For the attention of the Swiss Commission, acting as Protecting Power.
Report of a Forced March made by Occupants of Stalag Luft 7, Germany
On January 17th, 1945, at approximately 11 am we received notice of one hour in which to pack our kit and be ready to leave the Camp by marching. At the same time we were informed by Ober Feldwebel Frank that for every one man who fell out of the column on the march, five men would be shot. This order was never given in writing.
The start was postponed until 3.30 am on January 19th. During the interval 68 sick men were evacuated to the civilian Ilag at Kreuzberg. We believe they were later taken to Stalag 344, at Lamsdorf.
Each man was issued with two-and-a-half days marching rations before leaving. When the march began at 3.30 am on January 19th, no transport was supplied for any sick who might have fallen out on the march and the only medical equipment carried was that carried by the Medical Officer and three Sanitators on their backs.
Details of March
January 19th: Left Bankau and marched to Winterveldt, a distance of 28 Kms. This was done under extremely trying weather conditions and severe cold. The only accommodation at Winterveldt was small barns.
January 20th: Marched from Winterveldt to Karlsruhe arriving at 10 am. We set off at 5 am and marched a distance of 12 kms. At Karlsruhe we were housed in an abandoned brick factory. Here for the first time we were provided with two field kitchens with which to cook for 1550 men. Each field kitchen was actually capable of cooking sufficient food for 200 men. The Medical Officer was also provided with a horse and cart for the transport of the sick. The cart was big enough to hold 6 sitting cases. Coffee was provided and after a rest period of 11 hours we were again ordered to move. The Camp Leader and the Medical Officer protested against further marching until the men were adequately fed and rested. We were told by the German Abwehr Officer that it was an order and must be complied with. The same night we left Karlsruhe and marched to Schönfeld, arriving at 9 am on January 21st, covering a distance of 42 kms. The conditions during the night were extreme, the temperature being -33 degrees Centigrade. The Medical Officers wagon was filled after the first five kilometres and from onwards, men were being picked up at the roadsides in a collapsed and frozen state and it was only by sheer willpower that they were able to finish the march. After crossing the river Oder, a distance of 34 kms, we were told that we would be accommodated and that no move would be made for two days.
January 21st: At Schönfeld we were accommodated in the cowsheds and barns of a farm. A room was provided for the sick at Lossen. Rations issued were about 100 gms. of biscuits per man and half a cup of coffee.
January 22nd: At 3 am. orders were given by the Germans to prepare to march off at once. It was dark and there was some delay in getting the men out from their sleeping quarters because they could not find their baggage. The German guards thereupon marched into the quarters and discharged their firearms. The column was marching again by 5 am: Twenty-three men, it was ascertained at this stage, were lost and their whereabouts are unknown. They may have been left behind asleep, or they may have escaped. Also, thirty-one men were evacuated (we believe) to Lamsdorf, but nothing further has been heard of them. We marched to Jenkwitz, a distance of 34 kms. and were housed at a farm in barns. Here we were issued with a total of 114 kgs. of fat, 46 tins of meat, barley, peas, and three quarters of a pig. Soup was issued, the ration being about a quarter of a litre per man. No bread was issued.
January 23rd: Left Jenkwitz at 6 am and marched 20 kms. to Wanzen.
January 24th: We were rested the day at Wanzen, sleeping in barns. The revier was in a cowshed. 31 sick were evacuated to Sagan. 400 loaves of bread were issued.
January 25th: Left Wanzen at 4 am for Keidersdorf. Covered 30 kms.
January 26th: Spent the day at Keidersdorf. Issued with 600 loaves of bread to last for two days.
January 27th: Left Keidersdorf and marched 19 kms. to Pfaffendorff, where we arrived at night.
January 28th: Left Pfaffendorff for Standorf at 5 am and marched a distance of 21 kms. Issued with 24 cartons of Knackerbrot, 150 kgs. margarine and 50 kgs. sugar. 22 sick were evacuated to Scheidnitz and eventually arrived at Sagan.
January 29th: Left Standorf at 6 pm and marched to Peterwitz a distance of 22 kms. We arrived at 4 am the following day. This march was carried out in darkness under extreme conditions, with a blizzard blowing the whole time. The men arrived at Peterwitz in an utterly exhausted condition. Before leaving Stansdorf we were promised that we would have to march no further as transport would be supplied from Peterwitz. 104 kgs. of meat were issued, 1 sack of salt, 25 kgs. of coffee and 100 kgs. of barley.
January 30th: At Peterwitz 30 men from Stalag 344, who had been left without guards, joined our column. 296 loaves of bread were issued, 50 kgs. oats, and 35.5 kgs. of margarine.
January 31st: We spent the day at Peterwitz. We were told that we would have to march to Goldberg before we got transport. 300 kgs, of oats were issued, 50 kgs. of coffee and 40 kgs. of margarine.
February 1st: We marched from Peterwitz to Prausnitz, a distance of 12 kms. We remained at Prausnitz from February 1st - 5th. On February 1st we were issued with 680 loaves of bread and 37.5 kgs. of margarine. On February 3rd we were issued with 112.5 kgs. of margarine, 250 loaves, 100 kgs. sugar, 200 kgs. flour and 150 kgs barley. On February 4th the issue was 150 loaves. At night on February 4th the Commandant (Oberst Leutnant Behr) visited the farm and read out an order from OKW to the effect that five men were to be released and would be liberated at the first opportunity. The purpose of this we were unable to understand.
February 5th: Before leaving we were issued with 500 loaves of bread, 95 kgs. of margarine and 530 tins of meat. We were marched from Prausnitz to Goldberg, a distance of 8 kms. On arrival at Goldberg we were put into cattle trucks, an average of 55 men to each truck. By this time there were numerous cases of dysentery and facilities for men to attend to personal hygiene were inadequate. The majority had no water on the train journey for two days. When the men were allowed out of the trucks to relieve themselves, numerous of the guards ordered them back inside again and we had to be continually getting permission for the men to be allowed out. We were on the train from the morning of February 8th. Before commencing this journey, we were issued with sufficient rations for two days. The total distance marched at 240 kms.
As a result of this march and the deplorable conditions, the morale of the men is extremely low. They are suffering from an extreme degree of malnutrition, and at present, at outbreak of dysentery. There are numerous cases of frost bite and other minor ailments. They are quite unfit for any further movement. Food and better conditions are urgently required. We left Bankau with no Red Cross supplies and throughout the march all the rations were short issued, the most outstanding being bread, which amounts to 2,924 loaves.
February 15th, 1945.
D.C. Howatson, R.A.M.C.,
Camp Medical Officer.
Peter A. Thomson, Pilot Officer, R.A.A.F.,