Stalag 11b Fallingbostel, Germany

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by sapperschild, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    My father-in-law was captured in Esschen, Belgium in October 1944, during the Battle of the Scheldt. He spoke very little of his war experience - however one story he did relate was how just prior to liberation in April, 1945, he and many other P.O.W.'s were placed on a forced march, that at one point the 'convoy' was inadvertently strafed by Allied planes (the Germans had not properly marked the convoy), and that a number of P.O.W.'s and guards were killed. My father-in-law 'took off into the bush' and remained there until the Allies came at time of liberation. His recount to a grandson years later that this took place at the Lubeck Canal - reinforces our impression that the P.O.W.'s were being marched north for forced labour in shipyards on the North Sea. A recount in the Fallingbostel Military Museum site in Oerbke, Gemany (see attached link) refers to the P.O.W.'s from camp 357 being placed on a march, but makes no mention of Stalag 11b. When asked, the administrators of the military museum indicated that they could well have taken able-bodied men from Stalag 11b and lumped them in with those from 357. My question to WW2 Talk members would be if anyone has any information about this particular P.O.W. camp during it's operations, or the liberation. The museum website and Facebook site are tremendous sites, but would like to learn more about camp life during the time of my father-in-laws incarceration, and about the forced march. Much thanks in advance.
  2. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Plenty of information out there. As the Germans were fond of using Roman numerals try googling "XIB Fallingbostel"

    207 Squadron RAF Association - Ken Brown and Stalag XIB (357) Memorial, Fallingbostel

    The following is a short history of STALAG XIB (357) and the liberation by the 8th Hussars Recce Troop 60 years ago.

    In 1934 with the introduction of conscription to the German Army, the Germans found themselves in need of land to train on. The wide open area of the Lunebeurger Heide seemed the ideal place. Work began on producing a training area capable of supporting two full divisions of troops at one time.

    1935 saw the building of two barrack areas, Musterlager/ Bergen to the east and Fallingbostel/Oerbke to the west of the training area. Eleven of the villages in the area and many farms had to be evacuated (ruins of many of these can still be found today - evidence of fruit trees, stone walls etc can be seen all over the range area).

    The training area opened in 1938 and by the summer of 1939,12 ranges were in use (one division requiring six weeks to complete its training programme). The workers used to build these huge complex barracks were housed in temporary wooden barracks built just outside Fallingbostel in the small village of Oerbke. In September 1939 the Polish armed forces received a pretty comprehensive lesson in armoured warfare - Blitzkreig from the Germans. Large numbers of prisoners taken by the advancing Germans started to become a problem. By October 1939 fences were built around the workers hutted camp and some of the Poles were sent there - STALAG XIB was born.

    Although the camp was soon full, conditions at the start were good. The Polish soldiers were placed into Arbeitskommandos (working parties) and put to work in local factories, farms and as forestry workers on the land.

    In May 1940, as the German Army moved west, Dutch, Belgium, French and British POWs were added to the camps in Germany - 40,000 arrived in STALAG XIB. Conditions began to deteriorate and hygiene was a major problem as the camps and village waterworks became overstretched. The outcome was an outbreak of Typhoid causing widespread and unrecorded deaths amongst the POWs. The situation was no better in 1941, Germany moved east - Russia was invaded on 22 June and shortly, after the first wave of Russian POWs began to arrive (12,000).

    No room or accommodation was available; all that welcomed the Soviets was a large, flat open fenced area, 1,000 metre northeast of STALAG XIB in the area called Marquartsfeld. The Soviets being described by the Germans as sub-human were to be treated as such. They were put into the compound and left to fend for themselves. Most dug holes in the ground or made lean-tos from anything that could be found - this new camp was at first called STALAG 321, and then changed to STALAG XID.

    STALAG XIC was built in another small village, 30km away on the other side of the training area at Bergen-Belsen!

    Conditions in the new STALAG XID were so bad that in less then 12 months over 6,000 had died. Home Defence Battalions Landschutzen, normally old men not 100% fit for service, guarded the camps.

    With the fall of Italy to the Germans in 1943 their one-time allies also arrived as POWs. The huge influx of Italians meant that once more the situation deteriorated. With the exception of the Soviet POWs the Italians suffered the most deaths in the camps. The Italian camp was situated on the area that is now Heide School - two hut foundations can still be seen in the field behind the RMP station.

    By mid 1944 there were some 96,000 POWs in the camps and sub camps in the Fallingbostel/Oerbke area. The tide of war had changed and the Russian advance into Poland threatened to overrun the POW camps situated there. STALAG 357 was moved from Thorn in Poland to Oerbke, Italian POWs helped to construct a newer compound on the site of the old XID.

    The beginning of October 1944 saw some 400 British Paratroopers, POWs captured at Arnhem, arrive at STALAG XIB. Included amongst them was the incomparable RSM, John Lord, ex Grenadier Guards attached to the Paras. RSM Lord took the conditions on as a personal challenge and starting with the men of the Parachute Regiment set out to change the state of the camp. He insisted that his men should wash and shave daily as if they were in barracks - also they should salute German Officers. He also demanded the men take some form of exercise daily.

    In February 1945 both camps XIB and XID/357 were in a deplorable state - a lack of food and medical supplies plus the influx of American POWs captured after the Battle Of The Bulge, the German push into the Ardennes, was becoming a massive problem. In XID/357 conditions were made worse by the removal of mattresses and bed boards as a reprisal for alleged poor treatment of German POWs in Egypt by the Allies. In all of the camps POWs were still arriving in their thousands, even as the Allies advanced on all fronts.

    Stalag 357 was a well-run camp - although some tension existed between the British Army POWs and the RAF POWs, as to the nature of activities within the camp. The RAF had an 'Escape and Intelligence Committee' that helped POWs attempt to escape. It also supplied information to the Allies on certain German activities. The Army however, was much more concerned with causing as little trouble as possible so arguments did ensue. Eventually a vote was held to decide on an 'Overall Policy and a Head of Operations Spokesman'. The vote was carried overwhelmingly in favour of a RAF Warrant Officer; WO James 'Dixie' Deans who was to become 357s answer to RSM Lord.

    In March 1945 the Allies crossed the Rhine and the British and American Armies advanced closer to the River Weser. In early April, the Germans decided to relocate 357; 'Dixie' Deans was called in front of the Commandant. The POWs were to move on foot to the northeast - destination unknown.

    12,000 men from Camp 357 marched out north east with all they could carry in columns of 2,000 strong - WO Deans borrowed a bike and rode from column to column giving support, the weather was grim, typical for this time of the year, snow and rain. The men, hungry, tired, ill scavenged what they could find en route.

    The patience of WO Deans snapped and he confronted the Comdt, Col Ostmann and demanded to be allowed leave to travel to the British Lines to get help. This may seem like an outrageous request but as Deans pointed out - the Germans were soon going to be overrun either by the Russians or the British. The colonel duly granted Deans a pass to carry him through enemy lines and assigned him a guard.

    Tragedy struck the columns in the form of nine Typhoons of the RAF, who mistaking the POWs for the enemy, attacked the columns killing 60 and wounding more. Dixie Deans made it to the town of Lauenburg where he and his guard were found by advancing British Troops. The two of them returned to the columns and marched them back through to the British lines where his
    erstwhile captors surrendered.

    On 16 April 1945 the 8th Hussars Recce Troop reached Fallingbostel. The autobahn marked on their maps was to their surprise no more than a sandy track. Two of the Honey Recce Tanks turned along the autobahn and followed it to a wide-open space from which they could see the first camp. Approaching the throng of newly freed people it became apparent that they were not British. This first camp was the Italians camp on Queens Ave - Adolf Hitler Strasse as it was then, the Heide School site.

    The tanks moved on along the northern edge of the camp parallel to the road, crossing the railway tracks and sidings and reaching Fallingbosteler Strasse. Stopping some 50 metres from the autobahn bridge, they were unsure of the location of STALAG taque XIB as it was concealed by trees. However, one of the tank commanders noticed a figure amongst the trees with a maroon beret and from then on the job of locating the gate was easy. The tanks were met at the gates by a guard of `Very smart paratroopers' under RSM John Lord.

    The situation at STALAG XID/357 was very different; none of the discipline evident earlier was seen, with dirty, ill fed and almost hysterically happy soldiers being the norm. STALAG XIB was the first British POW camp to be liberated by advancing troops. A few days later the newly freed Soviet POWs were causing chaos in and around Fallingbostel - they had looted most if not the entire town. The British put them back in the camps for safe keeping until repatriation to Russia was possible.
  3. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Plenty of information out there. As the Germans were fond of using Roman numerals try googling "XIB Fallingbostel"

    207 Squadron RAF Association - Ken Brown and Stalag XIB (357) Memorial, Fallingbostel
    Thanks so much. I have read some of this information from the Fallingbostel Museum site - but there seems to more detail here.

    In doing a search of the archives on WW2Talk - I had missed the POW section - I see many references to Stalag 11B and 357 in the entries there, and believe that there is much there that will help me in my search. If I'm reading some of it correctly, the strafing that my father-in-law was involved in, on the forced march from Stalag 11b, happened at Gresse, Germany on April 19, 1945, which coincides with his recount about being strafed by Allied planes, as well as his reference to the Lubeck Canal - which when you do a Google search of Fallingbostel to Gresse to Lubeck - it makes sense. However, much more reading to do including a few books referenced about the Gresse strafing - 'Not all Glory' and 'Footprints in the Sands of Time'. Excellent information. Thank you!
  4. jacksun

    jacksun Senior Member

    Here's a map of POW movement during the forced march


    Attached Files:

  5. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Here's a map of POW movement during the forced march

    Another piece to the puzzle - thank you very much!
  6. djcrtoye

    djcrtoye Member

    Hi thanks for the thread. My grandfather was in the influx of prisoners who were captured at Arnhem who were sent to this prison. Also it helps me finally to find the day of liberation.
  7. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Good luck with your search. We have submitted a request to the International Red Cross in Switzerland for any information pertaining to my father-in-law's time in Stalag 11b. It's been about 3 months now, and still no reply, but I've been told it can take 6 months or more - a huge demand for information. In case you don't have it, here's the address I wrote to. Good luck!

    Archives Division and Research Service
    International Committee of the Red Cross
    19 Avenue de la Paix
    Geneva CH-1202
  8. djcrtoye

    djcrtoye Member

    Hi, I done the ICRC query. Mine took nearer 12 months. The info you will get is, name, dob, place of birth, father's first name, mothers maiden name, rank, unit, service number, date and place of capture, pow number, places of detention. Hope this helps.

  9. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Hi, I done the ICRC query. Mine took nearer 12 months. The info you will get is, name, dob, place of birth, father's first name, mothers maiden name, rank, unit, service number, date and place of capture, pow number, places of detention. Hope this helps.

    Thank you Dominic. I had not realized that it would take that long for a response - 3 down, 9 to go. Cheers!
  10. Roman

    Roman New Member

    Jacksun and others: as I do research on my dad's movement through multiple Stalags, this map is so helpful. One question is why is not Stalag VI K Senne depicted? Any ideas?

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