Killing of British prisoners by Detaining Power's armed forces.

 

The Delegate reports, with regret, the death of three British prisoners, shot by guards.

 

a. Trp. Jack BROWN, killed on July 8th, 1944, at work-detachment Krochwitz 162a.

        The following is the statement of an eye-witness, Pte. G.W. Jones, whom the Delegate interrogated:

        "On the night of July 8th, 1944 at 10.45 p.m. work at the Reichsbahn Ausbesserungs-Werk at Bodenbach having temporarily ceased, three of my comrades and I decided on a short walk outside the factory, leaving working place in the direction of the railway. We had proceeded about 150 yards, when we were fired upon without warning. The first shot killed BROWN instantly, the second wounding me in the leg, the third and last shot passed over our heads, close to the grounds where we had thrown ourselves, after BROWN was hit. After shouting for help, a guard eventually came and the body of BROWN was carried to the factory."

        On the day of visit, Sept.15, 1944, the guard who fired the shots was still on duty. The Delegate requested his immediate removal, subsequently he left the very same day.

 

b) John Robert HANKONSON (Rgt.No. 4452639), Durham Light Infantry, shot at Renschling, work-detachment Tschausch III on August 5th 1944.

        The deceased was working as an engine driver. He was known for his temper. His various complaints were always couched in violent language, and on occasions, with demonstrative acts against the persons concerned. On several of these occasions he was held back by fellow comrades from performing acts of violent assaults. There were four occasions in which he came to grips with sentries or civilians employed as foremen.

        There is no exact evidence with regard to Hankonson's cause of death. It is reported that a struggle between him and a German armed guard took place. In the course of this struggle a second guard came to the scene and fired two shots on the prisoner.

        He was then carried away by Russian prisoners into a nearby shed. He was still alive. Later a German Non-Commissioned Officer entered the shed and almost immediately a shot was heard. He was seen coming out, closing the door with one hand and replacing his revolver in its holster with the other. Examinations on the body clearly disclose the fact that Hankonson was hit by three bullets.

 

c. Pte.L. Francis, Essex Regt., shot at work-detachment 22a, Brux, about middle of July, 1944.

        No dates available.

 

        Evidently, casualties are liable to occur wherever prisoners of war are under the orders of armed forces. However, the question whether or not a casualty may be justified arises in any instance.

        In the case of BROWN, no warning was given, three shots were fired and the place where the men stood was well lighted by overhead lamps placed at frequent intervals.

        HANKONSON was hit by three shots, the first apparently without previous challenge at the point of rifle, and it is not understood that the second and third were inevitable.

        At the final conference, the Delegate reviewed the situation in firm and unmistakable terms, pointing out that Stalag IV C by far leads the roll in the Wehrkreis IV, and asking for rigorous punishments in any case of deliberate killings.

        Stalag Commandant showed the Delegate his latest instructions directed to prevent the unnecessary use of arms. He emphatically assured the Delegate to severely prosecute any case of deliberate killing. Such prosecutions, however, can only be done on the strength of the "Gerichtsoffizier's" findings.