First experiences of a German POW camp

Moosberg would later become a transit camp for United States POWs captured in Europe.

Doug Palmer had been with a Heavy Anti Aircraft battery when was left behind, along with nearly 5,000 other British and New Zealand troops, on Crete and forced to surrender. He endured the slow, filthy journey by rail from Greece to Germany with little more than potato soup – “it went through you like a dose of salts” – to sustain him. There was some respite when they reached Germany in mid August:

Our eventual destination was Mooseburg, Stalag 7A, near Munich where already there were hundreds of P.O.W.s, Frenchmen, Yugoslavs and Serbians. It was a large camp and about a hundred men were put into a hut.

We were safely in the net, with high wire all round, lookout towers at each corner and guard dogs patrolling the perimeter. We settled down fairly comfortably in our huts with two tier beds and mattresses filled with straw, quite a luxury after the nightmare journey from Greece.

We were not left in peace for long and soon heard the now familiar shout of eraus: eraus: schnell: schnell: which mean get out and fast. We were given our gefangenen number and photographed; then we were deloused and all our hair removed. We knew what it felt and looked like to be convicts, but wondered what we had done to deserve the treatment, and how long it would have to last.

At a certain time at night we had to be in the barracks, but usually some were in the lavatory and this was dangerous when the dogs were loose. It was a race to get to the barracks without being bitten. Only felons and us knew what it was like to be chased by a snarling dog.

A Frenchman and myself were pushed one night and had to run, but I was lucky and got to the door first. The Frenchman was not so lucky and had his thigh tom open. We used a slop pail in the night but this was overflowing by the morning. In the day time the dogs were led on a long leash and woe betide anyone who got in the way.

American prisoners arriving in Mooseburg as late as 1944 were to recall similar experiences with the dogs.

Palmer and his fellow prisoners only began to recover in September 1941 when the first Red Cross parcels from Britain arrived and they received some vitamin tablets. He spent the next four years working for the Germans – only officers did not have to work. It was hard labour, in very bad conditions, in coal mines and a cement factory.

See Kenneth Rankin, Editor Lest We Forget : Fifty Years On

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