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German POWs taken on Fifth Army Front, 1944

German POWs taken on Fifth Army Front, 1944

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German POWs taken on Fifth Army Front, 1944

Here we see a group of German POWs captured by a US patrol somewhere on the Fifth Army front early in 1944. Six prisoners are being guarded by two American soldiers, although the leading man is armed with a sub-machine gun.

German POWs taken on Fifth Army Front, 1944 - History

During World War II, the United States War Department established approximately 150 prisoner-of-war (POW) camps to contain nearly 340,400 German POW&rsquos. The War Department ordered that &ldquoevery employable prisoner of war in the United States will be worked on essential work&hellipwhich would have to be done whether or not there were any prisoners of war.&rdquo Some prisoners, for example, were put to work dismantling and salvaging obsolete army equipment. The War Manpower Commission used many prisoners, such as those pictured here near Tulelake, California, as contract laborers on U.S. farms.

Camp Tule Lake, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp during the time of President Franklin Roosevelt&rsquos New Deal, was located near the town of Tulelake and the Newell Japanese Internment Camp. German prisoners held at Camp White&mdashsix miles north of Medford, Oregon&mdashwere transferred to Camp Tule Lake and were hired by local farmers. Military trucks and jeeps mixed with local Tulelake traffic as guards transported the German prisoners&mdashone, two, or three at a time&mdashto area employers. The prisoners were paid 80 cents per day, which could be used to purchase merchandise at the camp store or placed in a trust fund available to them after the war. Most combined some of their wages to rent motion pictures, buy magazines, or purchase other items. At the end of the war, the prisoners were sent back to Germany, but not without being educated in U.S. history, English, geography, and the benefits of democracy and capitalism.

Further Reading:
&ldquoReminiscence: John Fahey on &lsquoReeducating&rsquo German Prisoners during World War II,&rdquo Oregon Historical Quarterly 93, 1992-1993: 368.

In WWII 3 out of 4 German KIA Were by Soviet Army

WWII's Eastern Front was by far the bloodiest theater of war the world has ever seen. It cost the lives of nearly 12 million combatants of which 4.3 million Axis troops including 3.55 million Germans - death tolls far in excess of those in the west

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The best available estimate of WWII German military deaths comes from German historian Rüdiger Overmans. Most estimates are based on wartime casualty reports of the German military but Overmans shows convincingly that the system was unreliable and eventually broke down, so that earlier estimates underestimate the number of German military men who fell in WWII.

Overmans, after extensive research of his own, put the total German military war dead at 5,318,000. This figure includes deaths of Volksturm militiamen and foreign volunteers of the Waffen SS and Wehrmacht. It does not include the deaths of Soviet citizens in German service.

Of these, 459,000 are known to have died in captivity, including 363,000 as prisoners of the Soviets. Overmans suggests the figure of German POWs who perished in Soviet captivity may be far higher than the 363,000 recorded deaths, and could reach as many as one million men. This is speculation, however, since Overmans, working from the German archives, had no way to study the subject.

The Russian historian Krivosheev, who was better positioned to study the subject, instead estimates there were a total of 450,000 German POW deaths in Soviet hands, including the deaths of 94,000 prisoners who never made it to POW camps and whose deaths are thus not reflected in the Soviet records.

After reducing his 5,318,000 figure by 459,000 confirmed POW deaths, Overmans distributes the rest (which necessarily includes the 94,000 unrecorded POW deaths in Soviet hands and another 22,000 German military men executed by their own side), as follows:

Eastern Front 2,743,000
Western Front + Africa + Italy 506,000
Final Battles in Germany in 1945 - of which at least 2/3rds to Soviets 1,230,000
Northern Europe 30,000
The Balkans 104,000
Other (Including sea and air war over Germany) 246,000
Total 4,859,000

As said of the 1,230,000 German dead in the final battles of WWII according to Overmans, at least two-thirds were in the East.

The figure of 104,000 killed in the Balkans includes casualties sustained against Yugoslav and Greek partisans as well as those killed as the Red Army swept much of the region in late 1944.

Fighting in Northern Europe corresponds to the Norwegian campaign against the western allies, the "Lapland War" against Finland in 1944/45, and most of all, the fighting against Soviet forces in northern Finland and the Russian Karelia region around Murmansk.

The German dead in sea battles and in the air war over Germany would have been overwhelmingly due to the western allies, but the Soviets must have extracted a non-insignificant toll as well.

Taking everything into account by a conservative estimate, German KIA to Soviets is just over 3.5 million. This would include 2,743,000 for the Eastern Front, 820,000 for final battles in Germany, as well as a guesstimated 100,000 in the Balkans, Northern Europe, and the seas reduced by 94,000 unrecorded deaths in Soviet captivity and 20,000 executed on the Eastern Front.

In other words, of the total estimated 4,743,000 German KIA in WWII, some 3,549,000 or 75% were to Soviets.

Nor is this the extent of Axis KIA sustained fighting Soviet forces. According to Krivosheev, some 215,000 Soviet citizens were killed fighting in German uniform of the army, auxiliary police, or the Waffen SS.

Furthermore, Germany's Axis allies lost hundreds of thousands more.

1941-45 Finland, for which there is reliable data, suffered some 60,000 KIA. For the other Axis participants figures are somewhat elusive.

By some estimates Italy lost over 90,000 military men on the Eastern Front including some 50,000 who perished after being captured by the Soviets.

Krivosheev gives figures for Hungarian and Romanian military dead less POWs as 350,000 and 480,000 respectively but this is likely an exaggeration.

Going from the fact 300,000 Hungarian soldiers are believed to have died in WWII, and Krivosheev estimates 55,000 deaths in Soviet captivity, between 200,000 and 250,000 may have been killed in battles against the Red Army.

Romania left the Axis in August 1944, but contributed twice as many troops to the Eastern Front as Hungary before that. Its battle dead to the Red Army is therefore at least as high as that of Hungary, and probably higher.

Roughly speaking, against the Soviets, Axis forces suffered the loss of some 4.3 military men including 3.55 million Germans, 0.2 million Soviet collaborators and over 0.5 million Axis allies. These are military combat deaths without counting any POW deaths.

As I have argued, the corresponding figure for Soviet forces is 7.5 million, of which 7.25 million were Red Army regulars and the rest were partisans and militia. Adding fatalities sustained by Polish, Czechoslovak, Romanian, and Bulgarian units subordinate to the Soviets, but not part of the Red Army, might push up the number of allied dead in the east to 7.6 million.

This gives a rough ratio of losses in the east of 1:1.8 (4.3 million compared to 7.6 million).* The ratio, while in Axis favor, gives lie to the often held impression of Soviet forces as fighting the war by unleashing trainloads of barely armed or unarmed men in massive "human wave" attacks to overcome the enemy by the sheer weight of their numbers.

Discounting the first two years of war which hit the Soviet Union unprepared and in which the Red Army was the most mismanaged, the ratio is even more balanced. In fact, since Soviet losses disproportionately occured in the disastrous early stage of the war and the German losses in the final stage of the war, the losses ratio towards the end of the war, and in the best-executed Soviet operations, was actually in the Soviet favor.

* Ratios more to the disadvantage of the Soviet side frequently encompass all Soviet military death disregarding the fact that over 3 million of them perished in Wehrmacth POW camps, underestimate German losses by incoroporating only reported deaths and omit Germany's Axis allies in the east.

Overmans, Rűdiger. Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Oldenbourg 2000.

Krivosheev, G. F.. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books 1997

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Red Army deliberate humilliation of German POWs

Post by Panzermahn » 25 Jan 2004, 14:30

In 1943, the Russians paraded the German POWs captured after the surrender of the 6th Army in Stalingrad at Moscow. There are many accounts and even news reels showing russian civillians, mocking, jeering, shouting, beating, spitting, abusing and throwing pots and pans to the solemn faced German POWs who are forced to march thru Moscow.

Isn't this constitute a violation of Geneva Convention?

As far as i recall, the German Wehrmacht did not parade any captured Russian POWs and paraded them in Berlin so that German civillians can do the same way where Russian civillians did at German POWs during the 1943 parade at Moscow.

Post by alf » 25 Jan 2004, 15:03

They were too busy killing them, 3 million Russian POW's died/murdered as prisoners of Nazi Germany, remember. And the excuse touted by the Nazi's was that Russia was not a party to the Geneva Convention so they could be murdered by the Nazis'.

So as they the Nazis, deliberately sidestepped the Geneva Convention on the Russian Front, why do you continuly accuse of the Russians of not following it?

Post by Panzermahn » 25 Jan 2004, 15:11

Post by Jeremy Chan » 25 Jan 2004, 15:21

Re: Red Army deliberate humilliation of German POWs

Post by Penn44 » 25 Jan 2004, 15:37

panzermahn wrote: In 1943, the Russians paraded the German POWs captured after the surrender of the 6th Army in Stalingrad at Moscow. There are many accounts and even news reels showing russian civillians, mocking, jeering, shouting, beating, spitting, abusing and throwing pots and pans to the solemn faced German POWs who are forced to march thru Moscow.

Isn't this constitute a violation of Geneva Convention?

As far as i recall, the German Wehrmacht did not parade any captured Russian POWs and paraded them in Berlin so that German civillians can do the same way where Russian civillians did at German POWs during the 1943 parade at Moscow.

Subjecting POWs to public display and ridicule is against the Geneva Convention.

3 Answers 3

Let's tackle the two questions you have separately:

The Context for Elster's "Unbelievable" Surrender

From the American perspective, the number of troops involved in the surrender was large. U.S. experience in Sicily in the summer of 1943, for example, was that German surrenders were rare and relatively small in number, versus large numbers of Italian surrenders (See Atkinson's Day of Battle here (Google Books: for example.

Elster's forces were not in a position which dictated immediate and urgent surrender, as indicated by the surprise and disbelief at the surrender "without a shot" in the 2 October, 1944 Life magazine article after the surrender which popularized this particular incident (Google Books: While this surprise may be natural on the U.S. side, in fact, this hides the fact that Elster was not in command of a coherent body of organized units. Instead, "Elster's column" was a ragtag group of extremely mixed units (including Indian volunteers in the Indische Legion, and Ukrainian and other volunteer forces) who were following orders to retreat from the southern French coast and nearby areas. More than half of the total 100,000 or so escaped. It was a long, some 30 mile string of forces under daily harassment from Allied air attack, and what remained of it surrendered when Elster lost contact with his screening force (see Retreat to the Reich by Samuel W. Mitcham, p211)

Largest Number of Germans to Surrender Before Elster

The question of what was the largest number of Germans to surrender is a bit trickier. This might be counted two ways: Total troops who surrendered at one moment as an act of their overall commander, or troops of various units who surrendered in the course of some chronologically limited "battle" and geographically delimited area. The latter is probably more important from a broad historical perspective, but very arbitrary to define, while the former has little historical significance while being easier to determine.

  • If defined as troops collectively surrendered by their commander, the answer is, as pointed out by (@Kobunite) most likely the Stalingrad surrender of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus on 31 January, 1943. Anthony Beever quotes the number 91,000 men, and 22 generals (Beever's Stalingrad, p396), but elsewhere notes that this number was "proclaimed by the Soviet government" (p399) and thus should be seen as highly suspect. Also, there is no clear indication how many of these 91,000 include German units that surrendered long before Paulus officially surrendered (examples of this on p360), and unclear how many of these include non-Germans (several thousand Romanians, for example). It seems likely, however, that whatever the exact number, it far exceeds the number, and certainly the importance of the Elster surrender in 1944.

Other places, you may find more details:

  • Soldaten hinter Stacheldraht. Deutsche Kriegsgefangene des Zweiten Weltkriege by Rüdiger Overmans

ADDED: 157000 Germans and 87000 Italians according to the book "Mussolini Warlord: Failed Dreams of Empire, 1940-1943" found in Google Books

The quote is from the London Times obituary of Sir Thomas Macpherson who died on 6th November 2014.

After capture in the North African campaign (during the failed assassination attempt on Rommel) and subsequent escape he joined the SOE and was parachuted into France.

"The Jedburgh team of which Major Macpherson was in charge, codenamed “Quinine”, was flown from Blida in Algiers and dropped near Aurillac, in the Cantal department, on the night of June 8, 1944. Accompanied by Aspirant (officer cadet) Prince Michel de Bourbon of the French Army and Sergeant Arthur Brown of the Royal Tank Regiment, Macpherson — a proud Scot — wore his kilt for the occasion. The attire caused some confusion and the first report to reach the local maquisards claimed “a French officer has arrived with his wife”. In order to swell partisan numbers, Macpherson drove around in a car — still wearing his Cameron Highlander tartans — openly flying the Union Flag pennant and the Croix de Lorraine, much to the astonishment of his comrades. After establishing contact with the Gaullist FFI (Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur), he urged them to disrupt railway lines and to destroy a number of locomotives at Capdenac. Attempts were made to trap Macpherson and it was said that a 300,000 franc price was put on his head.

He became known for leading large-scale guerrilla operations — including one against the Das Reich Panzer division shortly after his arrival in France. Macpherson and the “Jeds” demolished a bridge the Germans were hoping to cross, and defended another for six days against their attacks.

He turned his attention to the communist FTP (Francs-tireurs et partisans) who, at his suggestion, stole two Citroën cars from the Vichy-French police to enhance their tactical mobility. Macpherson later moved Quinine to Toulouse and became part of a French Resistance force known as the Groupement Mobile du Sud Ouest, which moved north of Clermont- Ferrand.

Whether through bravery or chutzpah, Macpherson won the surrender of 23,000 Wehrmacht troops by spouting a series of brazen lies. He presented himself to the commanding officer, Major-General Botho Elster, and assured him that heavy artillery, 20,000 troops and RAF bombers were waiting for Macpherson’s word to attack. In reality he had only the aid of another Jedburgh team. Surrender or die, he urged Elster the bluff worked. Elster and his troops eventually passed into US Army captivity."

German Prisoners-of-War Camp, Moorhead, 1944–1946

German prisoners of war outside a farm building in Moorhead, ca. 1944–1945. Used with the permission of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.

During World War II, prisoners of war helped relieve a severe labor shortage in many rural areas of the U.S. In Clay County, Minnesota, POWs worked on farms to plant, tend, and harvest the crops that otherwise might have been lost.

During the later years of World War II, many rural areas experienced a severe labor shortage after local young men joined the war effort. To help ease the pressure, the federal government shipped prisoners of war (POWs) to the United States to work as laborers. One of the major POW camps was in Algona, Iowa. From April 1944 to August 1946, Camp Algona was home to over 10,000 German POWs, most of whom were enlisted men who had surrendered to allied forces in Africa and Italy. They worked at branch camps throughout Minnesota and Iowa until the end of the war.

From the base at Camp Algona, POWs were distributed to communities that requested help. To get POW laborers, locals would submit a contract detailing how many workers they needed, the job they would be doing, and the housing that would be provided. International rules governing the treatment of POWs required that their work could not be dangerous or related to the war effort further, they had to be paid and given one day of rest each week. If the contractors met these rules, their request would be approved.

In the spring of 1944, Moorhead-area farmers Henry Peterson and Paul Horn contracted for 150 prisoners to work on their vegetable farms. The first site selected for their housing was in town near the Red River. Locals objected to having the prisoners so close to their homes, so an old onion warehouse on the edge of town was finally chosen. The Moorhead site became known as Algona Branch Camp Number One.

The first forty Germans arrived in Moorhead on Sunday, May 28, 1944. They spent the night in Moorhead in tents on a farm south of town. Afterward, they transformed an onion warehouse into barracks and built an eight-foot barbed wire fence around the camp. The remaining 110 prisoners arrived by train on May 31.

Six days a week, trucks from the Peterson and Horn farms picked up the POWs and their guards and carried them to the fields. There the prisoners planted, hoed, and picked the vegetables or did general farm work. The farmers paid the government 40 cents an hour per prisoner for their labor. In turn, the government paid the prisoners 10 cents per hour in coupons redeemable only at the camp canteen. The remaining 30 cents went toward housing and feeding the POWs.

Prisoners had access to church services, recreational activities, art supplies, and musical instruments during their free time. Several prisoners were expert wood carvers and carved toys, dishes, and other wooden objects that they gave to locals. Relations between the prisoners and the locals were generally positive. Henry Peterson was particularly well-liked by the prisoners. He bent camp rules by buying prisoners beer and taking them into town, including a trip to a movie theater and one to a local tavern.

After the harvest in the fall of 1944, the prisoners returned to the base camp at Algona. The Moorhead site was not prepared to house them during the harsh winter. The following spring, a second but smaller set of POWs arrived for another season. In the fall of 1945, they returned to Algona for the last time.

Through the two seasons of work at the camp, the POWs made lasting relationships that endured after the war. Several former prisoners wrote to Peterson, Horn, and other locals after they had returned to Germany to request help with becoming American citizens. Many expressed gratitude for the treatment they received during their time at the camp. One soldier noted that he had learned about Americans and American politics and would remember the farm where he had worked.

Fort Meade converted to POW camp in World War II [History Matters]

In 1943, the U.S. military found itself in a bind with thousands of captured POWs and nowhere to house them in Europe or Africa. The solution was to convert many of the internment camps on U.S. military bases, including Fort Meade, and former Civilian Conservation Corps camps for POWs.

Fort Meade housed an internment camp at the start of World War II for primarily German-American and Italian-American citizens and foreign nationals. In 1943, however, the military found itself in a bind with thousands of captured POWs and nowhere to house them in Europe or Africa. The solution was to convert many of the internment camps on U.S. military bases, including Fort Meade, and former Civilian Conservation Corps camps for POWs.

When World War II started, Fort Meade's mission was to train Army ground forces. According to "Maryland in World War II," published by the Maryland Historical Society, Fort Meade trained numerous Infantry Divisions and State Guard groups, as well as Medical Corps Signal Corps field, coastal or anti-aircraft artillery military police and Women's Army Corps.

Fort Meade was also assigned a top secret activity once the war began: formation of the Enemy Prisoner of War Bureau.

"The bureau's workers maintained records on all enemy prisoners of war captured by American forces," according to "Maryland in World War II.

"The file was complete from the first Japanese prisoner pulled from the waters of Pearl Harbor early in the morning of December 8, 1941, to the last enemy captured in 1945. All letters and packages addressed to German, Italian and Japanese prisoners of war came to Meade for forwarding, the mail frequently running to a hundred and fifty bags a day."

There was also an interrogation center at the fort. It's unknown how much valuable information it uncovered, but one case had deadly consequences. U-boat prisoner Werner Drechsler collaborated with the intelligence branch at Fort Meade. When he was transferred to Camp Papago Park in Arizona, his fellow German POWs somehow found out and hanged him.

When the decision was made to convert the camps for POWs, internees were shipped out, security at the camp was reinforced, and temporary wood frame buildings were added to handle the increased population. New security regulations issued by post headquarters mandated that "all persons on foot, whether soldiers or civilians, are directed to keep at least 30 paces from the outer fence of the prisoner of war stockade, and to keep moving at all times. Guards have been instructed to fire on any person attempting to converse or otherwise make contact with prisoners."

In September 1943, the first POWs, mostly Italian but also a few dozen German, arrived. As the POWs began to filter in, the administrative burden kicked in. In her book, "Stalag: U.S.A: The Remarkable Story of German POWs in America," author Judith Gansberg wrote, "Their Hitlerite education had taught Germans that Americans were disorganized, undisciplined, and senile — characteristics Germans despised most. The Property Branch of the Enemy Information Bureau at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, did nothing to dispel that image. Medical instruments, watches, pens, eyeglasses, cash, cameras, and untold other items were 'misplaced.' Naturally, the sheer volume of property contributed to the confusion at Fort Meade. But, too often, tags were lost or items added to a G.I.'s 'souvenirs.'"

Like most POW camps across the country, Fort Meade was populated with German soldiers mostly from the Wehrmacht (army). Later studies would reveal that a small percentage of POWs, possibly no more than 10 percent, were Nazi diehards. The military sent the hard core Nazi sympathizers to special camps segregated from the regular POWs.

Even so, in an inspection report by the Red Cross, dated Sept. 6, 1944, the "Anti Nazi Section" of the Meade POW camp is described. This was a section that housed prisoners who "have provided very useful information since capture" and are segregated because "they would be in considerable danger from loyal Nazis." Among this population were some Polish citizens who "said that they accepted service in the German Army as the lesser of two evils and made efforts to be taken prisoner at the earliest possible moment."

In 1943, with so many American men off fighting the war, the sentiment to use the POWs as a labor force gained steam. The War Department relented and came up with new regulations for this. In Maryland, Fort Meade remained the main POW camp, but 18 smaller regional camps were set up across the state. Nationwide, 650 camps were constructed for approximately 400,000 German and 50,000 Italian POWs.

The Geneva Convention forbids forced labor by POWs, so participation was voluntary. Many POWs welcomed the opportunity to get out of the camp and keep busy, so participation was high. POWs worked at a variety of jobs, such as agriculture and manufacturing. The POWs from Fort Meade worked all over the area, including Howard, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, as well as Baltimore City.

In Howard County, POWs from the regional camp in Frederick helped with the construction of Brighton Dam. POWs doing agricultural work were dropped off at Hardman's Tourist Home, on Frederick Avenue and St. John's Lane, where the farmers would pick them up. This program was run by County Agent Warren Myers and civilian supervisor John Yingling, the former principal of Ellicott City elementary and high schools.

Meade itself benefitted from the labor pool. In addition to performing tasks like laundry, engineering, mail sorting and repair of base residences, German POWs built three stone bridges on base that are still in use.

The workforce was paid the equivalent of 80 cents a day in scrip that could only be used in the camp store. Employers paid the prevailing wage to the state for the labor, meaning that not only did the program pay for itself, the state of Maryland actually made a profit on the POWs. Employers also benefitted — state officials at the time reported that the POW labor created a 35 percent increase in Maryland's tomato crop in 1945.

Security challenges

When the POWs first arrived at Fort Meade, they had to be segregated from the hard-core Nazi crew of the S.S. Odenwald, who had been sent to the camp with the internees. The Odenwald crew intimidated and terrorized the internees until they were separated from the rest of the camp. Fort Meade officials were not going to make the same mistake again with German Wehrmacht troops who were mostly content to sit out the war. The ship's crew was transferred to New Mexico shortly after the POWs arrived.

Prisoners of war were issued denim shirts and pants with "PW" stenciled on them. They were allowed to keep their uniforms to wear to church and were escorted to the post chapel to attend Protestant or Roman Catholic services, which must have been a startling sight for Fort Meade families.

The German and Italian troops had to be segregated, since there was no love lost between the Axis partners. This was demonstrated after Italy surrendered to the Allies in September 1943, and one month later declared war on Germany. According to the New York Times, "Italian hatred of the Germans unquestionably grew as the fighting spirit waned, and episodes between German and Italian soldiers and civilians before and after the armistice have shown pretty clearly a complete and incontrovertible end of all sympathy between the former Axis partners."

The Fort Meade Post reported the reaction of Italian POWs on Oct. 15, 1943: "Italian prisoners of war held at this post are ready right now to join in their country's fight against Germany." The Baltimore Sun reported a prisoner shouted "We Allies now, we Allies." In May 1944, the former Italian POWs at Fort Meade were activated in the Army as three Italian Service Companies with quartermaster duties at the fort.

At the conclusion of the war, the long process of repatriating the POWs began, and Meade's Enemy Prisoner of War Bureau played a major role. According to a Department of Defense report titled "Historic Context: World War II Prisoner-of-War Camps on Department of Defense Installations," some German POWs were dismayed by the U.S. policy of repatriation at the end of the war: "Some Germans liked America and even asked permission to remain in the United States and become citizens. All were denied. It was a firm American policy that all POWs must be repatriated back to the nation in whose army they were captured."

A small section of the post cemetery contains the remains of 33 German and two Italian POWs who died during the war. According to the Anne Arundel County Historical Society, the POWs died from a variety of causes, such as diphtheria, heart disease, meningitis, tuberculosis, skull fractures while working or suicide. But the grave of the only officer buried there doesn't tell his story.

German submarine commander Werner Henke was so highly decorated he received one of his decorations from Hitler himself in 1943. Henke's story is told in Timothy P. Mulligan's book, "Lone Wolf, The Life and Death of U-Boat Ace Werner Henke."

U-Boats under Henke's command sank 22 Allied ships, including the passenger liner Ceramic in November 1944. Allied propaganda about the incident alleged that Henke had the survivors gunned down in their lifeboats, which was not true. The rumors persisted that he was wanted as a war criminal.

His U-Boat was sunk and his crew captured in April 1944. Separated from his crew, Henke was sent to a highly classified interrogation center in Fort Hunt, Va., near Mount Vernon. He spent six weeks at Fort Hunt, and his interrogators used the rumors as leverage. Convinced that he would be hanged as a war criminal, Henke committed suicide by attempting to escape in front of the guards. Ignoring repeated commands to halt, Henke scaled the first barbed-wire fence and was climbing the second when the tower guards opened up on him with their machine guns. He died hanging from the top of the fence.

As Mulligan tells it in his book, "Even in death, Werner Henke remained a thorn in the side of the Allies." His death presented a problem: "even acknowledging the shooting would compromise the center's secrecy."

His body was transferred to Fort Meade for burial in the POW cemetery.

"Thereafter, all official records, including the formal response in November 1944 to German inquiries, testified to Henke's death at Fort Meade. Henke's internment there furthered the deception."

Laurel connection

Laurel resident Mikolaj (Mike) Kogut's war experience proved fascinating and serendipitous. Kogut died in 2008, but his wife, Violette, still lives in their home in West Laurel.

Kogut, born in Ukraine, was captured by the Nazis when he was 15 and sent to a work camp. After being processed, Kogut was waiting in a packed railroad cattle car that was pointing west, toward the Black Forest where he was being sent. Everyone knew that was the direction you wanted to go because trains heading east, to Russia, were filled with people no one would ever see again. As Kogut's train pulled out, he looked at the train pointing east and caught a glimpse of the rest of his family in that cattle car. He never saw them again.

Kogut was put to work on a farm in the Black Forest. The farmer was in the German Army so Kogut never met him. The farmer's wife was very kind to Kogut and he never forgot it.

After the war, Kogut came to the United States and went to work for the Department of Defense, eventually at Fort Meade. Kogut and his wife settled in Laurel in 1971, and both their children are Laurel High School graduates.

On a trip to France, Kogut told Violette he wanted to go see the farm in the Black Forest. They drove to it and met the farmer, who still lived there. His wife had died, but the farmer recognized Kogut's name because his wife talked about him so much over the years. The farmer told Mike and Violette Kogut all about his wartime experiences and revealed that he had spent a few years as a captured POW — at Fort Meade.

German POW asks: 'Why did America give their young men for us?'

German World War II veteran Paul Golz, 94, reflects on his time fighting at Normandy while at home in Pleiserhohn, Germany, on April 23, 2019. In June 1944, Golz was a 19-year-old private when he was captured by the Americans three days after D-Day. Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes BUY

KOENIGSWINTER, Germany &ndash Paul Golz was a 19-year-old German private when he was captured by the Americans in a Normandy field, three days after the D-Day invasion.

Golz says it was a stroke of luck that changed the trajectory of his life.

Being a prisoner of war in America for two years beat being a soldier in Germany, where Golz had avoided the hellish eastern front and refused to join the Waffen-SS, which after World War II was deemed a criminal organization for its atrocities.

As a POW in America, Golz tasted his first Coca-Cola, met comedian Red Skelton, watched Mickey Mouse at the cinema and heard jazz music for the first time. Along the way, he learned English, a skill that led him to a long career with the German foreign service.

The invasion ultimately changed his life for the better, Golz said. &ldquoOtherwise I was a poor farmer&rsquos boy. I have seen another life. I&rsquove always had a good guardian angel all of my life.&rdquo

Golz returned to Normandy for the first time since the war in 2014 and hopes to go back for the 75th anniversary of the invasion that turned the tide of WWII and helped the Allies win.

Now 94 with white hair and piercing blue eyes, Golz lately has been asked to tell his war story more often. War veterans are dying off quickly and Golz is an eyewitness to the historic battle from the other side of the shores of Normandy.

Golz almost didn&rsquot make it to Normandy in June 1944. An ammunition runner in the German Wehrmacht, Golz&rsquos unit was sent to Russia to fight in January 1944. But Golz got very sick, sidelining until the end of March.

&ldquoEveryone was dead,&rdquo Golz said, of the 50 soldiers in his company sent to fight in Russia. &ldquoMy guardian angel had given me diphtheria and scarlet fever.&rdquo

On April 4, 1944, Golz&rsquos 19th birthday, he was sent to Baumholder and assigned to a machine gun team with the 91st Air Infantry Division.

From there, they walked more than 500 miles to help defend the French harbor of Saint-Nazaire. When the Allies never came there, Golz&rsquos team was ordered to Normandy. At Cherbourg&rsquos heights, Golz helped place &ldquoRommel asparagus&rdquo logs driven into the ground and connected with barbed wire to snare Allied gliders and paratroopers.

The Americans have landed

On the morning of the invasion, Golz was near Carentan, where at about 6 a.m., he went to a local farmer for milk.

&ldquoHe knew me,&rdquo Golz said of the French farmer. &ldquoEvery morning I went to him to get milk.&rdquo

But the farmer said, &ldquo&rsquoHey, listen, get out, get out! The Americans have landed already with tanks,&rsquo&rdquo Golz said. &ldquoHe heard it on the radio.&rdquo

Golz&rsquos team was sent to the fight, toward Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first village in Normandy liberated by the Allies.

Along the way, Golz remembers &ldquolooking for chocolate or something to eat. We were hungry and thirsty.&rdquo

They saw gliders and parachutes strewn in the meadows, remnants of the airborne assault on Normandy that had begun the night before the invasion.

While passing through hedges, he encountered his first American, a paratrooper waving his rifle with a white sock over it in surrender. &ldquoHe was trembling with fear,&rdquo Golz said.

&ldquoI won&rsquot do you any harm,&rdquo Golz said calmly, in German.

The paratrooper offered him water from his canteen, but Golz remained wary of what might be inside. &ldquoFirst, I had him drink it,&rdquo he said.

Paul Golz as a young German soldier. the 94-year-old World War II veteran hopes to return to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the historic D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Golz was captured three days after the invasion and held as a prisoner of war in America for two years.
Paul Golz as a young German soldier. the 94-year-old World War II veteran hopes to return to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the historic D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Golz was captured three days after the invasion and held as a prisoner of war in America for two years.

Hands up

Later, Golz and a fellow soldier named Schneider saw another paratrooper down in a field. This time, the American was dead. Schneider rifled through the dead man&rsquos pockets and pulled out a wallet. Inside was a photo of a woman. Schneider then tried to pry a gold ring off the American&rsquos finger but could not get it off.

He said he was going to cut the finger off. Golz told him, &ldquo&lsquoIf you cut the finger, I blow you away.&rsquo&rdquo

As they continued, Golz and his fellow soldiers spent more time hunkered down in ditches than on the road because of constant air attacks. U.S. warplanes made strafing runs so low to the ground that Golz could see pilots&rsquo faces.

But he wasn&rsquot scared, he said. &ldquoIt was a new situation for us. What shall happen now?&rdquo At such a young age, he said, one doesn&rsquot think about dying.

Three days after the invasion, Golz and his team of four were supposed to cover his company&rsquos withdrawal. After firing at a column of American trucks, the Germans hid in old foxholes. Golz looked up to see their only escape route at the pasture entrance blocked by an American Sherman tank.

&ldquo&lsquoHey, boys, come on. Hands up,&rsquo&rdquo the Americans shouted, as they came into the pasture.

The Americans searched the prisoners and found the wallet Schneider took. A soldier hit Schneider with the butt of his rifle, Golz said.

&ldquoIf he (the American soldier) had found the finger, he (Schneider) probably would have been shot, so I was his guardian angel for him,&rdquo Golz said.

A first meal and on to America

After being marshaled up by the Americans, Golz walked by scores of wounded Germans and their desperate cries of &ldquocomrade, help me.&rdquo

&ldquoSo much for a hero&rsquos death,&rdquo Golz remembers thinking at the time.

They walked several hours to Utah Beach, where thousands of ships and landing boats dotted the coastline, and then boarded a British transport ship. After days of no food and water, Golz and his fellow prisoners were treated to a &ldquofirst meal&rdquo in the ship&rsquos mess of sausage, mashed potatoes, white bread and a cup of coffee.

It did little to curb their hunger.

The prisoners queued a second and third time. Finally, the mess officer yelled: &ldquoWhat the hell is going on here? We only have 800 German prisoners on board and 8,000 have eaten!&rdquo

From England, Golz traveled by train to Scotland, and then, along with about 2,000 German POWs, by the Queen Mary liner to America.

Paul Golz pictured as a boy with his family. Golz says fighting in World War II and his subsequent capture by the Americans at Normandy changed the course of his life. The son of a poor farmer, Golz learned English and went on to work in the German foreign service.
Paul Golz pictured as a boy with his family. Golz says fighting in World War II and his subsequent capture by the Americans at Normandy changed the course of his life. The son of a poor farmer, Golz learned English and went on to work in the German foreign service.

Confronting the past, looking ahead

Golz spent two years at Camp Patrick Henry, where he had &ldquoa good time&rdquo as a POW in Newport News, Va.

He worked in the kitchen and grew vegetables in the garden. He learned how to bowl, listened radio shows, mowed the lawn, played football and made friends with Americans.

But Golz and the other Germans were also confronted with reality of Nazi crimes against humanity when the camp showed the movie &ldquoFactories of Death&rdquo about the concentration camps.

Golz said that after the movie was shown to the prisoners, they were punished and given only bread and water for a week.

Golz was sent to Scotland to rebuild roads in 1946 and returned to Germany the next year as a free man. It was difficult to find work, but the English he learned helped him when he applied for a job with the German foreign office. Over the years, he was stationed in Madagascar, Nigeria and Togo, but never made it back to the United States.

Now, 75 years after D-Day, Golz lives in Pleiserhohn, a rural district of Koenigswinter, about 12 miles east of the former West Germany&rsquos capital city of Bonn. Golz briefly reflected on the upcoming anniversary of D-Day.

&ldquoSo many died on 6th of June. Why did America give their young men for us?&rdquo Golz asked. From his point of view, America&rsquos victory freed Germany from the Nazi regime.

But Golz is not a man who lives in his past. He follows political news on TV and thinks about the world we are living in now. To &ldquokeep peace and democracy&rdquo is important, he said.

&ldquoNo one can do anything alone in the world anymore. We need each other.&rdquo

The Battle

The Ardennes. More than 4,000 square miles of hills and ridges, thickly forested, dissected by streams and rivers, its few roads punctuated by chokepoints. One of Western Europe’s ancient wildernesses.

Nothing was expected here. Troy Middleton’s US VIII Corps was spread thin along 80 miles of front. Two of his divisions, 99th and 106th, had yet to face battle. The other two, 4th and 28th, had been battered in recent fighting in the Hürtgen Forest they had been moved to the Ardennes sector for rest and refit. The men were off guard, sleeping, playing cards, getting ready for Christmas.

At 5.30 in the morning on 16 December, well before dawn, the German guns opened fire, 1,900 of them. The GIs stumbled from sleeping bags to foxholes and cowered amid the blizzard of exploding hot metal.

An hour and a half later, as the firing ended, the trees were illuminated by an eerie overhead light that cast sinister shadows across the forest. The Germans were bouncing searchlights off the clouds to guide the advance of their infantry.

Some forward units, surprised and cut off, fought back bravely, but only briefly, such was the massive weight of the attack, with some 200,000 German infantry in motion.

Soon the panzers were on the move. Coming through the forest, they could be heard before they were seen, a roar of engine power and a screeching and clanking of metal tracks growing louder in the distance: a steamroller of modern armour, more than 600 tanks, including 68-ton King Tigers, with frontal armour 4 inches thick and an 88mm cannon in the turret, supported by more than 700 tank destroyers and assault guns.

It was the last great charge of the Third Reich, and it was delivered with such power that it shattered the front of US VIII Corps.

The German attack

Sepp Dietrich’s Sixth SS Panzer Army was deployed on the right. Its mission was to punch straight through the northern Ardennes, cross the Meuse, break out into the open country beyond, and head northwest for Antwerp.

Hasso von Manteuffel’s Fifth Panzer Army formed the German left. Its mission was to guard the outer, western flank of the German thrust, protecting Dietrich’s Sixth as it swung around in its drive to the sea.

Timing was critical. A window of foggy weather offered the Germans an opportunity to drive their armour forwards in daylight hours without the risk of aerial attack. A rapid advance would limit the numbers of Allied units that could be redeployed to plug gaps and organise counter-attacks.

But against the advantages of surprise and stealth were placed the disadvantages of lack of reconnaissance, planning, and preparation. To maintain secrecy, few German commanders had been informed of their mission until the last minute: too late to study the problem and survey the ground. And if the weather grounded Allied aircraft, it also disrupted German observation and coordination.

Still, below senior rank, among junior officers and many rank-and-file soldiers, confidence was high. The offensive was conducted with élan and imagination.

English-speaking commandos wearing US combat jackets and driving captured US jeeps were infiltrated behind enemy lines to turn sign-posts, cut telephone wires, hang red ribbons to suggest roads were mined, and in other ways create confusion in the rear. Some taken captive told their interrogators of plans to assassinate Allied commanders Eisenhower, in consequence, ended up a virtual prisoner of his own security guards.

Bradley later reported on the chaos caused by Otto Skorzeny’s commandos:

A half million GIs played cat and mouse with each other each time they met on the road. Neither rank nor credentials nor protests spared the traveller an inquisition at each intersection he passed. Three times I was ordered to prove my identity by cautious GIs.

More effective, though, were Manteuffel’s front-line ‘storm battalions’. He had won Hitler’s personal approval for these, as he explained after the war:

I proposed to form one storm battalion from each infantry division, composed of the most expert officers and men. (I picked the officers myself.) These storm battalions were to advance in the dark at 5.30, without any covering artillery fire, and penetrate between the Americans’ forward defence posts. They would avoid fighting if possible until they had penetrated deep. Searchlights, provided by the flak units, were to light the way for the storm troops’ advance by projecting their beams onto the clouds, to reflect downwards. I had been much impressed by a demonstration of this kind which I had seen shortly beforehand, and felt that it would be the key to a quick penetration before daylight.

Dietrich’s attack

Dietrich’s army made little headway on the far right, where his 1st SS Panzer Corps was held up by the dogged resistance of US 99th Division, backed by elements of US 2nd Division. The fierce defence of the town of Monschau anchored this part of the American line.

The southern arm of Dietrich’s attack burst through, however, achieving a 30-mile advance in two days. In the vanguard was Joachim Peiper’s 1st SS Panzer Regiment, which had most of the 1st SS Panzer Division’s 100 or so tanks, including some of the massive King Tigers.

Peiper was a ruthless 34-year-old Nazi fanatic. When his advance was stalled by a blown bridge, he redirected his tanks through an uncleared minefield, accepting the loss of half a dozen tanks so as not to lose time. He also had several batches of American prisoners murdered by machine-gun fire.

Narrow defiles, blown bridges, and hastily improvised American roadblocks, including in one place a barrier of burning fuel, caused Peiper to divert, still well short of the vital Meuse bridge which it was vital for him to take.

Eisenhower’s initial response – ordering Bradley to reinforce Middleton’s VIII Corps – was already bearing fruit. Patton had been told to send his 10th Armoured from the south, while 7th Armoured was dispatched from army reserve in the north. Tanks and infantry of the latter came into action on the 18th, helping to hem in Dietrich’s spearheads, and also to reinforce the garrison of the key road-centre of St Vith immediately to the south.

This is an extract from a 14-page special feature on the Battle of the Bulge, published in the October 2019 issue of Military History Matters.

The Ardennes Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Bulge, was Hitler’s last push against the Allies at the end of the Second World War. Our special this issue anticipates the 75th anniversary of the Offensive. In the first of his features, MHM Editor Neil Faulkner assesses the planning of the Offensive. In his second, he analyses the execution of the plan, discussing how it accelerated the bitter end of one of history’s most brutal regimes.

Interested in receiving the latest cutting-edge research and detailed analysis from world-renowned historians? Click here to find out more about subscribing to the magazine.

German POWs taken on Fifth Army Front, 1944 - History

Found in the Camera
taken from a German
soldier in Italy

This photo of a German sitting on a bench was mailed home to his wife with a caption under the photo which reads :
"Keep this. I will tell you about this Jerry some day. He can't talk now."
After the war, Dad placed the photo in his scrap book and made some additional comments next to the photo:
"This German was shot 2 times in stomach. While I was trying to find some more bandages in his field pack I found this nice camera. He gave it to me. This was in the camera. All these pictures was taken with this camera. Near Formia, Italy, May 15, 1944. He died."
(see my comments below)

Another photo of 2 German soliders and a woman taking a stroll. The soldier on the right appears to have a corporal's rank but it could be a specialty badge, such as radio operator.

A German sergeant converses with a private outside of a
Supply Distribution building.

Comments about the Photos
The soldiers in these photos are wearing Army uniforms(as opposed to other services). It appears to me that the same blond soldier is in all three photos, however, since the blond in one photo is wearing corporal's chevron rank that would suggest two different soldiers. The soldier wearing the visor cap is a Non-Commissioned Officer (i.e., sergeant) as distinguished by his collar and epaulets edged in white.

Dad told a story about a sniper that shot at them and killed an artillerymen (or was it an infantryman). He said that when the sniper was captured, someone shot the German in the stomach out of retaliation. I don't know if that story relates to the same German that Dad stated "gave me the camera" or not---he never went into alot of detail about this. Also, Dad says he obtained the camera at Formia on May 15, 1944. This is not necessarily where the photos were taken.

Among the items that Dad brought home from the war was a German Police helmet, two pistols*, a Nazi banner, and a pair of German field binoculars (not really strong enough for artillery observation). I always presumed that these items came from the same German who gave him the camera. The German in the photo seems to be wearing a coat with a darker collar --some Police units wore black or dark green collars. So, it is possible that the helmet and the binoculars came from the same German that the camera did.
See photo of helmet, below.

Also, a sniper would most likely have a pair of binoculars. But I wouldn't think a military Police would be used as a sniper(Dad could have been using term "sniper" very loosely). Its all a big puzzle. Most GI's learn quickly to discard extra equipment that will slow you down. Since there was another 12 months of combat, it would be hard to keep up with all this extra, useless equipment.

* I recall that Dad said the pistols he brought home were picked up the last few days of the war. The pistols he brought back were a 9mm Luger (all matching serial numbers) and a civilian Walther 9mm (with bottom clip release). However, I found his notes he wrote in the margins of the US Army history book that he picked up the Luger in May of 1944.

The German Camera

Zeiss Ikon bellows camera
NOVAR-ANASTIGMAT Lens, 1:4.5 , F 7.5 cm
. .
Lens folds into body and view-finder folds down.

Marked " Zeiss Ikon Film B2 * 6*9" which means it uses metric film size 6 cm x 9 cm.
6 cm equates to 2-3/8 inch which is about equivalent to 2 X 2 inch format film.
9 cm equates to about 3.5 inches.
The film is about the same as used in the old Kodak Brownie Box camera.
Manual film advance and rewind on top of camer.

Death Card - An interesting piece of history from the Italian front. The "Death Card" was printed in memory of a soldier killed in combat. This link has examples for a variety of German soldiers a couple were in the artillery and one was a mountain troop and the other was a member of the Luftwaffe infantry troops. See Death Cards.

German helmet - The Photo below is yours truly wearing the Police helmet and rows and rows of my Dad's ribbons and medals. Behind my tent, I was flying the Nazi flag that he also brought home. It is actually a banner printed on one side. "Playing Army" was really bid deal for us back then. We thought it was cool to play a dramatic death scene wearing this helmet. Most of the wear on the helmet is a result of this play-acting and not real combat. Photo was taken about 1957. (No, that is NOT a real rifle.)

quoted from "Battle Babies: 99th Division", photo caption on page 271.

My Dad said the first thing the Germans did when they surrendered was to throw away their steel helmet. They may not have done that literally, as some would attach the helmet to their belt. Many of the Photos of POW show them wearing their M-43 caps.

Photo at Right: German POWs under escort by the 85th Infantry Division in the last days of the war. All the Germans are wearing their caps. Only the GI's are wearing helmets.

Watch the video: Tyskerne inntar Oslo (August 2022).