CONFIDENTIAL

STALAG IV B

BRITISH

AUSTRALIAN

NEW ZEALAND

CANADIAN

BELGIAN

 

Commander: Oberstleutnant Sperl

Acting Commander: Korvettenkapitaen Lang

Camp physician: Stabsarzt Krushe

British Senior Officer: Major A.J.S. Qay, 95479

British Man of Confidence: St.Serg. Allen Raven, 94307

Belgian Man of Confidence: Serge. André Jacquemin, 28143

 

I.) GENERAL DESCRIPTION

        This camp is still a big transit camp for prisoners coming to and leaving Germany. A few more barracks have been opened, but otherwise no special changes have occurred in the camp since the last visit here June 26. Because of a diphtheria epidemic among the British prisoners a part of the camp, including 3 barracks, had been fenced off from the other part of the camp to be used as quarantine. The barracks used for this purpose are exactly like the other barracks in the camp and not unduly overcrowded.

 

II.) CAPACITY AND PRESENT PERSONNEL

        In the whole Stalag are about 15,000 prisoners of war, mostly French but also many Serbians and Russians. There are 1020 British prisoners of which 17 are officers. Of these 923 are English, 43 Scottish, 4 Irish, 33 Australians, 2 New Zealanders, 1 Canadian, 10 Cypriots, 1 from Palestine, 1 Norwegian and 1 Dane. All these have been captured in Greece and on Crete and arrived here a few weeks ago. It had been meant that they should all be sent away again as soon as possible, but because of the diphtheria epidemic breaking out, this could not be carried out. To make the stay here as short as possible, all the British prisoners have been divided into smaller groups, and as soon as one of these groups has had no new case for 10 days, it will be sent away. This was the case with the officers at the time of the visit and it was expected that they would be sent soon. Among the others new cases had, however, just occurred and it could, of course, not be said when they could be let out of quarantine.

        Of Belgian prisoners there were 99 of whom about 40 were Flemish and waiting for a transport to be sent home. Most of the others had been declared by the German camp physician not fit for work, but although some of them had been in the camp for 6-7 months, they had not been seen by the mixed medical commission and it was not known when they could be expected to be repatriated. This will be brought to the attention of the German High Command.

 

III.) INTERIOR ARRANGEMENTS

        The British officers were all living in one room in the camp hospital. It was a light, big, not overcrowded room with comfortable hospital beds. Each bed was provided with 2 blankets, sheets and pillow cover. As they were still in quarantine they could not be allowed to use the recreation room, libraries, etc. in the camp, but had to stay in this room. As mentioned above, they would, however, be sent away any day after the visit. The British and Belgian soldiers are all living in the big wooden barracks of which this camp consists. There are big rooms furnished with triple-tier wooden bunks of which, however, only two are used. Each man had two blankets. Stoves in a sufficient number and electric light are installed. Among the walls are small cupboards for keeping personal belongings. The rooms are also furnished with tables and chairs and are used for eating and recreation as well. The quarters are rather primitive, but satisfactory and not overcrowded.

 

IV.) BATHING AND WASHING FACILITIES

        In the middle of each barrack is a wash room where also cold showers can be had. As the British soldiers can not be allowed out of quarantine, they had no other baths for the moment, but for the Belgian prisoners there is also a big shower room where warm showers are provided at least once a week.

 

V.) TOILET FACILITIES

        The latrines of pit type are in special buildings. They were kept clean.

 

VI.) FOOD AND COOKING

        Two modernly equipped kitchens are providing the whole camp. There are very good store rooms with electric cool rooms. There were no special complaints about the food which was stated by the Belgians to be sufficient. The weekly menu is the typical one for all German prisoner of war camps and contains:

Meat

Fat

Cheese

Farines

Sugar

Marmalade

Bread

Potatoes

Vegetables

400 g.

260 "

62 "

130 "

210 "

250 "

2250 "

3250 "

2200 "

        This gives a caloric number of about 2000 per day.

        The menu at the day of the visit was:

Breakfast

Tea

Sugar

Dinner (meatless day)

Cabbage

Potatoes

Fat

Supper

Sausage

Margarine

Tea, Sugar

 

VII.) MEDICAL ATTENTION AND SICKNESS

        In the camp is an infirmary as well as a hospital both of which are well equipped and furnished with good hospital beds. They were both rather overcrowded at the moment, because of the many British prisoners recently arrived and in need of an hospital ward. Besides the German chief doctor, some French and Serbian doctors worked in the hospital. A British doctor, Captain Harold William Whyes, R.A.M.C., POW No.95473, Stalag IV B, had himself been ill, but had now recovered and was going to take over his job soon. Usually the infirmary is used for lighter cases and the hospital for more serious ones, but because of the many new patients, this distinction could not be held. There were at the time of the visit 204 British patients. Of these 22 were bacteriological sure cases of diphtheria, 45 clinical cases of diphtheria, but so far without bacteriological proof, and several more or less suspicious cases. One man had died of diphtheria combined with dysentery, but all other cases had so far been rather light and without complications. A few new cases had occurred in the last days, but the number had decreased, so that the German doctor hoped he would soon have the epidemic under control. The steps taken to keep the British prisoners separated from the other prisoners and to minimize the danger of infection as much as possible seemed to be appropriate, but of course caused the healthy prisoners much inconvenience. There were some cases of jaundice, most of which, however, were stated to be of milder nature. A few patients with malaria received proper treatment. Quite a few of the prisoners were under treatment for abscesses on the lower limbs developed from infected gnat stings. These abscesses have been noted in many other camps on British prisoners arrived from Greece and always seemed to take a very long time to heal. The other British cases, including a few surgical cases, were of more common type and gave no special reason for concern. There were only a few Belgian patients in the infirmary, all of them with slight diseases. The German chief physician makes a very good and efficient impression and all the patients seem to be taken care of in the best way. Of all British prisoners arrived in this camp from Greece and Crete, in this and one former transport, 8 have died, namely two of sepsis, two of tbc (one combined with a diabetes), one of pneumonia, one of jaundice, one of diphtheria and dysentery and one of asthenia. They had all been reported in the proper way.

 

VIII.) CLOTHING

        Many of the British prisoners had arrived here with very little clothes as was stated by the German officers and the British Man of Confidence. They have all been provided with the necessary things but very much is still wanted. The German camp authorities stated that this will be taken care of as soon as the prisoners have arrived at their permanent camp. The Belgian prisoners have each one uniform, two pairs of undersuits, one pair of leather shoes and one pair of clogs. The uniforms are quite good and there were no complaints.

 

IX.) LAUNDRY

        The prisoners do the laundry themselves.

 

X.) MONEY AND PAY

        Neither the British nor the Belgian prisoners in this camp receive any pay, except the British officers who will receive pay according to rank. For the British soldier-prisoners this matter will probably be settled as soon as they can be transferred to a work camp. The Belgian prisoners, however, are mostly declared not fit for work by the German camp physician and none of them are working. As some of them have been in the camp very long, it is very hard for them not being able to buy anything in the canteen. The matter was discussed with the camp commander who, however, declared that he saw the point but there was nothing he could do about it. He did not like the thought of starting a "camp cash" out of which those who are not able to work could be paid a smaller amount monthly. The matter will be taken up with the German High Command.

 

XI.) CANTEEN

        There is a big and well stocked canteen in common for all the prisoners in the camp. All sorts of toilet articles, postpaper, pipes, tobacco and cigarettes are for sale. The prices seemed to be the same as in German civilian shops. As the British prisoners were in quarantine, they could not be allowed to use the canteen and because of the above-mentioned very few of the Belgians can afford to buy anything.

 

XII.) RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY

        For the British prisoners no religious activity has been started. This matter will be looked into as soon as the prisoners have been transferred to their definite camp. The Belgians are all Catholics and have the opportunity every day to attend the mass read by the French chaplains.

 

XIII.) RECREATION AND EXERCISE

        For the British prisoners very little can be done in this respect as long as they have to be kept in quarantine. Around their barracks is an open space about 200 by 150 metres used for walks. No sport equipment, games or books have been provided, as the camp authorities hope the quarantine will be over any day. The prisoners have received the German paper "The Camp". The officers have in their quarter a few English books. For the other prisoners the camp is well equipped. There are big sports grounds and all necessary equipment. A very nice swimming bath has been dug where in the summer swimming competitions have been held. For winter use, there is a big, fully equipped gymnastic hall. The library has a large number of French and Flemish books. There were stated to be rather few indoor games, but more had been ordered. In the theatre performances in French are given about three times a week, and now and again pictures are shown.

 

XIV.) MAIL

        All the British prisoners had written the official cards about their capture, but since their arrival in this camp, they had not been allowed to write any letters or cards. The matter was thoroughly discussed with the acting Commander and the German camp physician who stated that in case mail from the prisoners in quarantine was to be sent away, it had to be disinfected somehow. They had so far not been able to solve this problem, but the Doctor promised to consider the matter once more and try to find a way if possible. No parcels or mail had so far arrived for the British prisoners but they were most anxious to receive parcels as soon as possible.

        The Belgians usually receive the mail regularly. They are allowed to send 2 letters and 2 post cards monthly. They have received no parcels from the Belgian Red Cross, but one package from the American Red Cross and a few private parcels. It was stated that the Belgians receive a little from the French parcels now and again. One of the Belgians who has his family in London, has received news that parcels have been sent for him, but none have arrived. His name: Vincent Charon, POW No.27209 Stalag IV B. His Wife: Madame Marie Charon, Good Shepherd Convent, East Finchley, London N 2.

 

XV.) WELFARE WORK

        The camp has recently been visited by representatives of the International Y.M.C.A.

 

XVI.) COMPLAINTS

        The complaints in this camp are among the British prisoners due to the condition of quarantine in which they had to be held. The prisoners seemed, however, to see that the restrictions were necessary. The main complaint among the Belgians was that the Walloons not fit for work had not been seen by the mixed medical commission. The acting commander stated that the German camp authorities would be very grateful if the Embassy could help them to speed up this matter a little.

 

XVII.) GENERAL IMPRESSION

        The Commander and the acting Commander in this camp both give the best impression and seemed really anxious to do what can be done for the prisoners. The camp is kept in perfect order and the relations between the camp authorities and the prisoners seem to be good. Because of the diphtheria epidemic the British prisoners have come into a rather unfortunate position and many of the steps taken to stop the epidemic with necessity make the life rather unpleasant for them. But the German Doctors seem to consider this as much as possible and no unnecessary steps have been taken. The spirit among the British prisoners was not bad even if they naturally expressed the wishes to be out of this mess as soon as possible.

        All matters subject to complaints in this report have been discussed with the local camp authorities. Defects which the local camp authorities refuse to correct or state they are unable to correct have been taken up with the German High Command in Berlin in a latter dated Sept. 24, 1941.

 

Dr. Folke Malmquist