AIR RAID ON THE PRISONERS OF WAR CAMP

 

Dated 18th May, 1944.

Stalag 315 Epinal (France)

 

To the Swiss Legation,

Acting as Protecting Power,

        G o e r n o  b/Friesack, (Germany)

 

Sir,

 

Perhaps you are aware of the disastrous bombardment which the poor and fateless Indian prisoners of war have experience on Thursday, the 11th May, 1944, at 15.30 hours. I wish to let you know that our Stalag 315 Epinal was bombarded on the date mentioned above. The bombs were dropped from some 2000 meters height. The planes started dropping bombs from the outer area of the barbed wires and continued dropping bombs till they had crossed the camp area. Hindus, Mohamedans, Sikhs and Christians were all in four separate buildings. Hindus Building received a direct hit in the centre, while the other three buildings missed by some few feet. Many bombs were dropped in the centre of the camp. At the time of bombardment prisoners were at football who suffered a lot by stray shells. Bombs were coming like a stream and prisoners could find no way to hide themselves and were running like sheep from one corner to another in the camp area. The sirens in the city were wounded a few minutes before the planes were over the camp. The prisoners were ordered to go into the buildings as usual. Before this was done the planes began to drop the bombs on the camp.

 

Thirty-five dead bodies were picked up from the open camp area and a list showing the names and the P.O.W. Nos. will soon follow. Seventy-three were severely wounded and they are in a German hospital in Epinal. There are a great number who suffered slight injuries.

 

On the next alarm, sounded a few minutes after the bombardment, we were ordered to go into the forest nearby. A part of prisoners of war roughly 2/3 of the total strength were collected in the forest. The collected prisoners were split up into 3 parties and sent to some other places.

 

It is believed that many of our prisoners which could not be traced are still buried under the ruins though some of them were taken out.

 

According to the information from the camp staffs I think 200 to 300 will be the correct death figure. The exact figure I will give later on.

 

The food parcel store remains undamaged while the clothing store was slightly damaged by a bomb which fell in front of it. I cannot give you the correct details of losses in the clothing store because some of the staff seems missing. I will let you know the losses of stores as soon as I get the correct figures.

 

We were be transferred to the old camp again and therefore I request you that a similar bombardment will not occur again. I ask you to kindly take the necessary steps in London to inform the authorities concerned. It should not be difficult because the camp in question is visible from a long distance.

 

Camp Strength:

Before Bombardment

Arrivals from other camps 12.5.44

    "          "        "        "      18.5.44

Total

Collected P.O.W. after Bombardment up to

    date and sent to other camps

Prisoners present in this camp

Died

 

Still Missing

3128

22

41

3191

1923

 

400

35

2358

833

 

Will you please go into the matter and arrange a representative to pay a visit to Epinal to remove the anxieties of the annoyed and harassed Indian prisoners of war.

 

Always at your service.

 

Yours obediently,

Bhagat Ram Dafadar No.197 P.O.W.

Indian Man of Confidence

 

Copy to: The International Red Cross Society, Geneva.

              Dr. J. de Morsier, Delegate (26 Rue Vavin, Paris VIE)

                                                         142 Rue de Grenelle, Paris VIIe.