SHORT HISTORY: 1939-1940.

A key problem with researching a prison camp in Germany on the web, or even in some scholarly works, is the assumption by some authors that the camp's designation defines the nature of the population and the location. That may be true of some camps at a particular time, but it is often not true some or even all of the time for others. The designation as a Stalag (i.e. a camp for "other ranks" and NCOs) might not exclude the possibility that the camp included officers (medics in particular, but not exlusively, were to be found in some Stalags). And some Stalags housed airmen NCOs in addition to soldiers, rather than keeping them in Stalag Lufts. Stalag IVB (Muhlberg an der Elbe) is a good example of both these phenomena. Oflags might contain enlisted men, for instance as batmen or, in separate accommodation, provide a Straflager, or punishment camp, as was the case in Olfag IVB (Konigstein). The increasing turbulence as the end of the war approached further confused matters as camps closed and POWs had to be relocated. And the designation of a camp in one place did not exclude the possibility of its move somewhere else.
Stalag IVA is no exception to this, with the designation of the camp (but not the POWs in it) moving between 2 sites in the military district of Saxony (Wehrkreise IV). Moreover, its second, long-term, home at Hohnstein, changed its designation as a prison camp in the early years of the war.
It is not clear what arrangements for housing POWs in Saxony had been taken before war broke out in August 1939. Some accommodation had been created, in a tented camp at Elsterhorst bei Hoyerswerda in the north of the District, for soldiers taken when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in March of that year. About 350 Czech soldiers were in the POW camp, with an associated Kommandatur and military hospital. The capture of substantial numbers of Polish troops in September 1939 meant that accommodation for POWs had to be accelerated, with several Stalags and Oflags being set up. Some of the Poles ended up with the Czechs in what had become Stalag IV, the camp at Elsterhorst.
At the same time, Hohnstein Castle, located at the small town of the same name in the mountainous Saxon Switzerland south east of Dresden, was pressed into service. The castle had been a prison for many years before 1939. The kings of Saxony had used it as such and the National Socialist government did so from 1933. Prior to that, from 1924 it had been used as a youth hostel becoming a political prison when taken over by the SA when Hitler came to power. Its prisoners included communist and social democrat opponents of the Nazi regime.
When Germany attacked Poland in the summer 1939 the castle became a prison for Polish officers. At that stage it appears to have been Oflag IVB/Z, that is a sub-camp of the main camp at Konigstein, itself designated as Oflag IVB. Its role expanded to include military personnel of the Western Allies when France and the Low Countries succumbed the following summer. A report compiled in July 1940 by a representative of the USA Consulate in Dresden, acting as the Protecting Power [under the 1929 Geneva Convention on POWs], records that the camp housed 158 officers and 106 men from Poland, the Netherlands and France, including over 50 generals.
It appears to have retained its sub-camp status during the rest of 1940, that is as an Oflag, with Stalag IVA remaining at Elsterhorst.
Revised: February 2015.

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