Stalag Luft 6 and 4 Notebook – Stalag Luft VI Sketch

(Posted: July 12, 2011)

Lager E most likely would have been where my father spent February 21, 1944, to July 15, 1944 as a POW in Heydekrug, East Prussia, now Silute, Lithuania.  I say this without hearing it from him.  It is an assumption that I make because he has printed it as if it was his way of remembering the building he resided in.  It shows me that he had hope that he would some day look back at this notebook and contemplate the days he spent in Lager E at Stalag Luft VI certainly relieved to have it in the past.  What must he have thought when taken to this desolate wooded area?  He had to wonder just what he was in for.  According to written reports and various accounts of life as a POW, the Americans were held in Lager E.  Dad would have been one of the first to arrive, only 2 weeks after his camp leader, Frank Paules, had arrived. 

 This sketch appears to be aerial view of a large portion of the camp.  This was his first home as a prisoner of war.  This camp was inhabited by RAF airmen who had already learned how to adjust to life as a POW as well as learning what you could get away with and what you couldn’t – which officers you could get along with and how to deal with the more difficult.  Many had been POW’s for a very long time.  This was a new experience for my father who would spend his 21st birthday behind barbed wire.  I wonder if he even acknowledged it – if he even told those fellows that he was with “today’s my birthday”.  He may very well have just let it pass unnoticed.  It would not mean much to him in a prisoner of war camp with so many other worrisome thoughts entering his mind.   There would be no celebration under the existing conditions.  Being shot down, captured, interrogated and incarcerated would overwhelm the mind.  On that day he may not have even known it was February 23rd and if he had what difference would it have made anyway?  He had begun a new and foreign role to him and had to wonder what the future held.  He would do everything possible to survive.  If he did recognize his birth date the question of how many birthdays he would see as a POW would surely arise or worse yet the grim possibility that he would never see another birthday was not out of the question.

I’ve often wondered when I’ve read of the tunneling that was done in the camps to try to escape if my father was involved.  I tend to think that he may not have been.  It would have been such a big risk that I don’t think that he would have wanted to take.  I don’t believe that it would have been his way of trying to survive.  I am thinking he would have been trying to think positive about liberation contemplating that the end of the War was near.  I have no way of being sure what thoughts of ways to survive would have entered his mind.  It seems to me that he mentioned to my daughter years ago that the guards knew that there was tunneling taking place but they didn’t do much about it because they knew they were going nowhere so it makes me think he didn’t participate in those activities.  I’ve heard that the ground was very sandy so there was not much of a chance for success. 

 

My father was one of the earliest Americans brought in so he would have most likely taken part in the election of the “Man of Confidence”, Frank Paules, whose name he mentions in his notebook and notates “Camp Leader” by.  It doesn’t appear from what I gather that things started out extremely bad.  The Guards seemed to listen to the needs of the prisoners.   It is written that supplies were very limited but that in the group my father was with, a POW by the name of Bill Krebs could speak German so he effectively communicated with the guards combining efforts with Paules to obtain some of the badly needed necessities.  His name, too, is written in my father’s notebook.  I am certain my father was right in the thick of things because he had arrived in the Camp as early as he did.  The names of those so involved in organizing and lobbying on behalf of the prisoners are all among the names in my father’s notebooks.  I find it most interesting as when I read the interviews of the now deceased POW’s who I know my father was interned with, I feel I am learning about my father’s experience as well.  There had been 3 deaths in Stalag Luft VI while my father was there.  Those killed may have been friends of his.  He may have witnessed their tragic deaths.  He may have seen their place of interment.  It is possible that he may have even been involved in the burial of these fallen heroes.  These are more questions that will never be answered by my father.

13 responses to “Stalag Luft 6 and 4 Notebook – Stalag Luft VI Sketch”

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