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What happened to German POWs?


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#1 Gooseman

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 11:46 AM

I was wondering about the fate of the prisoners of war taken by the BEF forces. I know for a fact that the Dutch, who got around 1,350 Germans over to the UK, delivered the first true batch of POWs. I believe that there had been no anticipation on getting vast numbers of POWs in the UK.

For a long time the 'Dutch batch' remained the largest chunk of POW numbers in the UK. Apparently the BEF never used for example void spaces on returning ships to stow POWs. I was wondering whether the collection of POWs had gotten any attention during the phoney war period. For example amongst the French and British commands. After all, German POWs on French soil would basically be French responsibility, whether in BEF hands or not.

Still, German numbers on MIA were quite significant after the operations in France. One wonders where these men were. Perhaps Vichy France had obtained quite some POWs and released those, like they forfeited basically all their rights to the Germans in order to maintain 'free'.

Is there any reputed literature on this topic in the UK? The recent "Churchill's Unexpected Guests" is pretty poor and doesn't say anything on the early years.

Anyone?
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#2 Mathsmal

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 09:16 PM

I am not aware of any books that cover this era in detail. There are a couple of titles which are considerably better than 'Churchill's Unexpected Guests' which I would recommend, but I am afraid the information on the early war period will be limited:

Prisoners of England
Thresholds of Peace: Defiance and Change Among German Prisoners-of-war in Britain Between 1944 and 1948

I am aware that a number of Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine POWs were held in 1939/40 and these were predominantly sent to Canada early in the war.
There are however a number of Army men buried at Cannock Chase who died during this period, which would indicate the presence of Army POWs in the UK at that time.
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#3 dbf

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 09:24 PM

Canada's Forgotten PoW Camps | CBC Archives

I can't view this on the mac unfortunately, so no idea how useful it is.

In 1940 Great Britain is troubled by the rising number of German and Italian prisoners of war (PoWs) that it is holding in camps across England. The British government decides to call on Canada for help.
Soon thousands of PoWs are transported to Canada aboard ships and then sent by trains to their new homes across the country. But as this CBC Television documentary clip shows, these new Canadian PoW camps were more country club than prison camp.


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#4 Harry Ree

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 10:23 PM

When the US entered the war,German POWs were transported to the US where they worked on farming and other forms of manual labour.After the Normandy invasion, the number of Germans taken prisoner increased rapidly,resulting in the US taking more prisoners to the US and Great Britain sending more Germans to Canada. This was the ensure that Axis prisoners held in the British Isles were not in a position to rise and cause problems for their jailers.

Italian and German POWs were kept in Great Britain and there were a number of POW camps which in the case of the Germans ensured that the Nazi element were kept in safe custody.Even so there were cases when the diehard Nazis imposed themselves on fellow prisioners who they thought had lost the Nazi doctrine,leading to murder of inmates.Some of the perpretators paid the supreme penalty for their justice on others.

It was the norm for Italians to be put out to work on farms and I remember these prisoners who wore brown overalls with bright yellow diamonds on the leg and back.Other well behaved German POWs were allowed to live on farm premises and carried out the duties of a farm labourer.My memories of the Italians was that they seemed to pass their time of day,while working in the fields whistling after anything in a skirt.The authorities must have not had any considerations for security as these POWs were working in fields between the two major Bomber Command stations of RAF Snaith (Pollington village) and Burn,one just off the A19 and the other,on the A19.

I had an old colleague whose parents ran a farm in North Notts and who employed a "live in" German POW on the farm.When the wall came down and the two Germanies were reunited,the POW, who apparently had returned to East Germany after the war,turned up at the farm asking to see my colleague's parents,Alas both parents had passed away.

As regards German POWs,the British goverment conducted their own type of "denazification" system as a means of preparing POWs for a future post war Germany.A course of lectures on democracy,to prepare POWs for the change of their former experience of living within a totalitarian regime to a future role of life within free democratic society was enacted.No doubt there were many who benefited from beingtheir treatment as a prisoner in a free democratic country.Others obviously did not and continued to live in the past of N.S.
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#5 Gooseman

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 12:22 PM

Thnx to all for their reflections.

The thing is that I am particularly interested in the few German POWs taken to the UK during the May/June 1940 period. I know from a few Dutch sources that the British were quite taken by suprise that the Dutch were able to send over their German prisoners. High value prisoners, for many were well trained airbornes or Luftwaffe crew. Particularly in the transport range, many flight instructors had been assigned (what were supposed to be) easy flights into the Netherlands, but fallen victim to poor Luftwaffe planning and beyond expectation effective Dutch air-defences. It were these (permanent) losses combined with those during the Battle of Britain that had much of the experience of the early Luftwaffe drain away. In other words, the losses really mattered, albeit in perspective, obviously.

I recently got hold of the diary of a German airborne corporal caught in the Hague on the 10th of May (1940) and brought to the UK on the 14th. He mentioned that he stayed in the UK for the duration of the war. He was not part of the bulk that was shipped to Canada when the German invasion gloomed on the horizon.

As far as I am concerned the civilized 'containment' in the US and Canada is as it should have been everywhere, soldiers being just mere attributes of battling states rather than war-makers themselves. Obviously exception to those that could be identified as genuine nazi's.

Anyone who can find more on the POW affairs in the spring and summer of 1940, please send me a PM or reflect here. I appreciate any lead or bit of information.
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#6 Drew5233

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 02:06 PM

Apart from a few mentions in Divisional Intel appendices (moral, unit, clothing and equipment etc) and the odd mention in a war diary of some German PoWs being evacuated at Dunkirk I can't say I ever come across anything of note to do with German PoWs. I even have 3 of the 5 PoW Camp war diaries that were in France and there isn't anything in them IIRC.
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#7 von Poop

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 02:18 PM

Have you browsed the Island Farm site, Gooseman?
http://www.islandfar... POW CAMPS1.htm

Some cross-referencing of the camps on that list might turn up more info on their establishment dates. I'm sure they used to have some reference to where the main PoW 'Cages' & reception areas were too.
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#8 Gooseman

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 08:27 AM

Have you browsed the Island Farm site, Gooseman?
http://www.islandfar... POW CAMPS1.htm

Some cross-referencing of the camps on that list might turn up more info on their establishment dates. I'm sure they used to have some reference to where the main PoW 'Cages' & reception areas were too.


Thanks, but the information on specifics of British camps on the internet is quite modest. It doesn't get much further then listings. I am, for example, interested in what kind of POWs a certain camp contained. There should have been some kind of system.

I know from a British journalist friend of mine that also the archives don't easily disclose information on these POWs. A search by him revealed nothing on these first batches of POWs notwitstanding these foreign military must have been news in the areas where they were sheltered. Stuff like that is all well documented on the continent. It must be, one should say, in the UK too. After all, even before the Blitz on the UK started, it was one of the first genuine tokens of the raging war.
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#9 LondonNik

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 12:52 PM

Thnx to all for their reflections.

The thing is that I am particularly interested in the few German POWs taken to the UK during the May/June 1940 period.


Hi Gooseman, this is my area of interest too. It has been very difficult to find any information that is useful. At the National Archives in Kew there are boxes of interview notes with captured Luftwaffe crews from 1939/40 but I have not seen any interviews from Heer / Kreigsmarine or other German forces from early 1940 yet - it may be a very long job and my guess is that the information is spread over a wide area and may not all have been released yet.

The International Red Cross should be the place to get information, however their access rules are limited to relatives only, and they don't seem to want to share their information. Perhap if I asked nicely?

Best regards,

Nick
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#10 Gooseman

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 01:46 PM

Hi Gooseman, this is my area of interest too. It has been very difficult to find any information that is useful. At the National Archives in Kew there are boxes of interview notes with captured Luftwaffe crews from 1939/40 but I have not seen any interviews from Heer / Kreigsmarine or other German forces from early 1940 yet - it may be a very long job and my guess is that the information is spread over a wide area and may not all have been released yet.

The International Red Cross should be the place to get information, however their access rules are limited to relatives only, and they don't seem to want to share their information. Perhap if I asked nicely?

Best regards,

Nick


Appreciate that Nick.

Mind you that most POWs were Luftwaffe. The Fallschirmjäger and Luftwaffe crews formed a major chunk of the about 1,300 POWs that were shipped into the UK. A few hundred were so called 'airlanding troops' but basically regular infantry of the 22nd Infantry Division. The latter had been 'formed' for airlifting, which wasn't too much of a skill though.

Indeed I have never been able to trace any document on the matter in the British archives, although they should be there. A couple of English friends have done some research but found nothing. Amazing, although I realize that it is just a minor detail on the scale of the war.

I appreciate any input on the matter.
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#11 Stig O'Tracy

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:09 PM

I've watched quite a number of Deutsche Wochenschau that I've found on line and in at least two that I recall from 1944 there are segments where, with my extremely limited command of German, where they show what I believe are German POWs returning to Germany, presumably as part of an exchange. Many of the men unloading from the ship would appear to be wearing DAK uniforms.

The majority of the men look fit and happy to be returning to Nazi Germany, which might lead one to conclude that the sent the dim ones back.

Other than seeing these video segments, I don't believe that I've heard of these exchanges before.
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#12 At Home Dad

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:10 PM

some info here, regarding Canada, arrival of POWs from Holland and Norway June 1940
one suicide on the way when a chap jumped through a porthole...

Painesville Telegraph - Google News Archive Search

description of the mix of young Nazi's and older civilised sailors onboard
Ottawa Citizen - Google News Archive Search

Edited by At Home Dad, 02 March 2012 - 04:17 PM.

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#13 At Home Dad

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:13 PM

also July 3rd 1940 the Arandora Star was sunk off Ireland
by a Uboat transporting POWs to Canada

St. Joseph Gazette - Google News Archive Search

the loss of Arandora Star led the cancelling of the
idea to send English children abroad for safety

September 22nd 1939 appears to be the earliest date
for the reporting of POW arrivals in UK from France
The Sydney Morning Herald - Google News Archive Search
The Sydney Morning Herald - Google News Archive Search
Reading Eagle - Google News Archive Search

search criteria used:
german prisoners - Google Search

Edited by At Home Dad, 02 March 2012 - 04:24 PM.

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#14 skimmod

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:59 PM

Here's a thought... and perhaps one that Andy can find out if it exists in the NA?? :)

Is there a list of German POW's (like there is for the allies)?

If so, does it show date of capture? or more importantly the unit they were serving with?
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#15 Drew5233

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 05:24 PM

Here's a thought... and perhaps one that Andy can find out if it exists in the NA?? :)

Is there a list of German POW's (like there is for the allies)?

If so, does it show date of capture? or more importantly the unit they were serving with?


I've found some excellent files (1,000's of pages) of German PoW's interviews etc. The trouble is these are all post 1940 capture.

Here is an example of the detail:

MK (MEERESKÄMPFER) 700, (Swimming Saboteurs), KdK

I would love to find some 1940 ones from France and Belgium.
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#16 skimmod

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 07:12 PM

I thought you'd have already had a look!!

Fingers crossed for the 1940's ones :)
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#17 Steve Mac

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 09:04 PM

Hello Gooseman,

These may be of assistance, especially 2)....

1) A brief background: http://www.historyonthenet.com/WW2/german_pow_britain.htm

2) And now the detail: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/pow-displaced-persons.htm Section 7 refers to where you can find the British POW records for Axis forces;

3) Information on POW Camps in the UK: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/prisoner-of-war-camps/prisoner-of-war-camps.pdf

Regarding 3). My maternal grandfather, my mother and I were born in a particular location in Northumberland and this had a POW camp. My grandfather was a farmer and I remember him and my mother talking about both Italian and German POWs working on the farm during WWII. The Italians were liked, interacted and very much allowed a bit of 'free reign' by the authorities. The Germans were cold, didn't interact and were watched carefully by the authorities.

I spent most of my youth in a nearby location in Northumberland where there was also a POW camp during WWII.

These were both very much country locations in those days, albeit the former can no longer said to be so.

I understand that SS POWs that were not sent to Canada or later, the USA, were held in Scotland.

Hope this helps.

Best,

Steve.
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#18 Peccavi

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:28 PM

If you are interested Valerie Campbell's book about the Scottish Camp at Watten (not Flanders!) deals with the nastier POWs, few airforce and mostly army heavyweights - "Camp 165 Watten"
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#19 PsyWar.Org

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:42 PM

From TNA description of WO 307 series:

"In the early 1960s, the individual records of enemy PoWs that had previously been held by the British Prisoners of War Information Bureau were all returned to the appropriate national authorities under the provisions of the Geneva Convention, in order that those countries could deal with administrative questions raised by their citizens. The records of the First World War bureau do not survive."

There are a total of 3 files in the POW Information Bureau archive!

WO 307/1, Correspondence with Colonial Office 1939-1943
WO 307/2, Correspondence between War Office and East Africa Command 1942-1946
WO 307/3, Notification of German dead in Middle East and Malta 1943-1944

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#20 Peter Clare

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 02:30 PM

New book re POW camps in the UK - might be of interest to some members.

Prisoner of War Camps in Britain During the Second World War War in Britain: Amazon.co.uk: Jon Sutherland, Diane Sutherland: Books
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#21 Ron Goldstein

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 02:51 PM

I once asked Peter G to do some research on the SS Division that my unit guarded in Austria.

http://www.ww2talk.c...html#post482693 see comment #26

According to Peter "they just melted away" !

Ron

Edited by Ron Goldstein, 26 March 2012 - 09:13 PM.
Typo and text errors

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#22 At Home Dad

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:09 PM

From TNA description of WO 307 series:
"In the early 1960s, the individual records of enemy PoWs that had previously been held by the British Prisoners of War Information Bureau were all returned to the appropriate national authorities under the provisions of the Geneva Convention, in order that those countries could deal with administrative questions raised by their citizens.


Aha! Now we have a direct paper trail which leads to Germany,
the home of bureaucracy and meticulously detailed record keeping!

Should be a simple task to find out what became of the files, with
the right questions asked of the right people in the right language!

best
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#23 Gooseman

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 08:46 AM

Aha! Now we have a direct paper trail which leads to Germany,
the home of bureaucracy and meticulously detailed record keeping!

Should be a simple task to find out what became of the files, with
the right questions asked of the right people in the right language!
best


When you would have visited the BA/MA archives in Freiburg, you wouldn't have said that! :P

The German records are a disaster. First of all, before the military archives were organised they had lost much of their most precious files. It was an open archive, where one could take away originals easily. That was the same in the Netherlands, by the way. Microchips could have saved the day, but many records had not been photographed. Large chunks of records have gone.

As we speak of POW records, it probably refers to Red Cross archives. The German Red Cross does have an extended archive, but not well organised at all.

The WASt, the German personnel-archive, is disastrous. Besides the fact that millions of their former soldiers have not or only partially been registered, the waiting time for ordinary folks to get a single request handled is around three to four months nowadays. If you are lucky it is a few weeks less, usually a couple more! It costs you some bucks too.

I have spent much time in and around German archives. If you hit the jack-pot, its great and rather cheap. You usually won't though. This is one aspect that doesn't agree with their reputation.
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#24 John Bray

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:05 AM

It is possibly rare that such oddities occur as that of my father's experience. He was captured in May at the beginning of the war and repatriated from Regensburg, Germany in 1945. When he returned to the UK he saved up , bought himself a van and started to build up a small moving/transport business. One of the first contracts was to transport POWs to and from Seven Mile Lane POW camp, on the B2016, near Comp Wood, Leybourne, Kent, Map Reference: 51.266104,0.351219. I know some were specifically German as one of them made a small carved figure and gave it to my mother. Thank you for the great information by the way:)

Edited by John Bray, 30 July 2012 - 11:09 PM.
spelling mistake

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Staff Sargeant Frank William Bray No: 6340862
POW No: 5429 (Some references to No.4390) Captured at Petergem.nr Oudenaard and marched to Polish camp (Fort) Polish Fort could be 40, Gepruft, Stalag XXA (Thorun or Thuren in Poland) Then to Stalag 383 (Regensburg) Released as USA army reach the town in 1945. Caught unofficial flight back to UK.

#25 Equestrian

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 12:59 AM

My father, a Captain in The Royal Hampshire Regiment, and recently home from, Africa, was in charge of a German prisoner of war camp, in Carlsle Scotland. When war was over, the prisoner's put on a concert. My son has the program. We also where quite used to seeing, Italian prisoner's of war, on our local farm, in Lancashire.
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#26 Dave55

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 01:33 AM

Didn't Churchill ask the French to turn over all their Luftwaffe POWs while they still could during his last trip to France? Many later fought in the Battle of Britain.

Dave
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