AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR IN GERMANY
Prepared by MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE, WAR DEPARTMENT
TRANSIT CAMP, SECTION OF DULAG LUFT
1 November 1945
On 10 Sept. 1943 the Dulag Luft transit camp, where PW who had been interrogated awaited shipment to permanent Stalags, was moved from Oberursel to Frankfurt-on-Main. Here it was situated in the Palm Gardens only 1635 yards northwest of the main railroad station - a location which was a target area and therefore endangered the lives of PW.
On 15 Nov. 1943 the Swiss stated, “This visit (to the camp) leaves a bad impression because of the new situation of the Dulag, so exposed to attacks from the air, which is not in conformity with Article 9 of the (Geneva) Convention.”
Thus the following Swiss announcement in the spring of 1944 came as no surprise: “Dulag Luft, Wetzlar, is succeeding Dulag Luft, Frankfurt, which was destroyed in course of one of the latest (24 March) air raids on Frankfurt. The camp is situated on a slightly elevated position approximately 3 to 4 kilometers west north west from Wetzlar, a town some 50 kilometers north of Frankfurt-on-Main and is a former German army camp (Flak troops).”
During the first 9 months of 1943, 1000 PW a month passed through the transit camp. This increased to 1500 a month, half British and half American, in the last 3 months of the year. Statistics for Oct. 1944 follow:
Incoming Personnel Total................1963
Daily Average........................... 63
Camp strength fluctuated from day to day. On the Swiss visit of 10 Nov. 1944 it was 311; on 13 March 1945 it was 825. Except for the permanent staff of 30, PW seldom stayed more than 8 days.
During May & June 1944, inmates lived in 18 tents pitched on the eastern side of the camp area. On 13 July 1944, they moved to the newly-constructed buildings: 5 barracks and one large bungalow which held the messes and the store rooms. Capacity of the camp was 784, with tents available in case of a sudden influx. Two of the sleeping barracks were reserved for officers, 2 for NCO's, and the remaining one accommodated the permanent camp staff, sick rooms and medical inspection room. The camp staff, the officers and the enlisted men ate separately.
Each room in the barracks held 6 to 8 triple-decker bunks - 18 to 24 men. Each bed had a mattress filled with wood shavings and one pillow. All barracks had special wash rooms with built-in basins and running cold water.
Unoccupied space within the barbed wire was somewhat limited after the erection of the last 2 barracks and the laying out of vegetable gardens cultivated for and by the PW. The area gave a neat appearance, however, with tidy paths and well-tended lawns.
Senior Allied Officer at Wetzlar was Colonel Charles W. Stark who enjoyed exceptionally friendly terms with the Germans and drew many concessions from them. Members of his staff were:
1st Lt. Gerald G. Gille........Adjutant 2nd Lt. Arthur C. Jaros........Adjutant
2nd Lt. Herbert Schubert.......Mess Officer
In addition, the staff comprised:
1 Chaplain 5 Kitchen orderlies 4 Mess orderlies
5 Store orderlies 4 Barracks chiefs 3 Medical orderlies
4 Barracks orderlies 1 Gardner 1 Carpenter
A previous Senior American Officer was 1st Lt. John G. Winant.
The housekeeping organization consisted of:
Oberstleutnant Becker : Commandant Major Riess : Camp Officer
Major Salzer : Camp Officer Major Heydon : Camp Officer
Dr. Thomai : Medical Officer Dr. Wenger : Medical Officer
Hauptmann Schmid :Security Officer
In Nov. 1944 there was reported the existence at the camp of an interrogation center. According to Col. Stark, treatment was good and correct in every way. Some PW arriving from Oberursel were in solitary and asked purely “political” questions for 2 or 3 days. Then they were admitted to the transit camp. Chief of this interrogation section was Major Ernst Dornseifer.
Treatment was better here than at any other American PW camp in Germany. German & American staffs seemed to cooperate with each other, resulting in favorable living conditions to both parties. The Senior Allied Officer operated Wetzlar as a rest camp where PW suffering from the harsh treatment at Oberursel might regain their strength and morale before traveling to permanent camps. As a result neither Germans nor Americans provoked any untoward incidents.
No food shortage existed at Wetzlar, even though the Germans repeatedly cut their ration until the daily issue per man was officially announced in March 1945 as:
Meat 35grams Potatoes 320grams Margarine 31grams
Butter 25grams Sugar 25grams Bread 75grams
Salt 20grams Coffee (ersatz) 5grams
For three days:
Barley 10grams Millet 21grams Hulsenfruchte 63grams
Cheese 14grams White cheese 14grams
The difference between this sub-sustenance diet and the good meals actually eaten by PW was made up by Red Cross food. One parcel per PW was drawn each week and 90% of all Red Cross food was given to the kitchen to improve German rations. Usually the stock on hand consisted of 4 month's supply. Even in Sept. 1944 when the order was given to cut food reserves to a very minimum, Wetzlar authorities allowed PW to keep 4 weeks' supply on hand. In March 1945, anticipating a possible evacuation from Wetzlar to the interior of the Reich, the SAO authorized the issue of 2 Red Cross food parcels per man per week, both to strengthen PW for the march to come and to prevent the loss of food which would be abandoned in the event of a sudden move.
The kitchen - staffed by Americans - was well equipped with 2 large cooking ranges, 3 boilers, a dishwashing room, a potato-peeling room, a tin-opening room and an adjacent storeroom.
The sick bays were able to accommodate 40 men in beds, 2 of which were in a separate room reserved for contagious diseases. The medical inspection room was described as adequate and all necessary medicines and instruments were made available either from Red Cross sources or - to a lesser extent - from the Germans. Good medical treatment was received from the German staff doctor who cooperated first with Lt. Anthony S. Barling, RAMC, and then with Capt. Peter Griffin during their brief stays in camp.
Each man received a hot shower upon his entrance to the compound and was subsequently permitted to take one each week. Although the barracks washroom taps ran only cold water, hot water could usually be drawn elsewhere some hours during the day. A 10-seat outdoor latrine was supplemented by satisfactory toilets of the modern flush type.
Although many men arriving from Oberursel were wounded and exhausted, the general state of health was considered good.
Large numbers of PW arrived without outer uniforms, and sometimes without underclothing or shoes. Each new arrival was equipped with at least the following articles - all of which were supplied not by the Germans but by the Red Cross:
1 shirt 1 pr. socks 1 blouse
1 pr. drawers 1 necktie 1 pr. shoes
1 undershirt 1 pr. trousers 1 set toilet articles.
Initially, the shortage of American stocks necessitated the drawing of British clothing. Later, however, most of the clothing issued was of American origin, and eventually it was possible to keep adequate stocks of British and American items separately. In March 1945 it was no longer possible to provide PW with neatly packed “captive cases” a sort of suitcase containing the articles listed above, for the supply was exhausted.
Since air force personnel consisted solely of commissioned and non-commissioned officers, no work beyond some of their own housekeeping chores were required of them.
PW received no pay, but when the camp opened in the summer of 1944, the finance committee of Stalag Luft 3, Sagan, sent the permanent staff a fund of over 4000 reichmarks.
Transients were allowed to send their first letter or a postcard form informing next-of-kin of their status and address, but received no incoming mail. The permanent staff drew the usual allotment of letter forms and received incoming mail as well. Some air mail from the United States was received within three weeks. Average time for both air mail and surface mail was four months. As with all Luftwaffe camps, letters were censored at Sagan.
The Senior Allied Officer agreed with statements of the Swiss Delegates and German camp authorities that Wetzlar was an excellent camp and that “such favorable conditions are hardly to be found elsewhere in Germany.” Morale of men leaving Oberursel was usually at its lowest ebb, and it is small wonder after receiving food, clothing and mingling in comparative freedom with their fellow Americans, that their spirits soared back to a level approaching normality. Most of them left Wetzlar prepared to face the difficulties of their new lives as PW.
The Protecting Power visited Wetzlar in May, July, November 1944 and March 1945 each time forwarding the complaints of the Senior Allied Officer and making a complete report on camp conditions.
The Red Cross supplied PW with practically all their food, clothing and medical supplies but made no visit until Jan. 1945, when they wrote a report of their inspection.
From the YMCA, the camp received most of its library, which eventually totaled 1500 books, and equipment for indoor games and outdoor sports.
For some months the only religious activity was the regular Sunday service conducted by Warrent Officer Hooton, RAF, a Methodist. Early in 1945 Captain Daniel McGowan, a Catholic priest, conducted both Catholic and Protestant services every Sunday.
New arrivals were usually in such condition as not to want strenuous exercise. Games, therefore, were as a rule limited to milder sports such as deck tennis. Once a week some PW were permitted walks outside the camp. The most popular indoor pastimes were reading, playing cards, discussing the new experience of being a PW and playing some of the table games provided by the YMCA.
EVACUATION & LIBERATION: The Wetzlar camp log from 27 through 30 March follows:
27 March 1945
0530 German order to evacuate all those able to walk with the exception of few permanent staff, who should remain to run the place. 143 remained including Col. Stark, Lt. Jaros, Lt. Comdr. Jennings, Capt. Griffin, Lt. Gille and Capt Rev. McGowan. German' personnel left were 107 men, 34 women, including Maj. Dornseifer, Lt. Weyrich, and Mr. Rickmers.
0730 Transport left (82 men)
0830 We hear gun fire and sounds of approaching vehicles. Germans from across the road move into our shelters.
0945 Hear our troops are 4 kms west of us. Heavy gun fire all around.
1030 Heavy firing continues all around us. German guards are voluntarily laying down their arms.
1200 Col. Stark calls Mr. Rickmers & Lt Weyrich into office and states that all guards turn in weapons and a system of joint sentry duty be posted. They agree and he is now in full command - Maj. Dornseifer cooperating fully in this.
1430 Activity has been heavy all around us all afternoon.
1700 Fairly quiet for the moment. Col. ordered 2 privates to be put in the guard house cells as they are obviously drunk. German guards brought liquor into camp. He has issued orders for no drinking including the Germans.
2030 Col. sent F/Lt. Lyons, Sgt. Hanson and Mr. Rickmers to try contacting our forces in the west and report our location.
2300 Still very active all around us - M.G. fire and artillery.
2400 Still a good deal of firing. Most of the personnel sleep in shelters.
28 March 1945
0630 Fairly constant gun fire and activity all night.
1000 Dr. Griffin takes wounded Pfc. into Wetzlar for operation. Armored column passing to east of us.
1200 Lt. Valentine arrives in jeep. Boy, are we happy to see a Yank!
1500 Col. Stark and Capt. Griffin are off to Staff HQ with Lt. Valentine.
1700 Sgt. Hanson and Mr. Rickmers return. There has been heavy firing around us all day.
1800 German paratroopers walk into camp and surrender. They are locked up.
1830 Col. Stark returns with 3 War News Correspondents including Belden.
2400 Things are fairly quiet.
29 March 1945
0940 Spot cub plane landed on play field.
0945 Dogs were shot.
1000 Lt. Col. Grant of 7th Armored Division (?) arrived in jeep advising us of 750 PWs he had picked ·up. Limburg PWs are lousy and half starved. We have sent for them and will put them up here.
1200 Four Piper Cubs landed.
1300 Maj. McDougall (?), Medical Officer, arrived and will stay the afternoon in order to help with Limburg PWs.
1400 Col. Stark and party go out to recc'y some German motor equipment.
1415 Maj. Dornseifer gave Col. Stark a list of his people who he is anxious to have out of camp as they have strong party sympathies and might make trouble. Col. Stark turns them over to an Infantry Patrol. They include the following: Sgt. Lehmann, Sgt. Hackmann, Cpl. Busch, Cpl. Stoecket and Cpl. Schaaf.
1420 First lot of distressed PWs arrived and are deloused, bathed and clothed.
1530 Maj. Teese, PWX-SHAEF executive, arrives with load of PWs.
1745 We are to be loaded with PWs. They have been arriving all PM.
2130 Finished feeding for night. 400 odd still to-be deloused.
30 March 1945
Work continues thru the day, delousing and feeding PWs' arr1v1ng in camp. Maj. Teese returns and advises us to expect 320 PWs from Hadamar in the morning. This lot will include 14 General officers and 79 Field Grade officers. Seven PWs return from our last transport, including W/Comdr. Carling-Kelly. Today the remaining German personnel were officially put to work in the office, on kitchen detail, policing camp, etc. They are dealt with thru Maj. Dornseifer, Mr. Richmers·and Sgt. Keller.
Work is going on to prepare for the maximum number this camp will hold. Medical officers have arrived and are organizing their departments. They hope to start evacuating the worst cases shortly. The Hadamar contingent started arriving at 1100.
With the arrival of British officers who outranked him, Col. Stark was no longer Senior Allied Officer present. Major Teese of PWX-SHAEF, suggested that the staff remain and help in processing PW expected to arrive within the next few weeks. A stay of such length did not seem necessary to Col. Stark and at 0515 in the morning of 31 March he drove away in a German car with Cmdr. Jennings, USNR, and S/Sgt. Lee Hughes, AAF, leaving a note for Lt. Gille. He proceeded by motor and air transport to Paris, arriving 3 April 1945.