Ballot Screening

Discussion in 'UK PoW Camps' started by Osborne2, Mar 13, 2021.

  1. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    I have found that in 1946 the screening of German prisoners arriving from the USA in Britain was done by a process called 'ballot screening'. Normally prisoners political views and their adherence to Nazi values, was using the A anti-Nazi 'white'; B not really Nazi, 'grey'; and C still Nazi 'black' interview and classification system.

    Does anyone know what appears to be another system, 'ballot screening' entailed? If so does anyone have a reference to any document that discusses it?

    I do know the A,B,C,screening system by the British was under severe strain in 1946 and I think it might have been a short hand way of getting through thousands of prisoners, as they distrusted any classifications done by the US authorities for their crudity.
  2. Malcolm56

    Malcolm56 Active Member

    The inspection report 13/15 May at Camp 23 Sudbury refers to "Check ballot screening". It does not explain it, but it does look like it was a sampling method to check the validity of previous screening. This may well be the doc you were referring to - relevant bit attached (Martin Richards' site has the full doc).

    Best wishes, keep well, Malcolm

    Attached Files:

  3. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Malcolm 56, thanks for the link. I have come across the term in several Training Adviser reports from 1946 onwards and, to the best of my memory, all seem to involve POWs arriving via the US. I can’t remember off hand if this was the trigger for my initial post, as l haven’t got access to my papers where l am currently, but it fits with my initial post. The term obviously meant something to the users originally but it hasn’t been mentioned in any of the FO 939 headquarters instruction files l have got copies of. Mind you, there is a great deal more in this series than any of us have l bet. It’s a huge cache.
  4. Malcolm56

    Malcolm56 Active Member

    Don't know if this is going to help at all.... or even if it is relevant - no information just a file reference. (S-0408-0008-03)

    100 - Ballot on Repatriation - UNARMS

    File is dated 1946 and comes from the British Zone Headquarters - I have no idea how you access the file. :-( There seems to be many files concerning screening / repatriation.

    Best wishes,
  5. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Malcolm, once again I am late to the party. My suspicion is it's nothing to do with prisoners but I am grateful you posted it. There is obviously a source of documents I was totally unaware of. I guess from the file titles in general this is, because it's all UNRRA, that its all refugee and displaced persons. UNRRA would not have much to do with ex POWs unless they were refugees themselves. Ballot screening mentions in POW camp reports all relate to camps dealing with ex USA POW camp Germans who had just arrived. The POWs sent to the UK had no say in anything and UNRRA would not be involved I believe. There is no mention anywhere I have seen of UNRRA in UK POW camps. I can well understand their involvement in Germany and elsewhere on the continent. There is still more to learn on this subject.
  6. pete mully

    pete mully Member

    Hi Whilst my dad was waiting for his demob he saw out the last of his army service as a pow gaurd at camp 186 in Cochester this camp held up to 6000 german prisoners (there is a book avaliable about camp 186 its called camp186 the lost town of berechurch by ken free see link below
    i think this book may explain more about how the prisoners were vetted using a ballot systom and colour codeing of prisoners my dad did tell me that all prisoners were vetted using the colour system you mentioned white being completly safe then different colour shades depending on there level of indoctrination of nazi belife ,my dad did tell me that black was full natzi to be closly guarded at all times not allowed out pretty much impossiable to turn or change never to be trusted he told me though the camp had many colours of prisoners ,the camp was run internally by the prisoners the ones who were the black coloured natzi prisoners pretty much ran it internally.and were a danger to other prisoners i think my dad did say something about about 'ballot screening i think he said it was used as a type of system with in the colour code system to see how well a prisoner was responding to the denazification system the camp was operating on the prisoners ie to re educate them away from natzi belifs ie prisoners during this process were given for wont of a better word a type of home work they studied they were then exposed to these new ways of thinking and seeing things and were encourage to debate these new idears in small groups and some were allowed out to mix with locals i think the ballot system may of been used during this system to see how much inprovment there was with each prisoner and see if he was ready to have his colour code changed up ie for the better i can not be exactly sure if this information is 100 percent but this is how my dad tryed to explain how the camps denazification system worked when he told me about the system and the camp in general , i am pretty sure the book by ken free will have some information on 'ballot screening in it that will be explained much better than i can explain how it worked here .regards pete mully
    papiermache likes this.
  7. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Pete, thank you for the recommendation to this book. Several German POW camps in Britain now have some form of internet posted history done by local historians and a handful of others have conventionally published histories. I have been looking into the histories of several camps for nearly nine years. The classification system (A anti-Nazi 'white'; B not really Nazi, 'grey'; and C still Nazi 'black') was invented sometime in early 1945, from my research. Ballot screening, from what I can tell, was a way of checking the loyalties of prisoners coming from the USA from January to about June 1946 and only seems to be mentioned at that time. The British did not trust the crude methods, as they , in effect saw it, of what was called segregation in the US. The US said anyone who had held a Nazi party card was a fanatic and that constituted

    The US also did not supply their results and so the Brits had to decide how to integrate ungraded prisoners in large numbers into camps where they were trying to sort the 'sheep from the goats.' Ballot screening disappeared as a term quite quickly as far as I can see, so must have been some sort of expedient at a time when the segregators were complaining bitterly they could not cope. The accuracy of the system started breaking down at this point. (see Faulk, Group Captives) when they co-opted segregators who were less disciplined in applying the process, such as some camp interpreters.

    The wide generality of what you are saying I do mainly agree with, but on this point there is something going on I have not cracked. A wild guess. Ballot screening was picking at random prisoners from the 'POW batches' arriving in transit camps and and checking some and seeing what 'colour' the batch was before deciding what to do with all of each batch. The answer is in the FO939 files but I have not found it, or missed copying it.
  8. pete mully

    pete mully Member

    Hi First off i should say i have not yet read camp 186 the book i told you about but i think it should be worth buying a copy.a i dont think it costs much .
    Also sorry for the delay in replying to you but i decided to try to trow my mind back to well over 30 years ago to around the time my dad first started talking about the war and also camp 186
    through also finding few old letters my mum wrote in the the war i have now also remembered that my mum also lived not far from camp 186 when my mum used to live in a small house she was able to rent to be with my my dad
    she did this renting a place 2 or 3 times during the course of the war when my dad was allowed to find his own accommodation instead of having to live in barracks not sure why this was allowed he also used to get a daily allowence from the army towards the cost of this .
    any way back to the point my mum was living not far from camp186 before the war end so i think my dad must of been at camp186 earlier than i knew he was. As a kid growing up in the 1950s 1960s i don't remember my mum and dad ever speaking about the war years at all but around the late 70s my mum did start telling me some stuff nothing of any importance just stuff like what living by a pow camp was like how difficult it was to buy stuff back then, day to day stuff she also told me about when doodlebugs flew over ,the area it seems this happened pretty much every day at one point when she lived there ,she told me what she thought the prisoners were like, she used to refer to them as jerries she told me that some of the prisoners went out to work on the land with guards guarding them, but others did not and these were never allowed outside the camp .she also told me that the camp had a public foot path running along the fences so she and other people were able walk past and see the prisoners inside the camp she told me that some of them used to wave or call out to people or some times sing songs as people went passed she also said that some of the prisoners appeared to be very arrogant , but the majority of them seemed pretty harmless enough .she told me in those days people were not allowed to speak to german prisoners , she also told me some of the the prisoners used to have coloured marks or patches on there uniforms she implied this was to do if a prisoner should escaped plus it helped guards like my dad know what type of prisoner they were dealing with, the point of all this is i am now wondering if this was the start of colour coding or marking at that was around another 20 years later before my dad started telling me bits about the war and what it was like and stuff about the camp.but nothing i dont think you probaby dont all ready no after researching pow camps in the for 9 years , he did tell me that the camp was not safe thee were times that prisoners got hurt by the germans who ran the camp internally or so there were a number of prisoners who commited suicide he also said that a couple of times the army suspected that a couple of prisoners were murdured, he told me at one point the hard line natzi got so bad that a smaller camp was built in the main body of the camp ,ie so it was a camp within a camp and they were all locked in the inner camp so they were seperated from other prisoners he told me that once the war ended he never worried being in the outer compound with out a weapon like a side arm but even after the war ended he would never of go into the inner compound without at least a sidearm for protection .he told me about a case were once the army authorities running the camp were unsure if a gaurd had gone missing ie had deserted his post ie gone absent without leave or if the germans could of done him in, im not sure what the outcome of that was ,but my dad said bad stuff such as that did go on in the camp .My dad made made a friend of one german his name was willie smitt he came from hamburg he had servered on uboats before becoming a prisoner , willie had been a artist before the war he did a wonderful pencil drawing of my dad in 1945 my dad told me that since the war had started willie had predended to be a natzi even whilst he was in uboats and as a prisoner untill the war ended as he felt safer pretending to be one rather than letting the other germans in the camp know he was not one, plus he had hated the natzi party from before the war my mum also knew willie he was one of the germans who were white ie trusted german by the camp army staff my dad used to take willie home with him sometimes for tea once the war ended some of the other germans like willie were allowed a little bit of freedom., it seems some of the prisoners used to make toys for local kids in there spare time around christmas time my dad told me they even built a church in the camp .if i can remember any more or if i find any more letters my mum wrote home i will let you you know ,do you know any titles or historys of other camps i can find on the internet best regards pete .
  9. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Hi Pete, What a good post. I can confirm a great deal of what you have written, compared with other camps. Here goes:-

    Starting in 1942 with Italian prisoners, their clothing was ex-British battledress dyed dark chocolate with a leg and back of the jacket coloured patch to denote POW status. Often red, yellow or orange. Diamonds and circles are common. Look hard enough and you'll find pictures on the net. This garb carried on with the Germans. It wasn't therefore anything to do with the colour coding of political persuasion.

    Fraternisation laws said no civilian could speak to a German POW, but gradually that was relaxed, e.g. a farmer had to give instructions to prisoner workers. People were prosecuted for speaking or giving presents early on.

    The number of prisoners overwhelmed what had been planned for from September 1944 to the end of the war and so despite the screening of prisoners on arrival the fanatics were, if they kept their mouths shut, often able to go under the radar, unless their uniform (SS, Luftwaffe, U Boat service) gave them away as automatically classed as fanatical. Not only were the screeners fooled but the number of camps was insufficient at times. Massive overcrowding and men in tents during winter 1944, against Geneva Convention.

    Camp commandants of other ranks POW camps (like yours) were often fooled by smart NCO POWs who were, because of seniority,allowed to be senior German representative in charge of the camps. Many commandants thought an orderly smart NCO was a good man. Little did they know. Only pro Hitler NCOs rose through the ranks. Hence them being two faced and running rackets and bullying/murder on the side. You can see why Willi kept his mouth shut until after Hitler died.

    There were murders of non fanatics, but after the first obvious ones, the post mortems were much more carefully done to determine cause of death.

    A fanatics compound within a camp was not unusual 1945-1946. (See V Campbell, Camp 165 Watten - a bit messy in chronology and understanding, but an example of a camp turning from pure black to pretty much white/grey). After VE day and better prisoner management by the Brits, fanaticism began to wither. (H Faulk, Group Captives - sometimes a difficult read but lays out the different things done to turn fanatics into democrats).

    Willi could go out of the camp on parole with a serviceman if the CO gave permission. This is likely to be after VE Day when Willi was more certain he would not be murdered or beaten up as passions died down.

    M B Sullivan - Thresholds of Peace - brilliant, plenty of first hand accounts by a man heavily involved at the time. Long read.

    I Hollingsbee - Inside the Wire. Gloucestershire camps. Recent research.

    R Quinn - Hitler's Last Army. Fairly recent, well researched.

    Roderic de Normann - For Fuhrer and Fatherland. Murders and mayhem.

    Website for Norton 147 - Battle of Hatfield Society . co .uk A good read, a National Heritage funded project.

    Website for Moota Camp Cumbria

    Eden Camp Yorkshire. POW Camp museum

    If you find some more links, add them on this post or another one you create.

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