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American Ambassador presents his compliments to His Majesty's Principal
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and, with reference to Mr.
Kennedy's note of 59 of March 20, 1940, and of previous communications
transmitting reports of prisoners of war camps in Germany, has the
honor to transmit herewith a copy of a note from the American Embassy
at Berlin dated May 23, 1940, enclosing a report on a visit to Stalag
XXA and XXIB. Copies of this report have also been furnished to
the Prisoners of War Information Bureau.
June 11, 1940.
of Visit of Representative of American Embassy Berlin to Stalag
XXA. May 15, 1940.
The camp is located in 2 (with the addition of a military hospital
3) forts of a ring of fortifications surrounding a town considered
of military value before 1914. The forts are extensively built
of brick, covered by sod, and are of an extremely substantial construction
affording excellent air raid shelters. The mean are housed
in caserates, i.e. barrel-vaulted rooms opening on a corridor at
one end with windows at the other. The rooms, while recipients
of little or no sunlight, are sufficiently lighted and ventilated.
One fort, housing the men, contains two large courts one of which
is being arranged as football-field. Exercise is possible
in these courts which are sunny, and also on a terrace connecting
them from which a view may be obtained and the sense of confinement
somewhat dissipated. The other has an adjacent large exercise
ground already fenced.
Capacity and Present Personnel
The total capacity of the seven forts which are available for housing
prisoners, is estimated by the comandant of being about 10,000 men.
At present, however, there are 240 British combatants; a number
of Polish prisoners of war, some of whom are sailors taken at Hela,
are housed in one of the forts, but in a section apart from the
British. The two groups of prisoners, however, share the
two courtyards. The British personnel were all taken in Central
Norway (Lillehammer and Tretten), and were mostly territorials with
some older reservists. Their ages are understood to run from
17 to 38. The regiments are: Leicestershire Regiment, Kings
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and Eighth Sherwood Foresters.
The present personnel is expected to be augmented by May 20 by some
6000 additional British prisoners. At the time of the visit
on May 16 the commandant of the camp was unaware of the place of
capture of these troops which, however, was presumably on the western
front. Arrangements were being made to utilise vacant space
in the two forts at present occupied as well as to renovate another
fort of similar category whcih, however, had sheds suitable for
summer accommodation. Any overflow may be accomodated in
Interior Arrangements (Quarters, Heat, Bedding, Light.)
The men are well housed in barrel-vaulted rooms opening on a dark
corridor, but lit from windows at the other extremity. They
sleep on straw-sacks on a wooden floor. The commandant stated
that the floor was not damp and that bunks did not seem necessary
at the present time. Where concrete or stone floor exist,
wooden bunks will be built in triple tiers. Each man was supplied
2 blankets, and the non-commissioned officers had three. Heat
was by porcelain stove (Kachelofen), warmed by coal. Heat
was on at the time of the visit and the rooms were comfortable although
windows were open for ventilation.
Bathing and Washing Facilities
Bath troughs with cold running water were provided in the basement.
4 showers and one tub have been provided in the basement with constant
hot water. The men were alloted hours for bathing so that
one or possibly two bathes were given each week. A delousing
plant had been built adjoining the showers providing disinfection
in one hour. No vermin had recently been detected in the
camp although the Poles had brought some at the time of their arrival.
There were eight latrines of six holes each of somewhat primitive
construction; cleanliness was obtained through the use of Lime.
These facilities seem to have remained unchanged since before 1914
when the forts were occupied by German troops.
Food and Cooking
Cooking was likewise done in the basement in large kettles by Polish
cooks supervised by German non-commissioned officers. The
food corresponded to that which is more or les standardised in all
the camps and which has been sufficiently described in other reports.
Rising hour is at 5:30, after whcih morning coffee with the
accompaniment of bread and margarine is provided. One loaf
of bread is served to suffice for three men for one day. Complaint
was made as to the insufficiency of this ration. At 12 o'clock
the principal meal of the day is served consisting usually of a
meat, potato and cabbage or carrot stew. At 6 o'clock evening
meal is given, consisting of bread, coffee, unrelieved by sugar,
but with the accompaniment of margarine for the bread. The
food seemed well cooked, but is undoutedly uninteresting.
As yet no Red Cross packages had relieved it, since the men had
been in the camp for hardly over one week.
Medical Attention and Sickness
Each fort contains a small dispensary with some 10 cots, but cases
of any seriousness are sent to the hospital in the above mentioned
fort situated between the two forts occupied as living quarters.
This lanaret has 170 beds, but was occupied by 43 patients of whom
3 only were Britshers; two were surgical cases and one man was suffering
from pneumonia. These men were being looked after by a British
sanitary corps man (Sydney Freakley) who had, however, complained
to the commandant of his detention and expressed a belief that he
was entitled to repatriation. He was being detained, it appears,
to look after his sick compatriots. The surgical cases were
minor ones, one suffering from a cyst while the other had an injury
to his knee. They were able to walk out of doors. Lee
Chell, the pneumonia patient, was improved, his temperature chart
showing a marked decline. One man had been taken the night
before to a nearby town for appendicitis operation.The medical personnel
of the hospital consisted of two Polish doctors who, at least according
to the German commandant, had expressed willingness to remain in
the hospital rather than be released.The lasaret was clean and well
kept; its 15 closets which were provided with newspapers for use
and had been recently installed, provided a welcome contrast to
the unattractive closets of the forts.
The prisoners were clothed in their uniforms and wore boots; their
leather jerkins and overcoats had been recently stored (or so it
was said) by the camp officers, since owing to the advent of milder
weather, they were supposed to be no longer necessary. The
Embassy's representative was assured, however, that this equipment
was being retained in the camp and would, if rendered necesary by
adverse weather conditions, be returned to the men. The men
expressed a desire for changes of shirts, underclothing, and stated
in particular that their socks were worn out. The camp commandant
stated that each man would be given three shirts, underclothes and
either socks or "Fasslappen", probably the latter.
Also see note below.
The camp had a laundry and the men had already had access to it.
It was planned to have a laundry detail take care of laundering
shirts, underclothing etc.
Money and Pay
The men had but little money on them at the time of their capture;
thus in one fort they had about 60 Pounds and in hte other about
15 Pounds altogether. Pending the determination of a rate
of exchange the commandant had advanced 3 Marks to each man which
would be deducted either from the amount placed to his credit on
the camp books, or from his pay when he was put out to work.
A decidedly dismal canteen, lit only by electricity and by no means
well equipped, was in fort No.1. this, the commandant explained,
was a Polish canteen and stated that the Briishers would get one
of their own. Teh second camp, where only Britishers were
stationed, had a modest stock of articles such as cigarettes, tooth-brushes,
rasor blades and bread and beer for sale.
A Roman-Catholic religious service had been held but no Protestant
service had as yet been given. teh commandant stated that
the Roman Catholics presented no difficulty, since their services
were mostly in Latin, but no English speaking German pastor resided
in the neighborhood of the camp. He expressed the hope that
an English speaking clergyman might hold services. (It should
be possible to arrnage for such services through the intervention
of the pastor of the American Church in Berlin or the pastor of
the [?plecopal] Church at [???aden].Note: The cooks wore drill
working clothes, and working clothes will also be handed to men
who will have to do rough work.
Recreation and Exercise
Walking and gymnastics were possible in the two courts which, as
stated, were sunny and open to fresh air. The men having expressed
a desire for a football, the Embassy representative ordered one
from a near-by town, together with some games, playing cards, etc.
Books will be sent from Berlin. The Y.M.C.A. representative
in Berlin who has initiated the start of a larged fenced recreation
ground near camp 2. [unreadable sentence overtyped]
Mail and parcels are delivered daily, but the British prisoners
had not yet received any although they had been authorised to send
2 letters and 4 postcards monthly, in addition to the card announcing
their arrival at the camp.
None as yet.
No serious complaints were heard, although the men expressed an
urgent desire to receive cigarettes and smoking tobacco. The
German cigarettes available in the canteen were not to their taste
and also insufficient. They also expressed a desire to receive
books and magazines and wished tooth-brushes, paste, and a shaving
kit (although a barber-shop had been set up and razor provided for
each room). This last arrangement, however, may not be considered
sanitary. Towels and soap had been provided and, as stated
above, the commandant assured the men that shirts, underclothing
and socks would be made available. The food did not come in
for particular complaint although the stew was described as thin
and more bread was required.
The camp, while the prison-like character of hte old fortifications
did not give it an airy and cheerful appearance, seemed suitable
for occupancy and, indeed, had been regularly used by German soliders
up to the time of abandonment of the fort which is understood to
have taken place before the last war. The commandant impresed
the Embassy's representative as being vigourous and energetic and
capable of meeting emergencies such as the sudden announcement of
the arrival of 6000 additional "guests". The commandant
(and it is the commandant who gives the tone to each camp) was an
officer who had lived in England and spoke very good English.
He was assisted by other officers who gave a good impression, and
a non-commissioned staff some of whom had been in prison camps during
the war of 1914/18. One of these last, who had been in Great
Britain, stated that the quarters now provided were much better
than any he had enjoyed, but it was suggested that a general ameloration
in the condition of prisoner of war camps had been a consequence
of the adoption of the Convention Concerning Treatment of Prisoners
of War of July 27, 1929.