man had a tissue-paper map showing the major highways, rural roads, railroads, and area ranches. Each also carried a pack with a change of clothing and a ten-day supply of food. Once out of the tunnel the twelve separated into small groups and fanned out in a general southwest pattern toward Mexico. The sirens went off, and the chase began. City and county officers, state highway patrolmen, Texas Rangers, FBI men, and military personnel shifted into high gear. The Abilene Army Base sent up five light observation planes.

Four of the Germans walked twelve miles to Tuscola, hid in the underbrush for two days, then stole an automobile and drove to Ballinger. A Ballinger night watchman, Henry Kemp, became suspicious as he watched four men in German uniforms, screaming directions at each other and "driving crazily." Our heroic Mr. Kemp jumped into his car, chased them down and forced them off the road. He collared all four and marched them to an all-night service station where he called the sheriff. Within days, the four Germans were back at Camp Barkeley.

Seven others were caught within a few days. Of the seven, two spent a day in Abilene State Park, and then went to Winters, where they were arrested by the local constable and returned to Barkeley. Two others were arrested by a night watchman as they strolled along a railroad track in San Angelo. The last of the seven spent their first night in Ovala and then walked to Bradshaw. Ten miles west of Bradshaw they broke into an abandoned house on the Melvin Shaffer Ranch. They were still there fast asleep, when Mr. Shaffer came out to feed some animals the following afternoon. Back they went to Camp Barkeley.

The final two escapees, Gerhard Lange and Heinz Rehnen, walked at night and slept in cornfields during the day. In Trent, they caught a freight train to Toyah, near Odessa. There they managed to hop aboard another freight train, this one to El Paso. The Mexican border was within sight when a detective from the Southern Pacific Railroad bagged them. Like all the others, they surrendered meekly and were soon reunited with their comrades in Barkeley's guardhouse, lamenting their diet of bread and water but pleased with their camp notoriety.


Trial Bay Internment Camp


Trial Bay Gaol, c.1915. Dubotzki collection, Germany


The first group of Trial Bay internees disembark from the SS Yulgilbar in August 1915. Dubotzki collection, Germany

The Trial Bay Gaol was not well prepared for the first internees who were accommodated in tents. Early photos show a number of white tents inside and outside the Gaol walls. Most of the internees were finally accommodated in the cells of the two wings. The interned Consuls and officers were accommodated in wooden barracks that were located between the walls and the main building. Towards the end of 1916, they were moved to wooden barracks on the outside, to the left of the Gaol overlooking Trial Bay. The Australian Government did not provide all the blankets and bedding required until many weeks after the internees arrived.


At Trial Bay the internees were under the continuous military guard of 100 men and three officers, c.1916. Dubotzki collection, Germany


Internees swimming with Arakoon village the background, c.1915. Dubotzki collection, Germany

To fill in the day the internees fished, swam, played tennis and walked, often outside the Gaol walls within an area fenced in by wire laid across the peninsula. The gates to the Gaol were opened at 6am and closed at 6pm. At night the internees slept in the unlocked Gaol cells (two per cell), and in wooden barracks built between the walls and cell blocks and in tents on the grounds. Additional huts were erected by the internees outside the walls, and huts were built above the beach for recreational use during the day.


Roll Call, c.1916. Dubotzki collection, Germany

The main building formed the hub of the Trial Bay Camp. In the main building were the kitchens and dining room. The two story cell blocks jutted out at 45 degrees from this. The imposing walls were complete with watch towers and a gate house surrounded the Gaol buildings. The Australian military authorities promoted segregation of the internees according to rank and status. The officers were given separate sleeping, dining and mess rooms in the barracks outside the Gaol.


Inside a hut at Trial Bay, c.1915. Dubotzki collection, Germany

At Trial Bay the elite of the German civilian internees were confined. Among them were professionals, academics, businessmen and the German Consuls from New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia. Many of the internees had lived in British Territories of South East Asia. A remarkable feature of the Trial Bay Camp was its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Pictured are Internees in one of the barracks circa 1915.

Life at Trial Bay

Life at Trial Bay was strictly regulated with the daily routine governed by a schedule. Reveille or wake up was at 6:30am, Sick parade 7:45am, Breakfast 8:00am, Roll Call 9:00am, Inspection of Barracks 10:00am, Dinner (lunch) 1:00pm, Roll Call 5:00pm, Tea (Dinner) 5:30pm & Lights Out 10:00pm.

Until September 1917, the internees were supplied with the same rations given to Australian soldiers. From September onwards these were reduced to ‘Imperial Rations” based on the rations supplied to Prisoners of War in Britain. The official rations were basic but adequate. However the internees had other sources of food such as vegetables from the internees’ garden and fish caught at the beach and other items sold at the canteen. There was a gourmet restaurant at the Camp named ‘The Duck Coop’ that was run by an entrepreneurial restaurateur. It offered fine food to internees who could afford it.

The activities of the internees transformed Trial Bay into a thriving place for sport and culture. Leisure as well as competitive sporting activities were organised by a number of private clubs. The Turnverein athletics club had the largest membership. The boxing, bowling and chess clubs also drew large crowds. Two choral societies performed German folksongs.

While the freedom allowed to internees created a holiday spirit there was another side to daily life in the Camp. This was the experience of forced confinement and boredom. The shock of life in Gaol cells created a new identity for men who had been removed from their communities and families. Most of the internees experienced feelings of isolation, lack of privacy and monotony.

Causes for friction are popping up everywhere and you have to pull yourself together all the time in order to avoid confrontations. Things get easily out of dimension and people become irritable and touchy due to the long imprisonment. You just can’t avoid it. Some days the mood is following the course of the war, one day there’s high tension and then again one is doomed to wait and wait.

W. Daehne, Diary entry Sunday 21 April 1918, ML MSS 261/3 Item 18.


Internee’s quarters in one of the cells, c.1915. Dubotzki collection, Germany

Some internees had to sleep in the stone, cold cells. Initially the cells were empty and the internees had to make the furniture themselves.

The relations between the internees and the Camp guards were formal and tense. Unlike the men at Berrima who lived in the naval regimentation of Officer and sailors, the Trial Bay internees were more inclined to protest. This generated ongoing conflict between internees and the guards.

In January 1916, the internees went on strike after one described by the guards as an ‘unceasing trouble maker’ was sent to Holsworthy for a minor incident.


Internee work party cutting wood, c.1915 -16. Dubotzki collection, Germany

Men who were leaders in business and the professions now fronted up for supervised voluntary work on wages of one shilling for an hour of work of hard manual labour clearing bush or road works. The internees work occupied them dissuaded sedition and protest.

The Kommissionen

The internees contributed to improved conditions in their Camp by their own efforts and persistence in negotiating with Camp administrators. According to the convention for dealing with prisoners of war the Australian military provided for a committee to be elected to deal with the general welfare of the Camp. A degree of self government was granted to the internees to improve the morale of the Camp and lines of communication were established between the committee and the Camp commandant.

Several subcommittees or Kommissionen were established to oversee education, library, theatre, music, kitchen, bakery, post and the most importantly the canteen.

The Camp Kommissionen ran adult and continuing education programs on science, arts and literature, finance and management. Language courses were held in a separate building called the Berlitz School that included European languages and Chinese and Malay.


Welt am Montag from 1916, Trial Bay Gaol collection. Photograph Stephen Thompson

The Camp’s newspaper Welt am Montag (World on Monday) played an important role at Trial Bay and was the only known publication of its kind in Australia at the time free from censorship, which highlights the extraordinary status and special privileges of the Camp. The circulation was by subscription and restricted to the camp.

Arts & Crafts


Children’s toys made by internees made in 1916 and 1917, Trial Bay Gaol collection. Photograph Stephen Thompson

Many of the internees made models and toys for the children of internees. The design and manufacture of these artefacts reflects the influence of German artistic and intellectual traditions.


Model Fokker aircraft ‘Eindecker’, c.1916, Trial Bay Gaol collection. Photograph by Stephen Thompson


An internee with his model of a bi-plane, c.1916. Dubotzki collection, Germany

Theatre Company & Orchestra

The theatre in Trial Bay opened on the 17 th August 1916 in a timber barn that seated 280 people. The Camp’s orchestra also performed there. Performances were held on Saturday and Sunday nights. A new play premiered every weekend. The theatre performed 56 plays in 1917. The plays were dramas and comedies to stimulate the intellect and provide a diversion to the daily grind.

The orchestra and music played an important part in the Camp’s social environment. A particular significant performance was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C-Minor. It was seen as a metaphor of the Great War, of Germany’s fate and a hopeful outcome.

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Internee Theatre Company, c.1916. Dubotzki collection, Germany

The company had 60 historical costumes and a considerable amount of modern clothing for men and women, all of which was made by the internees. All women’s roles were played by men. Pictured left is R. Lehmann costumed as ‘Kaina in Arms’ and above an example of the costumes & sets made by the Internees


Program for the production of Max Halbe’s Jugend (Youth) c.1917. Dubotzki collection, Germany


Kurt Wiese illustration, July 1917. Trial Bay Gaol collection

Kurt Wiese who was taken prisoner by the Americans in 1917 went on to become a head of the illustration section of Disney Animation after the War working on features such as Bambi released in 1942 and later illustrated the famous Freddy the Pig series of children’s books.

The Trial Bay Internment Camp Closure


The internees march from the gaol to the wharf at South West Rocks to board a steamer SS Yulgilbar for Sydney, 1918. Dubotzki collection, Germany

The Internment Camp was closed in July 1918 and internees moved to Holsworthy in anticipation of the end of the war and to prepare for the deportation of all internees to Germany. A total of 6,150 internees were deported from Sydney on various ships during 1919. Another reason for the closure of the camp were the persistent rumours that the exposed coastal location made it possible for the internees to make contact with passing German vessels. In 1917 it was reported that internees made radio contact with the German raider S.M.S Wolf which had been in the vicinity. A second report predicted German vessels would again be off the coast in 1918. The Royal Australian Naval Intelligence Service warned that an attempt to rescue the prisoners was considered likely by means of fast sea launches or motor boats. The Royal Australian Naval Intelligence Service recommended that the Camp be closed. This was a reaction to war time hysteria, rumour and gossip.


Trial Bay Gaol site in 2007. Photograph Stephen Thompson

The Monument


How German soldiers marched through Moscow during WWII

In summer 1944, the Red Army inflicted the most catastrophic defeat on the Germans in their history. As a result of the offensive in Belarus, known as Operation Bagration, the Wehrmacht units and SS troops lost up to half a million soldiers, and Army Group Center, one of the formations tasked with invading the Soviet lands, simply ceased to exist.

Such success was worth celebrating and, although Bagration was not over, the Kremlin decided to hold an official parade in Moscow, but centered on the vanquished, not the victors.

The operation to deliver German prisoners-of-war to Moscow and hold the parade was named in honor of the 1938 U.S. musical film The Great Waltz, which was very popular in the Soviet Union. After all, the parade was intended not only to hearten the Soviet people, but to demonstrate to the Allies (and the world) the scale of the Red Army&rsquos achievements.

Of the swarming mass of captive soldiers, 57,000 of the most robust were selected, capable of withstanding the multi-kilometer procession. To make doubly sure, they were well fed. However, they were not allowed to wash &ndash in Muscovite eyes, the Germans had to appear in wretched condition.

Starting on July 14, trainloads of German prisoners began arriving in Moscow. It was decided to accommodate them at Dynamo Stadium and the Moscow Hippodrome. The operation was carried out in secrecy, even many military and party officials had no clue about it.

The people of Moscow were informed about the upcoming procession in the early morning of July 17 by radio. Crowds soon gathered and were presented with the sight of German prisoners marching in large columns of 600 men, 20 per row.

At the head of the march were 19 generals and six colonels, in full uniform, bedecked with medals. They were followed by more than 1,000 officers, and a host of ordinary infantry. There was no special fanfare for the latter &ndash they marched in the clothes in which they had been captured.

It was intentionally made to look as if the whole mass of captives was guarded only by a handful of Soviet soldiers and cavalrymen with sabers bared. But in fact, tens of thousands of Red Army soldiers and about 12,000 NKVD officers were on hand to ensure the security of "Operation Great Waltz."

The Muscovite crowd watched the &ldquoParade of the vanquished&rdquo in silence. A few curses were aimed at the passing Germans, while any attempt to throw stones was immediately stopped.

The marching Germans reacted in different ways to the spectacle in which they were unwilling participants. Some glared at the Soviet onlookers with undisguised hatred, while others viewed them with interest. But the majority looked straight head with calm indifference. &ldquoI asked myself, do I feel humiliated? Probably not. Worse things happen in war. We were used to carrying out orders, so by walking through the streets of Moscow, we were simply carrying out the orders of our escorts,&rdquo recalled Berhard Braun.

The parade ended with a cleanup. Sprinkler trucks drove down the streets where the German soldiers had marched, symbolically rinsing Moscow of the &ldquodirt.&rdquo

According to some sources, the German command was so enraged by the humiliation of its soldiers in Moscow that it hastily organized its own POW parade in Paris, leading U.S. and British soldiers through the streets of the city. Far smaller in scope than the Moscow parade, it was a weak attempt to demonstrate the waning power of the Third Reich. By this time, the Allies were already preparing to liberate the French capital.

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German Prisoners arrive at Roanne, 1914 - History

Jan 5 Henry Ford increases the minimum wage of his workers to $5 an hour, a move designed to boost worker morale and production efficiency. It is an improvement in the division of wealth and will help the nation's economy, and it will help increase Ford's profits. His fellow manufacturers denounce him. The Wall Street Journal describes Ford's move as blatant immorality and a misapplication of "Biblical principle."

Jan 10 In China, President Yuan Shikai shuts down parliament. China's socialist party is banned. A new constitution is created that gives Yuan Shikai dictatorial powers. Yuan fortifies press censorship and his agents search for dissenters. Sun Yat-sen flees to Japan and tries to sell the Japanese on arming and assisting the Guomindang forces against Yuan.

Mar 1 More globalization: China joins the world postal system (the Universal Postal Union).

Apr 20 The Colorado National Guard attacks a tent colony of 1,200 miners on strike against Rockefeller-owned coal mines, to be known as the Ludlow Massacre.

Apr 21 In Mexico the Huerta regime is upset by President Wilson not having recognized his government. He has made prisoners of some unarmed US sailors at the port of Tampico. President Wilson sends the US Navy and Marines that land at Veracruz. This arouses Mexican patriotism and elevates President Huerta, who will be perceived as fighting the invaders. Mobs in Mexico City will assault American businesses.

May 7 For goodness sake, the US Congress creates Mother's Day, for the second Sunday in May. President Wilson will proclaim this two days later.

May 25 Britain's House of Commons passes "Home Rule" legislation designed to give a measure of self-government and dominion status to "Southern Ireland," what will eventually become the Irish Free State.

Jun 28 Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne in Vienna and Inspector General of the armed forces, journeys to Bosnia without the usual protection against assassins. He remarks that all is in the hands of God. In Sarajevo he is assassinated. The elderly Habsburg emperor, Franz Joseph, is relieved. He didn't like the idea of Ferdinand as his successor but had accepted it because it was the order or things.

Jul 5 Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany agrees that the Ferdinand's assassins and regicide should be punished. He believes that his cousin, the Tsar of Russia, will agree. He goes on a sailing vacation off the coast of Norway.

Jul 14 Austria-Hungary secretly moves to start its war against Serbia.

Jul 14 In Mexico, from different directions, armies led by Carranza, Villa and Zapata have been converging on Mexico City. The US at Veracruz has cut arms shipments to President Huerta. Huerta's posturing against the United States has not saved him. He resigns and will go into exile on a German ship to Spain.

Jul 23 Austria-Hungary sends an ultimatum to Serbia that It expects Serbia to reject, giving it cause to make war.

Jul 26 Kaiser Wilhelm learns of the ultimatum. He doesn't want war, and he starts his return to Berlin.

Jul 28 Pope Pius X refuses a request to bless Austria-Hungary's armies. Without Germany's support, Austria-Hungary will not go to war against Serbia, but it has that support, given by Germany's prime minister. Emperor Franz Joseph launches his war against Serbia.

Jul 30 Tsar Nicholas II of Russia signs the order to mobilize his army, ostensibly to defend Serbia from the Austria. Russia believes it is necessary to mobilize against Germany as well as Austria-Hungary. For the Germans this mobilization is a declaration of war and military considerations will now trump diplomatic considerations. Wilhelm's friendship with his cousin Tsar Nicholas will not prevent war.

Aug 1 The German nation approves what it sees as a war to defend their homeland. Germany declares war on Russia. France's government orders general mobilization. Kaiser Wilhelm responds to false information that France is not going to war against Germany. He shocks his generals by calling off their preparations for war against France.

Aug 2 Germany would have been better off fighting a defensive war on its frontiers, but its military is pursuing a planned offensive against France, believing as do the French in offensive warfare. The plan (the Schlieffen Plan) has Germany attacking France through Belgium. Germany demands that Belgium allow its troops passage across their country.

Aug 3 Belgium refuses the Germans and has a guarantee of armed support from Britain. Wilhelm has learned that France will indeed make war on Germany and the Schlieffen Plan proceeds. Germany declares war on France. Britain has already moved to fulfill its naval agreement with France, and the British government orders general mobilization.

Aug 4 Britain stands by its agreements with France and Belgium and declares war on Germany.

Aug 6 Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia. Serbia declares war on Germany.

Aug 7 British troops begin to arrive in France. As German troops are moving toward France through Belgium, French troops begin their invasion of Germany, through Lorraine.

Aug 8 In the Battle of Mulhouse, the French push into Alsace yesterday is thrown back by the Germans. Alsace has been German territory since 1871.

Aug 12 Great Britain and France declare war on Austria-Hungary.

Aug 14 The French offensive begins against the Germans in Lorraine, a part of France's Plan XVII.

Aug 15 Britain has requested help from its ally, Japan, and that country sends an ultimatum to Germany demanding evacuation of its colonial force at Qingdao (on China's the Shandong Peninsula).

Aug 17 Russia invades Germany's homeland in East Prussia.

Aug 20 Carranza has won broad support across Mexico. He is a moderate who favors political reform but not land redistribution or social reform. He declares himself president over the objections of Pancho Villa. Villa and his fellow revolutionary, Zapata, refuse to lay down the arms of their armies.

Aug 22 German troops have reached the Belgium-France border and are fighting in the Ardennes Forest. Wounded and suffering young Germans who had gone off to war thinking they are manly and invulnerable have lost their fantasy and are crying for their mothers.

Aug 23 Germans have broken France's Plan XVII offensive. They are driving the French out of German territory. In the the first few weeks the French have suffered about 200,000 wounded and 100,000 dead.

Aug 23 Japan declares war on Germany.

Aug 24 German troops cross the border into France.

Aug 29 Britain has asked New Zealand to do a "great and urgent imperial service" by seizing German Samoa, which New Zealand does with no resistance from Germans or Samoans.

Aug 30 German armies are pushing toward Paris and reach the French city of Amiens. The French have already lost more than 100,000 soldiers killed.

Aug 31 Germans defeat Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg &ndash successful defensive warfare.

Sep 5 The German army in France is stopped at the Battle of the Marne.

Sep 15 On German territory In East Prussia, the Russians are defeated at the Battle of Masurian Lakes.

Sep 15 In France, defensive warfare is proven superior. Neither side will be able to penetrate the enemy's line. Rather than race around enemy positions, trenches will be extended.

Sep 21 Germans in the Bismarck Archipelago surrender to the Australians.

Oct 3 Japan takes control of the Marshall and Caroline Islands from the Germans.

Oct 14 Canadian troops arrive in Britain.

Oct 17 Trenches now extend from the Swiss border to the English Channel on the coast of Belgium. The frontline runs through France, and with German troops still on French territory their success in getting there helps make Germany appear as the aggressor, unlike France's invasion of Germany (Plan XVII) which was driven back in late August. But the superiority of defensive warfare in Europe at this time in history remains largely unrecognized.

Oct 17 Indian troops arrive in France, welcomed in the press as "the wonderful little brown men we have been waiting to see."

Oct 18 The Battle of Ypres, near the English channel, begins. The "race to the sea" (the English channel) and the "war of movement" on the Western Front is over for a while. A force of 3,400,000 tries to continue the German offensive. (One of their number is Adolf Hitler.) The Battle of Ypres will continue to November 22. The Germans will not succeed in breaking through the French and British defense line. The Germans will suffer 8,050 killed and 29,170 wounded.

Oct 20 A German submarine stops a British freighter, the Glitra, on its way to Norway with coal, oil and steel plate. The Glitra's crew is ordered into lifeboats. Then the Germans open the ship's sea valves and the ship sinks. It's the first British merchant ship sunk in the war.

Oct 25 The destroyer HMS Badger, becomes the first British ship to report a successful attack on a German submarine. It rammed the submarine which then submerged.

Nov 1 Russia declares war on Turkey.

Nov 5 Britain and France declare war on Turkey.

Nov 7 Germany's colonial troops at Qingdao surrender to the Japanese.

Nov 22 Fighting the Ottoman Empire, British and India troops win the Battle of Basra (in Iraq). The British-led force suffers less than 500 casualties and Turk casualties are estimated as greater than 1,000.

Nov 22 The United States withdraws from Veracruz.

Nov 22 The Battle of Ypres ends after 34 days. The French have lost from 50,000 to 85,000 killed, the British 7,960 killed, and the Germans 19,530 killed. These deaths and the many other deaths already suffered by Germany is hardening the attitudes of German civilians against anything but defeating the enemy militarily.

Nov 23 Benito Mussolini is excited about the manliness, heroism and drama of war. He supports Italy participating in the Great War and is expelled from the Italian Socialist Party.

Dec 3 Serbian Army forces Austria-Hungary's army out of Serbia, demonstrating that Russia's intervention on Serbia's behalf on July 30 was not needed. (If Russia had not intervened the war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary might not have spread to include Germany, France and Britain.)

Dec 25 At places along the Western Front, German and Allied troops sing Christmas songs. Hearing the singing from the other side they venture across no man's land to visit and exchange friendship and gifts. Military commands are shocked and order no more fraternizing.


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