AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR IN GERMANY

Prepared by MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE, WAR DEPARTMENT   1 November 1945

 

STALAG 3B

(Ground Force Non-Commissioned Officers)

 

LOCATION: Stalag 3B was situated 3/4 mile northwest of Furstenberg, Germany (52.9N - 14.42E), which is 60 miles southeast of Berlin and 15 miles south of Frankfurt-on-Oder. The camp lay on the east bank of the Oder Spree canal, between the canal and the railroad, and was set in an agricultural region.

 

STRENGTH: As of 20 July 1944, this ground forces, enlisted men's camp held, out of a total of 22,522 prisoners, 2903 Americans of whom 2207 were in the camp, 27 in the infirmary and 36 in the hospitals, including 3 American doctors and 27 NCOs, members of the sanitary personnel. The remaining 600 were in work detachments.

        By 18 Dec 1944, the number of Americans in the camp and its kommandos totaled 4207, 3338 of whom were in the base camp at Furstenberg. Of the 4207 American PW, 3205 were NCOs; 3 were American medical officers.

        The number of army ground force personnel, mostly NCOs, continued to mount in Stalag 3B. Finally, when the Germans decided to move the men westward on 31 Jan 1945, it had reached 5000.

 

DESCRIPTION: The Furstenberg camp, a typical large stalag, served as the base installation while numerous working kommandos operated within a considerable distance. Also connected with Stalag 3B, were a stalag infirmary, a stalag lazaret and a hospital at Gorden.

        Stalag 3B is spread out on a plain, 2 kilometers southwest of the railroad station, and 2 kilometers from a glassworks. The American camp, which during the early part of 1944 consisted of 6 wooden barracks, was 350 meters from the entrance to the stalag, at the left of a central avenue. The barracks were set 20 meters apart, perpendicularly to the central avenue. Behind these barracks was a spacious, sandy lot where the PW could walk about freely, play games or prepare individual meals. A small barrack was located in the middle of this lot: it was for the American MOC and his assistant and was used as an American administrative barrack. This small barrack consisted of 2 rooms, one of which was comfortably furnished and served as the office; the other as a bedroom, with 2 single wooden beds.

        The PW barracks were divided into 2 parts, each housing, in early 1944, 150 to 190 men or an average of a little over 300 men per barrack. In early 1945, when the men were evacuated, 12 instead of 6 barracks were provided for the Americans, whose compound measured 300 by 2000 feet, and 450 men instead of 300 lodged in each barracks.

        Each half of a barrack was separated from the other by the lavatories, and by a small room which served as an individual kitchen. Two latrines with flushing water were installed at each end, but were only used at night.

        Situated on one side of each barrack were a series of triple-decker bunks; the other side consisted of a central passageway and of tables and stools placed near the windows. Light was dim due to the fact that the men's clothing hung from lines stretched in all directions. The barracks were absolutely full; the cubic amount of air was sufficient, but the habitable space was very inadequate. Later on, when more POWs moved in, it was necessary to remove some of the tables and install more bunks.

        Electric lights were insufficient, making reading at night very trying on the eyes. The barracks were heated by means of 3 large brick stoves for each half barrack. The quantity of coal furnished the men was insufficient, even for mild winter weather.

        The lavatories in the center of each barracks had 24 running water faucets available at all times for the 300-400 men in the barracks. Nearby were large cement tubs for the laundry, but POWs had no hot water for that purpose. In the corner of this central laundry, was a stove used exclusively for the preparation of individual dishes.

        The kitchen was spacious and well lighted, but lacked utensils.

        An additional barrack served as a recreation hall, theatre, church and library. This barrack was entirely built with material from the Red Cross: crates, paper, cans, etc.

 

U.S. PERSONNEL: Three different enlisted men held the position of MOC at Stalag 3B, serving their terms in the following order: M/Sgt. Clyde M. Bennett, S/Sgt. Arthur S. Taylor and S/Sgt. Joseph C. Gasperich. Sgt. Taylor relieved Sgt. Bennett in May 1944 when the latter departed from the camp. Sgt. Gasperich fell heir to the position in Aug. 1944 and served up to and including the evacuation of the camp. Medical officers present in the stalag where Capt. Sidney Brockman, who later left, 1st Lt. Henry W. Hughes and 1st Lt. Stanley M. Awramilk, who came in from kommando to replace Capt. Brockman. Cpl. Herman Foster was placed in charge of Red Cross parcels. An American enlisted man, Sgt. Richard M. Gray, acted as chaplain in the American compound, while a Polish padre served as chaplain for the entire camp. Capt. Louis Salemo also served as a medical officer at this camp for a time.

 

GERMAN PERSONNEL: Camp Commandant at Stalag 3B was Oberst Blau, while Oberleutnant Gross served as Lager Officer and Feldwebel Schoen as Lager NCO. The Oberst was an old-line German soldier, rarely seen by POWs. Gross, 5'9", 140 pounds, thin, hatchet-faced, feminine in appearance and speech, intensely hated by Americans because he constantly bedeviled them. He sometimes kept them out for two hours on appel, hailed them out of the barracks just when they were about to eat, and confiscated their food and cigarettes on shallow pretexts. Schoen, 5'8", 170 pounds, heavy-set, black hair, black-bearded, rough-faced, was reported by PW as a vicious person.

        Hauptmann Winklet was the camp security officer. Major Wolfe, the medical officer, rarely had anything to do with PW. The recreation officer, Lt. Von Fricken, was 5'11" tall, 35 years old, slim, suave, and brown-haired. He spoke excellent English. He appeared to be in charge of theatrical activities and said he made frequent trips to other camps. He told Americans that he had managed a W.T. Grant store in an eastern state and that he was forced to enter the Wehrmacht while visiting Germany. He cursed the Germans while talking to the PW and although he was openly ridiculed by the PW, who did not salute him nor come to attention when he entered their barracks, he apparently did not ask that they be disciplined. Some PW could not decide whether he was a German or American spy. Von Fricken told another story: He had represented the Gestapo for 12 years in the United States, and boasted that he got out of the country 2 days before the FBI would have caught him.

 

TREATMENT: It was reported that Hauptmann Winkler, Oberst Blau and Lager Officer Gross never abided to a great degree by the Geneva Convention. They always claimed that they were giving the PW all that the German High Command permitted them and would take orders and recommendations from no one else except the High Command.

        The PW had difficulty in submitting themselves to the extremely strict discipline of the camp. German camp authorities, from the Commandant down to the lowest ranking officer, were very narrow-minded and obstinate to all proposals with regard to an easier running of the camp. It was, therefore, difficult for the PW to acclimate themselves.

        The most serious problem encountered by the PW in Stalag 3B was undoubtedly that of the continual repetition of searches and the confiscation of such articles as cigarettes, clothing and food.

        There were no atrocities.

 

FOOD: In early 1944 there were no serious complaints about the food ration. Cooking was done by Americans who did a good job in accordance with American taste. In addition to the German rations, PW received a regular supply of Red Cross parcels, amounting to one per man per week. Food at this time was plentiful and PW appeared well nourished.

        Meals were prepared under the supervision of an American NCO who was held in great esteem by the other PW. At first, when Red Cross parcels had not yet been received at the camp, the basic food rations furnished by the American authorities were carefully weighed by the American head cook, but when the Red Cross parcels began to arrive the German rations were no longer weighed. However, the rations varied little at this time, except for sugar and potatoes which at times were reduced in quantity by one-third.

        The average German basic food ration for 2 weeks and for 26 men was as follows:

Meat

Margarine

Cheese

Bread

Sugar

8,500 gr.

10,025 gr.

1,485 gr.

12,090 gr.

10,400 gr.

Marmalade

Pastes

Cereals

Potatoes

8,050 gr.

2,510 gr.

935 gr.

728,000 gr.

        PW complained of the poor quality of the potatoes of which 20-40% frequently had to be thrown away. Furthermore, oftentimes peas received by the PW were infested with worms.

        In the kitchen there was a stove which used exclusively for preparing individual meals. This stove was added by the camp commandant to make up for the insufficient number of individual stoves in the barracks. The lack of dishes, forks and knives was noticeable, however, the PW did not complain greatly over this and manufactured their own utensils.

        During the latter part of 1944, the following meals could generally be provided each day from the German rations: ersatz tea or coffee for breakfast, a litre of soup for dinner, a dry ration of about pound loaf of bread divided among 6 men and a pound of margarine for 30 men, together with a few potatoes. This amounted to about 6 potatoes, 3 spoonfuls of jam and 300 grams of bread per man per week (an average of bread weighed 1500 grams). In addition, the Germans issued dehydrated rutabaga soup 5 times a week, potato soup once a week and grain or vegetable soup once a week. These dehydrated soups were frequently full of maggots.

        During the period 10 Sept. to 18 Dec. 1944, the PW received only 1 Red Cross parcel each. Aside from rare next-of-kin parcels, they lived solely on German rations which had deteriorated to rutabaga soup, bread, potatoes (12 to a man per week), and ersatz coffee or tea. They were constantly hungry and the food situation was not alleviated until 18 Dec. when each PW received one parcel and thereafter half a parcel a week.

        In Dec. 1944, the Germans commenced dumping the Red Cross food parcels out of the cans into dishes. The Germans controlled this procedure while the Americans watched, and 5 Germans were intercepted stealing chocolate, raisins and cigarettes from the parcels. Each barrack leader assigned his own men on detail to watch and after that nothing was stolen. A protest to the Protecting Power was lodged on the opening of the parcels, but the Swiss replied that the Germans were within their rights as the contents of the parcels were given to PW in an edible state. During this time, the commandant would not permit a prisoner to receive his cigarettes from his next-of-kin parcels. The cigarettes were removed from the NOK parcels and placed into a storeroom and distributed 3 packs weekly along with 5 packs from the Red Cross parcels. However, no PW was to have more than 5 packs of cigarettes in his possession.

        Private cooking was hampered through lack of fuel and the fact that the stoves were too large and practically useless for cooking.

        Food was sufficient when backed up with Red Cross parcels but the men endured hardships if this supplement was lacking. One PW had the following to say regarding the German ration: "A lot of us became sick from eating rotten food but we had to eat to live. They fed us lots less than we could eat."

        In Sept. 1943, after the PW received Red Cross parcels, they experienced their first "shake-down" inspection by the Germans. The pretext was that PW had too many cans of coffee and too many cigarettes and had supposedly started a black market among the citizens of Furstenberg, who in turn shipped supplies to the Berlin black market. This was untrue but the Germans confiscated all cans of coffee in excess of one can per man, cigarettes in excess to 2 packs and any extra quantity of margarine and meat. A month later, the same thing occurred and any extra coffee and food was confiscated. During these searches the guards stole many articles not supposed to be confiscated.

        On 31 Jan. 1945, the PW were evacuated from Stalag 3B. They were provided with no food at the beginning of the march or the following day when they stopped at their bivouac area. They received no food until the afternoon of the third day when they received one-fifth of a loaf of bread per man. Throughout the march they were given very little water and for 2 days they had no water whatsoever. For the entire 7 days of the march they drew 1 loaf of bread per man and one-eighth of a #2 can of cheese for 8 men at one time. This was the entire German ration for the march.

        In May 1944, following an unsuccessful escape attempt, Gestapo agents visited Stalag 3B and staged a thorough search. PW were kept outside quarters during the search and when they returned to the barracks they discovered that food had been removed from many of the Red Cross parcels. This food was not returned.

 

HEALTH: First Lt. Henry W. Hughes and 1st Lt. Stanley M. Awramik were in charge of the camp's infirmary. Lt. Hughes was permitted daily to visit the American patients at the camp's lazaret where the patients were attended by American medical orderlies. Conditions at the lazaret were said to be quite satisfactory though there was no definite ward or bed space reserved for the Americans. All the surgical work was performed by a Russian PW surgeon who was very capable. Other American doctors, Capt. Sidney Brockman and Capt. Louis Salerno, also served at Stalag 3B.

        German drug and medical supplies were rationed and Americans had to use principally Red Cross supplies. Dental facilities were insufficient, with only one dentist, an Italian in charge of the entire camp. There was a lack of material, especially for fillings. The men had difficulty in being treated as there was always a long waiting list.

        All mental cases from Stalag 3B were sent to the mental home at Gorden near Braunschweig. The Senior American Medical Officer, Lt. Hughes, was permitted regular visits to the hospital to ascertain the wellbeing of the patients.

        In Dec. 1944 a new military hospital, consisting of 3 new brick and cement barracks, was made available in the camp. The surgical installation was complete, with rooms for dressing wounds, septic and antiseptic operation rooms, consultation room, laboratories, pharmacy and lounge for doctors and members of the sanitary personnel. The only complaint concerning the military hospital was that the rooms were inadequately heated, except for the room of post-operative cases and the one occupied by fever patients. In Dec. 1944, 90 patients were in the military hospital, including a few serious cases (1 case of perforating appendicitis, 1 of chronic nephritis and 1 case of tuberculosis of the bones); stomach ulcers were common in the stalag. The large number of anemia cases was due, according to the doctor, to undernourishment. Tonics for the undernourished as well as milk for the fever patients were needed. Cases of gastritis, cholecystitis and rheumatism were also frequent.

        A small epidemic of diphtheria broke out in the camp in Nov. 1944. In Dec. 1944, there were 3 diphtheria patients and 6 germ carriers.

        In conclusion, it can be said that the health of the men at Stalag 3B was good, and that the cooperation between the Germans and the American doctors in caring for patients was excellent. There was practically no interference from the Germans with regard to the actual medical attendance and nursing of the sick in the camp. Although at time the medical supply was low, it always proved to be sufficient.

 

CLOTHING: In Feb. 1944 the clothing situation in the base camp was good, due mostly to the arrival of shipments from the Red Cross. At this time, however, men on labor detachments were in need of clothing, such as working outfits. Each man owned a uniform and a few extra pieces. The same held true for the labor detachments, but in this case, extra clothing was necessary. Each man also owned a pair of shoes; a second pair was issued only when the first pair was obviously beyond wear.

        In Nov. 1944, PW felt they needed 2000 blankets, 8000 pairs of wool socks, 1500 pairs small-sized shoes, 4000 pairs of gloves and 1000 pairs of shoe soles, leather, nails & heels. They complained at this time of the confiscation of American clothing by the Germans in Sept., when 181 articles of clothing were discovered missing after a German search. The camp commandant stated that the clothing, and other articles confiscated, had come into the camp illegally and were justly confiscated. Furthermore, it was reported by the MOC that military clothing (jackets and trousers) were confiscated by the German Security department from men arriving from other stalags, before admittance to Stalag 3B. The commandant stated that the clothing which was confiscated was excessive to the clothing marked on the men's clothing cards and that it must be considered as illegally obtained.

        Clothes were taken from the warehouses of the Americans on the pretext that they must serve to clothe prisoners newly arrived at transit camps. The following objects were confiscated on 18 Nov. 1944: 1604 belts, 340 pairs of stockings, 221 shirts, 517 sweaters, 1200 wool caps and 1140 shoelaces. The Americans had to turn over 1000 coats on 25 Nov. 1944. On 4 Dec. they were asked for 1000 pairs of shoes. After bargaining it was finally decided that they had to turn over to the Germans 100 pairs of shoes and 80 packages of food.

        During early Dec. the Germans requested the Americans relinquish their field jackets. When the Americans refused the Germans backed up their demands with entrance into camp of reserve soldiers who, together with the guards, fixed bayonets and fired some shots into the air. However, almost simultaneously the PW, following the orders of the MOC Gasperich who had been warned of the expected seizure, ripped and tore the jackets beyond use because it was suspected the enemy wanted them for their own soldiers.

        Generally speaking, at this time (in spite of the seizures) the American PW were well equipped; they lacked only coats and small tunics. In summary, it can be said that the PW were properly clothed at all times, but it must be noted that the Germans did not issue any clothing and that the men were kept warm only by the Red Cross clothing shipments into the camp.

 

WORK: Five kommando detachments were dependent on Stalag 3B. In Feb. 1944, 668 soldiers were employed in the construction of a power plant at No.1 (Trattendorf); 14 volunteer NCOs were doing agricultural work at No.2 (Schorbus); 67 soldiers were digging, building embankments and doing similar work for German railroads at No.3 (Markisch-Heide); 27 NCOs were doing agricultural work at No.4 (Schuhlen); and 14 NCOs were employed in agriculture at No.7 (Roitz).

        All NCOs were working voluntarily; no pressure was applied to make them work on kommandos. In the base camp, only the members of the sanitary personnel and a few hundred volunteers worked. Work was the hardest at the Kommandos No.1 and No.3, where civilian overseers were sometimes extremely harsh.

 

PAY: Whether at the base camp or at the kommandos, workers received a minimum of 70 pfennings per day. The members of the sanitary personnel received 30 marks per month; the senior medical officer, 96 marks. These amounts corresponded to German army pay, but were paid in "lagergeld" instead of German currency. The printing of the "lagergeld" stopped in the fall of 1944, when amounts due PW were supposedly credited to their accounts by the German Finance Office.

 

MAIL: American PW received 2 letter forms and 4 postcards each month. There was no limit to the number of letters they could receive. Medical officers and members of the sanitary personnel were entitled to twice the amount above-mentioned. Letters took from 3 to 4 months to reach the United States after leaving the camp, and a reply took approximately the same length of time. The correspondence was censored in Berlin; the period of time elapsing between the arrival of a letter and its release from censorship was not in excess of a week.

        In Nov. 1944, all outgoing PW mail was stopped for a fortnight because one American had written an anonymous letter to a false address, insulting the German Reich, its Fuhrer and the camp authorities. As this man's name was never disclosed to the Germans the whole camp was punished by the above-mentioned measure taken by camp authorities.

        Americans complained most about the fact that their families were regularly sending NOK packages and yet comparatively few were received during their incarceration.

 

MORALE: Morale in Stalag 3B was good. PW were satisfied with the way the camp was being run by their elected officer, and eagerly awaited the day of liberation. As they were of an Allied victory, it can be said that the major detriment to their morale was the occasional lack of food.

 

WELFARE: The American Red Cross and the YMCA performed an admirable task in looking after the welfare of the American PW. Art, sporting and recreational equipment furnished to the PW by the YMCA was gratefully accepted and put to good use. Morale was boosted by messages transmitted from their families to PW by the YMCA delegates.

        Red Cross food kept the men from going hungry; and Red Cross clothing, from freezing. Influenza would have been widespread among the men in the winter had not the Red Cross supplied the PW both with blankets and medicines.

        Approximately every 3 months, delegates of the International Red Cross and the Protecting Power visited the camp, at which time they made investigations of the conditions and listened to the complaints of the PW. Strong protests were made to the Germans when room was found for improvement in the existing conditions. Many attempts were made to better PW life, even though sometimes the delegates were powerless to aid the Americans. Representatives made reports to the State Department on the care of our PW by the Detaining Power.

        "I'll never forget the Red Cross or the YMCA" (a common statement of gratitude made by the PW at Stalag 3B), is testimonial to their interest in the welfare of American PW.

 

RELIGION: One barracks provided space for a theatre at one end, a chapel on the other and a library in the center. The inside of the chapel was built entirely by the PW with material from the Red Cross; crates, paper, cans, etc. The chapel was attractively decorated by numerous PW draftsmen and painters.

        A Polish Catholic priest, Father Walter Sanolewicz, interned at Ilag 7Z (Tittmoning), held divine services at the camp. Private Richard Gray, a member of the sanitary personnel, acted as Protestant chaplain. PW were quite satisfied with this arrangement.

        Germans never interfered with religious activities.

 

RECREATION: As mentioned above, a large barrack housed a theatre, a library and a chapel. Concerts and lectures were held in this building. The library contained 10,800 books, many of which were sent to labor detachments. Cpl. Edward P. Tryor was librarian.

        Exercise was obtained through occasional walks, baseball, football, basketball, volleyball and other sports, equipment for which was furnished by the YMCA. Indoors, PW played table tennis, cards, checkers and other games. They established a glee club and choir as well as a 17-piece orchestra. Instruments were furnished by the YMCA. Original productions were presented semi-monthly or monthly in the theatre built by the PW. Twice-weekly quiz contests helped to enliven the monotonous routine. Art equipment was also furnished by the YMCA for those who desired to work along that line.

        Educational courses were offered in German, Agriculture and Spanish for the benefit of the PW. The school, however, was not well attended.

        Until late 1944, beer could sometimes be bought by PW at the canteen, which usually was very low on other stock.

 

EVACUATION: On 31 Jan. 1945, 1000 PW from Stalag 3B were marched west on 2 hours' notice. They had not expected the move. Roads were jammed with refugees and troops and PW at Stalag 3B had expected to be left there until overrun by the Russians. At 1500 hours they were told to be ready to move in 2 hours. Actually, it was 3 or 4 hours later before they left the camp, and then they spent 2 more hours outside before the movement got underway. Each man had of a Red Cross parcel issued 3 or 4 days before the march started, but no food was on hand at the start of the march. Although ample stocks of Red Cross parcels were kept at Guben, a few miles away, the Germans made no effort to bring them to Stalag 3B for distribution. On the first day the column marched until 1700 hours, 1 February, 24 consecutive hours from the time they had been alerted to move. This long march was made through snow, ice and deep puddles. PW were then jammed into small barns to sleep. The next 7 days they completed their march to Stalag 3A (Luckenwalde), 108 kilometers west of Furstenberg, arriving 7 Feb. 1945. For food during the march they had a total of a loaf of bread and pound of cheese per man plus one ration of soup distributed once to the men. Horse carts followed the column and picked up PW too sick to keep up with the column. On the march the guards were guilty of no brutality, and sympathized with PW.

 

LIBERATION: The PW remained in Stalag 3A until 22 April, when the camp was liberated by the Russians. Stalag 3A was turned over to the Americans on 6 May at which time Lt. Col. Walter M. Oakes and Col. Herte of the American PW took over the camp.

 

"SOURCE MATERIAL FOR THIS REPORT CONSISTED OF INTERROGATIONS OF FORMER PRISONER OF WAR MADE BY CPM BRANCH, MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE, AND REPORTS OF THE PROTECTING POWER AND INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS RECEIVED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT (Special War Problems Division)." Taken from the general introduction to camps.