Letter from Red Cross, Geneva, to Red Cross, US
Date received: November 4, 1944
Cablegram received from: Intercroixrouge Geneva, Switzerland
1349 Stalag XIB
Visited November 9th American representative Bedner Frank Sergeant 118956 out of 44,500 prisoners, 90 Americans of whom 2 officers 32 noncommissioned officers. Constant flow new arrivals Dutch Front majority paratroopers many wounded. Overcrowding alarming. 3 Decker beds 1 blanket. Straw mattresses promised. Stock clothing exhausted men recently arrived must be completely reequipped. Prisoners prepare food reglementary rations insufficient individual preparation of food possible but fuel scarce. Marked diminution Red Cross shipments new shipments impatiently awaited nothing has been received for 4 months. Sanitary installations temporarily insufficient. 500 wounded recently arrived from front are in infirmary an Lazarett possibilities medical care limited reserves medical dressings drugs exhausted need is urgent. Regular religious services. Conditions of work increasingly hard 72 hours weekly without increase of food rations frequent bombing stocks destroyed but victims few. Stricter discipline.
Red Cross Report, Stalag XIB, 9th November 1944
44,516 Prisoners of War. Another 200 expected that day. Situation and accommodation very critical, very bad conditions. American and Canadians received their parcels - not the British. Geneva Convention not respected. No forks or spoons - asked for wood to carve spoons. Couldn't be seen by doctors at night. British not given overalls. 50 bandages supplied each week. No crutches supplied for patients to walk, including amputees. Lack of transport facilities prevents transfer to hospital. Prisoners taken away for interrogation - removed from fellow prisoners - often led to suicide.
Outward Telegram from Foreign Office to Berne 18/1/1945
Ref: Berne's telegram of 16/1 reporting conditions of Stalag XIB. "Please ask Swiss to enter strong protest against almost entire lack of sanitary arrangements, fuel, blankets and sleeping accommodation. Lack of medical facilities, material and conditions of travel of wounded call for special protest as they appear to be causing fatal results in cases of those severely wounded. Please ask Swiss government to press for immediate transfer of sick and wounded to hospital where they can be adequately treated and for immediate general action to secure speedy improvement in conditions."
Red Cross Report, Stalag XIB Camp Hospital, 9th November 1944
Visited by Mr. Kleiner and Dr. Thudichum, on November 9, 1944.
Major (Med.) MOEGLICH, Alfred.
British head doctors: SMITH, Peter, Major, captured on September 20, 1944, in Holland, No.01675. WELLS, Charles Captain captured on September 20, 1944, in Holland, No.01161.
Numbers: 610 patients, among them: 342 British, 26 Americans.
Sanitary personnel: British: 4 doctors, 35 members of the sanitary personnel.
Location and quarters: We noticed no change in the buildings since the last visit. Now most of the sick and wounded are British air-borne troops coming from Holland. Three barracks and approximately 500 beds in all were put at their disposal (patients and sanitary personnel included) which represents nearly half the quarters.
Food: The German rations are according to regulations and can be checked by the doctors and cooks. Due to unsatisfactory distribution of Red Cross food, the rations are considered inadequate, especially by the British, who are used to more substantial food.
Collective shipments: Please refer to report regarding Stalag XIB visited on the same day and which transmits the collective shipments intended for the hospital.
Recreational and intellectual and spiritual needs: Everything depends on the Stalag in this respect. No special wishes are expressed.
Clothing: Please refer to report regarding Stalag XIB as well as to the interview with the British head doctor, Major Smith, which dealt principally with the condition of the British.
Hygiene: There are no bed-bugs in the hospital. The latrines need to be repaired. The barracks in which the seriously wounded British are hospitalized have some drawbacks as the patients catch cold easily by going to the latrines. Some barracks have no running water.
Medical, surgical, etc, service and installations: The hospital was recently provided with modern X-ray equipment. Among the doctor prisoners qualified specialists perform irreproachable work in the X-ray laboratories. The X-ray apparatus, which was already mentioned in the preceding report, belongs to the French Red Cross; a Red Cross truck is at its disposal and it will soon be used for the X-ray examination of prisoners of all nationalities in the various labor detachments.
During the preliminary interview, the German Major (Med.) had already reported the fact that the British head doctor considered the facilities for the operation of seriously wounded as insufficient. The Major (Med.) maintains that this is not the case and he discounts this complaint. The Delegates were able to note during this visit that the operating room and the instruments are better than in the average of the other hospitals which they have visited.
The doctors of other nationalities who have been in the camp for a long time have given up trying to obtain improvement in this field, as they know the present possibilities in Germany. It is however very natural and understandable that Major Smith, who has been a prisoner for only two months, should find that the rather limited equipment is defective. We must also add that when we said in the preceding report that the hospital facilities were good on the whole we did not have to take into account of seriously wounded men from the front, as is the case at present. Moreover the more important operations take place in a hospital of the region. An average of 80 operations a month are performed at present in the hospital. (hernias, appendicitis and other operations).
The Delegates wished to see if the questions which were the subjects of complaints at the time of the last visit had been settled as was promised; they were able to note among other things that the extra doctors were sent to the detachments.
Designation of prisoners unfit for service: The German authorities will study this question. No more difficulties of this kind were reported. Resumption of work 5 weeks after a hernia operation. A certain improvement has been obtained in this respect. Prisoner SPELLMAN, Fred No.138719 as well as Private CRISP (his number was not ascertained) left the camp on November 1, as tubercular with other tuberculars and 17 amputated cases. They were sent to a sanitorium.
Sixteen British died during the last month.
Dressing materials of all kinds are lacking, above all; gauze, cotton, cellulose bandages, leukoplast, mastisol and tincture of iodine for the care of seriously wounded men. The doctor, who is the British spokesman, requests an emergency shipment of penicillin in ampules for the many seriously wounded men coming from Holland. The list of articles which the British head doctor urgently needs was sent to Geneva immediately.
Correspondence: The forms are distributed regularly.
Pay and Work: The pay is distributed in accordance with the official regulations. The camp money is withheld and the prisoners are entitled to have 60 Rm in cash on hand.
Canteen: There is none.
Interview with the prisoners' head doctor: All the questions mentioned in this report were studied in details. Interview with Major Smith (British head doctor):
The light is turned off at 7.30 p.m. in the barracks, except in barrack No.31 where the seriously wounded are hospitalized.
The electric flash-lights that the prisoners had brought with them were confiscated. There are oil storm lanterns but there is no oil. Major Smith wishes the electric current to be on during the night in these barracks for it is not only No.31 that has seriously wounded men which have to undergo operations during the night, as well.
The British patients, as those of other nationalities, have only one blanket, except 150 of them. At the time of their arrival at the hospital all the British received 2 or 3 blankets, some of which were distributed to them by the Dutch civilian population upon their landing; then they were confiscated upon their entry into the hospital and only one blanket was left to each man. Major Smith requests 2 or 3 blankets, especially in view of the fact that the German Blankets are poor in quality and do not afford sufficient protection from the cold.
No clothes were obtained for three weeks from the German authorities; although at present most of the men have the necessary uniforms, there is such a shortage of them that the prisoners cannot be given new ones upon leaving the hospital.
The sanitary personnel put at the disposal of the British doctor is not sufficient in number to treat 400 wounded. Thirty-five members of the British sanitary personnel are at present attached to the hospital. Twenty men from the Stalag come during the day from 8.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. The latter, however, are assigned to other duties, such as work in the kitchen, cutting wood, cleaning the barracks, etc. Major SMITH requests 15 more members of the sanitary personnel who would live at the hospital, where there is sufficient room for them.
The facilities for sterilizing the instruments are inadequate.
Running water ought to be installed in the dressing rooms of 3 barracks (Nos. 26, 27, and 31).
An electric outlet is requested in the dressing room of barrack No.26.
A second British cook is necessary for preparing the food from the collective shipments as well as for cooking in general. The hospital has 200 "British invalid food parcels" at present. There are no longer any reserves at the hospital itself, so that to provide for the arrival of the new British wounded which have been announced, a collective shipment of food to the hospital is most urgent. Please refer to the report on Stalag XIB.
The identity card of the British Captain (med.) HUDLESTON was taken from him in spite of the promise made to return it, it has not been given back to him. In this respect, the Delegates have noticed everywhere during their last trips, that the military identity papers of the prisoners, as well as of the members of the sanitary personnel were drawn without a receipt being given to them.
At the time of the arrival of the first contingent, one of the doctors sent a request to Geneva through the British spokesman for medicines for the hospital without having received a reply as yet.
Interview with the German authorities:
Heating: It was promised that everything would be done so that the barracks could be heated sufficiently. The hospital will be favored in this respect. The main difficulty lies in the means of transportation.
Blankets: Each man has a German blanket. A second blanket, taken from German supplies, has already been distributed to 150 occupants of the hospital and it is impossible to make new distributions. The heating will be improved to make up for it. Some of the blankets taken from the British prisoners were used in the hospital and in the infirmary; the remainder was sent back with the ambulance train or distributed in another hospital.
Improvement of the operating equipment: This proposal was rejected as the installations are sufficient for an able surgeon; the excellent work performed by the surgeons of other nationalities is sufficient proof of this fact.
Night lighting of all the barracks quartering the British: it is impossible to grant this request in view of the fact that, with the exception of one barrack, all the electric lines are connected with the Stalag network. They will try to remedy this defect by installing another line if materials cane be obtained. The flash-lights cannot be left to the prisoners for security ("Abwehr") reasons.
The increase of British sanitary personnel was refused. The question will be studied further, although 35 members of the sanitary personnel plus 15 day auxiliaries seem sufficient. The installation of running water in the dressing rooms of barracks Nos. 26, 27 and 31 has been provided for; that of an electric outlet will be studied.
It was promised that the British would have a second cook if it was possible.
Circulation of the X-ray apparatus in the Stalag district: everything is ready and the trips will begin very shortly. Transmission of medical certificates to the spokesman and doctors of the Companies. It is impossible to grant the request of the doctor. The medical certificates will only be transmitted "Arbeits-Einsatz" (Labor Department).
The German authorities expect new arrivals of wounded from the Dutch front and point out to the Delegates that they are encountering great difficulties and are taking medicines and dressings of primary necessity from German stocks.
Conclusion: On the whole, this hospital seems good, although, due to the hospitalization of seriously wounded men and the future arrival of new comers, the installations no longer meet the requirements. The German authorities should also be able to improve its supply of help.
Letter to the US Secretary of State from the Special War Problems Division
Secretary of State,
Dated January 4, 1945
AMERICAN INTERESTS GERMANY POWS
Department's 4243, December 16.
Swiss note December 29 states Swiss inspector December 9 visited STALAG XIB which used since September as transit camp for American POWS captured Western Front. Strength on date visit 16 Officers, 90 NONCOMS, 591 Privates.
Barracks overcrowded, those for NONCOMS and Privates badly installed, general impression unsatisfactory. Camp management stated improvements would be made earliest possible perhaps before Christmas. Visit also made camp hospital where 59 POWS under care British doctors.
Red Cross Report, Stalag XIB, 10th February 1945
Visited on February 10th. by M.R. Bovey.
British Camp Leader - R.S.M. Reuben WICKHAM, No.139106
Strength - 49,138 prisoners of which -
4,626 British including 18 officers, 188 N.C.O. 8 doctors, 2 chaplains..... 1639 in camp
466 Americans including 14 officers, 179 N.C.O. .... 320 in camp
Opening remarks - On account of its overcrowding and all roads turned into sloughs, the camp is not good. The Delegate did not, however, stress the need for changes and improvements, as the Commandant had just been appointed and could not be held responsible for the state of the camp he had just taken in charge. This officer made an excellent impression and the Delegate feels sure that he will affect all possible improvements of his own accord. He has a sympathetic personality and Camp Leaders will be listened to and assisted by him whenever they bring suggestions which are consistent with the rulings received by the Commandant from higher spheres and to which he is obliged to conform.
Accommodation - This problem is complicated by the overcrowding of the camp and will become still more acute on the arrival of the prisoners evacuated from the East.
Medical service - The flow of patients and the continual arrival of fresh prisoners (this being a transit camp for British and Americans) makes housing a problem. The Commandant promised to study the question to find a solution within practical limits. He also promised that the quantities of wood and coal issued to the infirmary would not be reduced. He will also see if it is technically possible to have the electric light in the infirmary branched to another circuit to have the current over a longer period; this would be of great assistance for the denture workshop where work has often to be interrupted through lack of current.
The British Camp Leader particularly requested the Delegate to stress the fact that the Geneva Convention is not respected as regards food supplies.
Another important point is the unfortunate situation of the unfit for service who do not receive proper attention and who cannot be repatriated.
Final Interview - As already stated, the Delegate did not raise all points to be discussed; the new Commandant should be given time to prove his value.
1. Douches - The organisation of regular shower baths is difficult on account of the overcrowding of the camp; further, the bath houses are used as delousing centres.
Reply - It was promised that the Camp Leader should be informed whenever the bath houses are not in use and the men will thus have access to the shower baths.
2. Washing of hospital linen -
Reply - The question will be studied of washing the patients' linen together with the sheets and other hospital linen.
3. Regular visits to Stalag XIB by a British doctor (a specialist attached to the neighbouring camp - Stalag 357)
Reply - The Senior German Medical Officer opposed the suggestion but he will have patients who are in need of treatment by a specialist transferred to Stalag 357. The Commandant promised to again consider the matter.
4. Safe custody of collective consignments in storerooms - The Delegate requested that a stricter watch should be kept, some thefts have occurred.
Reply - Sentries on guard at the storerooms will in future be double.