SHORT HISTORY: 1945

Across the Reich conditions for POWs were worsening. The winter was particularly severe, even by central European standards. The Germans were being pushed back in Italy, western Europe, in the east and were assailed almost without resistance from the sky. The hardships of POWs were reflected in the civilian population, with a severe reduction in supplies of coal, motor fuel, food and clothing. For POWs, the impact of the war on transport links meant that Red Cross and personal parcels were even more difficult to get hold of.
But even now, new prisoners were arriving. Kommandos in Dresden received an influx of new POWs with the arrival of those captured during the failed German offensive in the Ardennes.
For existing prisoners in the south and west of the Reich, for instance in Wehrkreise IV, life was becoming ever more unpleasant. But at this stage it was not as frightful, or as fatal for some, as that endured by those POWs forced to march west from camps in Poland and Silesia.
But the war had a significant impact on Stalag IVA, nonetheless. The difficulties in securing supplies of Red Cross parcels was one, important, aspect. But the evacuation of camps in the east put further pressure on camps in the south and west. And the air war, which had focussed on the major cities and military/industrial targets accessible from East Anglia, had now moved on, with the liberation of France, to more remote targets including those in Saxony. The destruction of Dresden in mid February further degraded transport links, as well as killing some POWs. POWs there, as well as those in kommandos from nearby Stalags, were drafted in, or even volunteered, to help clear the damage.
By mid April, the German military authorities had decided to evacuate camps along the Elbe, with those in Dresden being forced to leave, under guard, for the Sudentenland on or before 14 April. The climate in which they marched was more benign than that experienced by those POWs moved from the east earlier in the year. But they walked - malnourished, weary and in many cases ill - in constant danger of attack by Red Army aircraft intent on delaying and damaging the German retreat. Even before the end of hostilities on 8 May, many of the Stalag's kommandos were breaking up and heading for the American lines.
One conundrum remains, however. When, and by whom, was Stalag IVA itself liberated? The evidence is uncertain.

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