STALAG LUFT 1, BARTH, Pomm.
Date of visit: December 13th and 14th, 1944.
Camp Commander: Oberst Scherer
Second in Command: Major Schröder
Adjutant: Major Burckhardt
Security-Officer: Major von Miller zu Aichholz
German Medical Officer: vacant
Accompanying Officer German High Command: Oblt. Pietsch
Senior American Officer: Col. J.R. Byerly USAAF
Senior British Officer: W/C F.W. Hilton RAF
Senior Medical Officer: Lt. Col. G.J. Hankey RAMC
Reference is made to our last report on this camp dated August 18th/19th 1944.
I. GENERAL DESCRIPTION:
Since our last visit on August 18th/19th 1944 two more compounds have been taken over, the first one on October 1st and the other only about three weeks ago. They are called the North Compound II and III. The camp consists now of the double compound "West and New" or as it is called at present the main-compound and north compounds Nos. I, II, and III. No further extensions are planned.
Compounds North II and III consist of seven sleeping and living barracks and a fairly large wash-house and two latrine-huts in each. In North Compound II there is at present a temporary kitchen barrack administering to the two new compounds pending the completion of the proper kitchen and mess-building which is situated between the two compounds in a wired-off section. At present these two compounds are intercommunicating and will probably remain to be so as the only kitchen for these two camp sections must be accessible to both compounds. The moving space in the new compounds is quite reasonable though it is not big enough to lay-out a proper sportsfield. There is however plenty of room for smaller ball-games, etc. Conditions in North Compound II are somewhat worse as a large part of the camp area is liable to be overflown with a high ground-water level. This position was really bad for a considerable lapse of time when all the water from the wash-house flew into this pond, but it has somewhat improved now with the connection of the drainage-lines being made. Part of this pond is supposed to be the fire-pond, for the rest, camp authorities endeavour to pump the water away however with little success. With the fall of the present high level of the ground-water the position will probably become settled.
The barracks are of the usual type, in wood, with a corridor in the middle of the building and the rooms on both sides of it. In each barrack is a night latrine and urinal and a small kitchen for preparing Red Cross food stuff. The barracks are built on wooden studs and are between 30 and 70cm. above the ground. This is being done to facilitate searches, but, on the other hand, makes the barracks much colder as it allows the air to circulate under and around the huts. The kitchen and mess-building will be, once finished, fairly adequate. There are ample cooking and storage facilities, the mess-room however offers only sitting accommodation for about 700 men which means that for every meal at least three sittings are needed in order to have all the men from the two compounds provided with their meal. No air-raid shelters are provided.
II. CAPACITY AND PRESENT PERSONNEL:
German camp authorities state the full capacity to be 7000 men for all the four compounds together. With this number of men in camp it will be very crowded and tents will have to be erected again. Those mentioned in our last report have, in the meantime, been taken away.
On the day of the visit, the following was the camp strength:
Amongst the latest arrivals are Lt. Col. W.D.H. McCardie, 2nd. Batt. The South Staffordshire Regiment, 1st. Air-Borne Division, captured at Arnheim (Netherlands), 6 other officers and 5 Non-Commissioned Officers of the same Division.
Upon the Delegation's departure from the camp another 120 American Officers arrived from Dulag Luft Wetzlar.
The above given grand-total of all American and British prisoners of war in this camp includes also
2 British Medical Officers
1 British dentist of the R.A.F.
1 American Dental Officer
7 British sanitators
6 American and British self-trained sanitators of the Air-forces.
4 British chaplains of various denominations, as well as
3 Officers in the camp's "prison", of whom one is the American Col. H.R. Spicer, who is awaiting Court-Martial.
2 British Officers a the Wehrmachts-Haftanstalt in Stralsund, awaiting re-opening of Court-Martial and
4 Officers in outsider Lazaretts.
III. INTERIOR ARRANGEMENT
The furnishing of the rooms in North-Compound II & III is very poor, especially in the latter one. Whilst the beds in North-Compound II are, at least partly, of the triple-tier wooden type, sleeping accommodation in North-Compound III consists of three-tiered shelves with no interval between the individual sleeping-place. The shelves run along one wall of the room and also take up one corner, leaving as moving space only the center of the room and the corner where the heating stove is installed. Sitting accommodation is provided for only about half the room complement and only one rather smallish table is available. This results in obliging about half of the men in the room to stand about or lay down on their beds. The space between the first and the second tier of the beds being too narrow to sit down upright. No cupboards are provided but camp authorities endeavour to find coat-hangers though there will be no room to fix them. This sort of sleeping accommodation will certainly prove to be most harmful in case of outbreak of an epidemic besides being inconsiderate towards officer prisoners of war. The beds are furnished with sacks filled with wood-wool, sheets, pillows also filled with wood-wool and two blankets per men. Sheeting are being exchanged every six weeks for washing, which is contrary to existing agreements stating an exchange of laundry every fortnight. The matter will be taken up with the OKW. Blankets are partly in bad condition. During the summer a general exchange of worn-out blankets took place but when lately large numbers of new prisoners arrived, those condemned blankets were re-issued. Commandant promised investigation. The Senior Officers report acute shortage of filling-material for mattresses which is felt very much during the present cold season and the impossibility of airing or inflating mattresses due to inclement winter weather.
General maintenance of buildings is still and will always be much hampered due to the lack of material and manpower. Day-light in many barrack-rooms is rather poor due to the total lack of replacement of glass for windows broken during the year. Lighting is at a further premium due to the shorter daylight hours. No glass has been provided since before last visit but the Camp Commandant informed the Delegate that 600 square-metres has been ordered some months ago though there is little hope of its forthcoming. Repairs on barrack equipment, too, is very much hampered and delayed because of the shortage of wood, glue and other repair material creating long lists of articles necessitating repair. In the meantime damage articles are liable to be confiscated by German authorities during searches, who consider these things as wilfully damaged, and bills are presented to the prisoners of war for ten times the cost of articles so confiscated. The matter will be taken up with the OKW. The artificial light has only slightly improved since the new transformer is operating. This is a general complaint, also of the civilians of this part of the country.
The current drops very often down from 220 volts to 90 volts and accordingly gives a very poor light. Replacements of bed-boards is another sore point. Many bed-boards have been broken through regular wear and tear especially because not sufficient sitting accommodation is provided and the men are forced to sit on their beds. Some of these bed-boards are of an inferior quality being the first cut of the trunk and break very easily. Camp authorities are most unwilling to replace these boards as they are being considered as escape material i.e. for reinforcing tunnels. This refusal of replacement broken bed-boards has now become untenable. In North-Compound II, two Officers are obliged to sleep on the tables as they have not sufficient boards to lay upon. Commandant promised consideration. Bed-bugs continue to re-appear after fumigation but Camp authorities promised again attention.
IV. BATHING AND WASHING FACILITIES:
Washing facilities in the two new compounds consist of 7 large round wash-basins with ten taps of running cold water for each basin. The installations in North Compound III are not finished yet.
Bathing facilities have been deteriorating lately due to the requirement of all north compounds using the one shower-room in the North Compound I Vorlager. Each man is given one bath per week; however, the bath consists of about one minute of water followed by one minute for soaping and about three minutes of luke-warm for rinsing. This schedule does not permit adequate cleansing and shampooing in the time allowed and is further aggravated by the fact that 5 or 6 men have to use the same spray at the same time. It is hoped that with the completion of the two latest compounds the position will improve.
Conditions at the main-compound are slightly better.
V. TOILET FACILITIES:
Outside latrines in the main-compound have little improved since our last visit. Those in the North-Compounds are in order.
Inside latrines in the main-compound are constantly in need of repair and the drainage is still inadequate although in some barracks substantial improvements have been carried out. There are, however, several instances of large lakes of open sewage under and around barracks, standing for some time. Night latrines in the north-compounds have so far caused no trouble, except for the night-urinals which consist of a wooden, tarpaperclad trough leaking in most cases and resulting in unsanitary dampness in these latrines. Commandant promised immediate attention. Chloryde of lime for disinfecting purposes is no more available since July this year and a liquid disinfectant is issued instead at a rate of 50 litres per compound per month. With the present cold weather this issue is being considered sufficient.
VI. FOOD AND COOKING:
There has been no complaints as to the food and cooking arrangements in West and North I compound. Present cooking facilities in North II compound, catering at the same time for North III compound, consist of 8 field-kitchens in a provisional shed until the main-kitchen is completed. Cooking facilities for Red Cross food stuff consist of one small cooking range with three fire-plates per barrack and the heating stoves in the individual rooms. The latter ones were promised to be adapted for this purpose.
There is a good stock of Red Cross parcels in camp, i.e. in a store-room of the nearby Luftwaffe barracks to which a second key and lock for the Senior Officer will be provided. The camp has always been well supplied with parcels and never went down on the rate of 1/2 parcel per week. The question of issuing the X-mas parcel as a supplementary parcel to the ordinary food parcel was straightened-out with camp authorities by the Delegate.
Considerable unrest was caused by the Camp Commandant's order of the 30 of September 1944 forbidding the preparation and keeping of alcoholic drinks made of dried fruits of Red Cross food parcels. This was caused following an incident in which Lt. J.C. Morgan, USAAF, was involved.
VII. MEDICAL ATTENTION AND SICKNESS:
Medical attention is well in the hands of Lt.Col. Hankey and Capt. Nicholls of the RAMC who state the general state of health of the camp to be very good. The hospital barrack mentioned in our last report has been finished in the meantime and proved to be very satisfactory. The furnishing of the various wards was promised to be completed by the camp authorities as there are still some chairs, tables and cupboards missing. With the new barrack running more room has been gained for the actual medical examination rooms, operating theatres and laboratories which must now be considered as quite adequate. Major operations are, however, still sent to the Res.Laz. Neu-Brandenburg from where good reports are received. The daily sick parade at the hospital amounts to about 70 men, whilst between 80 and 100 minor cases are daily attended in each of the three compound dispensaries. Specialists' examinations with regard to repatriation are reported to have improved since our last visit when some objections were made to the previous practice. On the day of visit 35 American and 16 British patients were undergoing treatment at the camp's hospital. Full details are given on the attached list. There are no serious cases, except two open TB's who will be transferred within short to a proper sanatorium.
With regard to medical supply, Lt.Col. Hankey reported of very limited German issues. More than 50% is covered by Red Cross supplies, mostly of British origin, as the American First Aid Kits do not cover all needs in the same way as the British medical and surgical parcels. Lt.Col. Hankey would like to suggest to the competent American authorities to outfit the American medical parcels in a similar way as the British ones. Air-mail medical parcels are reported to arrive very well and special thanks are conveyed to Mrs. Bromley-Davenport of the Invalid Comfort Section of the BRCS for her generous assistance. A further supply of
50 Red Cross medical and
50 Red Cross surgical parcels
would provide the camp with a good reserve.
Dental attention is given by the American Dental Officer, Captain Field Smith, and the British Captain Golding. No complaints about dental treatment.
All clothing worn by the officers and ranks in this camp is clothing worn when captured or of Red Cross or private sources. Most of the latest arrivals have been without overcoats and full uniforms. Shortage of stocks at the Dulag Luft at Wetzlar is suspected to be the cause. The following items are needed:
2500 pairs of trousers, sizes 28 to 34,
500 pairs of shoes, sizes 8 and 8/12,
15000 pairs of wool socks, and
5000 pairs of gloves.
German authorities provide nothing in the way of clothing.
The Senior Officers report that the following articles of bedding material of German sources are lacking: (most of them have been confiscated while slightly damaged and not replaced)
Commandant promised investigation.
Increased shortage of buckets has caused situation to deteriorate. The wash-house in North-compound II proves to be very adequate, but the amount of hot water is limited by the issue of coal.
Canteen supplies are, as everywhere else in this country, very limited.
XI. MONEY AND PAY:
Nothing to report.
XII. RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY:
The following four Chaplains are in charge of religious attendance at this camp:
Capt. Charleton for the Roman-Catholics
Capt. Mitchell for the Presbyterians
Capt. Clarke as Church of England padre
Capt. Douglas for the Methodists.
A further R.C. priest has been applied for by the Camp authorities as the only R.C. padre is not able to conduct services on Sundays in all four compounds.
Pending the completion of the Mess-Hall in North compounds II and III, indoor worship in these compounds may only be conducted with difficulty to the minister and congregation by assembling in the narrow hallway of a barrack, service being conducted from the center of the hall with the congregation filling each end. Permission for North compound II and III to worship at the Mess-Hall services conducted in North compound I was requested but refused by camp-authorities due to a mixing of compound personnel at these services. Parole was offered to facilitate the transit to and from North Compound I but not accepted.
XIII. RECREATION AND EXERCISE:
Outdoor recreation is hampered through lack of sufficient sportsground. Only in the main-compound a full-size football pitch is available. Teams, but no spectators, from other compounds are allowed to go there. Skating-rinks in the main-compound and the North compound I are under construction.
Indoor recreation, as far as theatres and concerts are concerned, is in full swing. The Delegate had much pleasure in assisting the delightful play given by the Americans "Life with father".
Educational facilities are again very much hampered through lack of room. In the main-compound only one room has been the only facility for education or study for over 2000 prisoners of war. Common rooms at one time allowed at a ratio of one per barrack have all been made into living quarters, the present common room being the old library room for the compound. No common rooms have been allowed for study rooms or recreation in the North-Compounds since their opening. The lack of these facilities in North Compound I have been somewhat alleviated by utilizing the Mess Hall for church services, and communal activities such as the practice of the band or glee club have greatly interfered with the perusal of study in the Mess Hall or the education of classes due to the volume of sound made by these practices. The necessary activity relative to the preparation of the Mess Hall for meal hours has further curtailed its use for recreational or intellectual pursuits. North Compounds II and III will have one room per barracks reserved as common room if the officers agree to be quartered as to 24 men per room.
The radio furnished by the YMCA is kept at the security department and controlled by Major von Miller. Further complication was caused by the refusal of the prisoners of war to hand out the copper wire sent at the same time by the YMCA for the installation of loudspeakers in all barracks. Apparently this wire is useless for the transmitting and the German authorities promised to supply another sort of wire if the prisoners of war would hand the old wire (copper) to the Germans. In doing so the prisoners of war think they would help Germany's war effort and prefer to be without these loudspeakers pending the decision of the YMCA's delegate whose visit is expected in the very near future. The four power-gramophones supplied by the YMCA are only admitted to the camp when accompanied with an interpreter. Amplifying valves with which these apparatus' are provided are considered to be dangerous to be left with the prisoners of war. Parole was offered but not accepted.
Major Jackson who is in charge of education requests all information available on College Courses financed by the United States Government offered to members of armed forces returning from prisoners of war camps and why United States Armed Forces Institute Courses have been held up. Education especially needs the following textbooks:
Gregg Shorthand Texts
French and Spanish Texts
If available, request examinations on material covered in:
Principles of Retail Merchandising - H.A. Baker, Ph.D. McFraw-Hill Pub.Co.
Since our last visit, the mail position has improved slightly. Mail still appears to be taking much too long to reach its destination. American and Dominion mail in the months of October and November increased considerably and the average time between dispatch and receipt is approximately three months. English mail, although the amount has slightly increased, still seems to be very erratic, i.e. some letters taking three weeks while others take six months to arrive. Several English officers who have been in the camp for six months or more are still without news of their next-of-kin. A number of American officers have been at this camp for eight months or longer without notice from home. Occasionally envelopes arrived minus photographs and/or letters that have been enclosed.
The average time taken for the amount of mail received from Allied countries from August 1944 to date is as follows:
United Kingdom 17,383 items, taking as an average 14 weeks.
United States 20,947 items, taking as an average 13 weeks.
Africa 301 items, taking as an average 15 weeks.
Canada 3,452 items, taking as an average 10 1/2 weeks.
Australia 266 items, taking as an average 16 weeks.
New Zealand 215 items, taking as an average 17 weeks.
Continent - items, taking as an average 10 weeks.
Total outgoing mail over the same period was approximately 77,000. Time taken of outgoing mail until reaching destination is almost corresponding to the above figures.
Letters to the Protecting Power take anything from one to two months. A strong protest was lodged by the Delegate because 5 communications dispatched to our offices have been handed back to the prisoners of war giving some sort of excuse. The matter will be taken up with the OKW.
XV. WELFARE WORK:
Since our last visit Mr. Christensen of the YMCA has paid a visit to the camp and is again expected within short. A representative of the IRCC is supposed to call in the very near future.
Besides the points mentioned under the above headings, the following complaints were brought to the Delegate's knowledge:
(1) Ordonnances or batmen. Since the last visit more than a thousand officer prisoners of war have been sent to this camp; however, there has been no enlisted orderlies provided for this contingent to service the camp. The German authorities are requiring daily a certain number of men, ever increasing, for odd jobs such as transporting coal and victuals into the various compounds, chopping wood, cleaning sewage dumps, etc. regardless that the number of sergeants acting by force as batmen does not come up to the ratio of one to ten, as agreed. All the sergeants want to be released of this duty to a non-working sergeants' camp and since the Air-Force camps are now under direct supervision and management of the Army there should be nothing against employing privates of the Army as orderlies and batmen. Steps in this direction will be taken with the OKW.
(2) Salutes. Contrary to Article 18 of the Geneva Convention, German authorities insist that all prisoners of war must render the salute to German officers regardless of rank and have issued several disciplinary punishments to prisoners who have failed to comply with this order.
(3) Shortage of washing and cleaning utensils and messing articles. Such articles as brooms, scrubbers, brushes, dish and dust cloths, water buckets, washpans, coffee pots, toilet paper, are issued at a rate of 30 to 75% below the actual desired rate. Camp authorities point out the extreme shortage of all these necessities and declare themselves unable to provide more. The point will be discussed with the OKW.
Complaints No.2 and No.3 of our previous report are still standing and will again by taken up with the competent authorities, i.e. the OKW.
XVII. GENERAL IMPRESSION:
The tension between the prisoners of war and the camp authorities following the confinement of the Senior British Officer Grp./Capt. Marwood-Elton has eased somewhat although, in the meantime, the Senior Officer of North Compound II, Col. H.R. Spicer, has been put under custody confinement awaiting Court-Martial under a similar charge as Grp./Capt. Marwood-Elton. Most of the unrest, however, is caused by the material deprivation under which our protégés are living in this camp. All suggestions concerning material improvements have practically been turned down by the local authorities in point out the utter shortage of every material in Germany. This does not mean, however, that most of the German officers show much good will in improving general conditions.
A few weeks prior to our visit, Mr. Reinhart of the German Foreign Office, previously German Consul in Liverpool, called at this camp in order to get a full impression of prevailing conditions.
The spirit and morale of the prisoners of war are very high in this camp although the majority of the men expected to be home by this Christmas.
(Signed) Albert A. KADLER.
Annex No.1 Report Stalag Luft 1, Barth.
List of In-Patients in Camp-Hospital Stalag Luft 1.
Fracture r. fibula
Tonsillitis & Bronchiolitis
Superficial wound left leg
G.S.W. l sciatic (palay_
Investigation of chest
Septic sore l. leg
Scabies and burns
Septic sores both legs
Investigation of chest
Burns, ears and wrist