SHORT HISTORY: 1944

By the start of 1944 the Stalag had developed further, with the numerous kommandos organised into several districts, each with its own District Man of Confidence. Sgt Raymond Smith was Chief British Man of Confidence at Stalag, supported by 4 other POWs. A Swiss report of January 1944 said that the British POW population across the whole of the Stalag had increased to 3,500, of whom 2,300 had been transferred from Italy the previous year. A further report in May 1944 put the British contingent at 4,000, held in 54 kommandos. The breakdown of British POWs provides an interesting insight into the cosmopolitan character of the group: 3,356 are British [i.e. from the UK], 328 are South Africans, 60 are Irish [perhaps including some who deserted from the Republic's Defence Force to fight in the British Army], 68 New Zealanders, 47 Australians, 47 Indians, 43 Cypriots, 15 Canadians, 1 Egyptian, 1 West African and 2 Palestinians. Another Swiss report in the autumn puts the number of British POWs at a similar level, though now it also comments on the 53 Americans coming under the Stalag's authority.
When the ICRC visited in October 1944 the numbers had moved on again, illustrating the fluidity of the prisoner population. Now there were just over 25,000 POWs, of whom 3,837 were British [including Irish], 253 were Americans and 1 Norwegian. By now the Americans had a Chief American Man of Confidence in the Stalag, alongside Sgt Smith as his British counterpart.
During the autumn, camps in Wehrkreise IV had to accommodate Allied soldiers captured during the failed attempt to capture the bridge at Arnhem, "Operation Market Garden". So despite Wehrmacht reverses elsewhere,  the camp system continued to have to cater for new arrivals.
At the same time, conditions for prisoners were worsening with the gradual crumbling of the Reich. A British Government report on the situation in the Stalag written at the end of the year points to the arduous working conditions for POWs and this coincided with a gradual reduction in rations.

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