prisoners

Jul

17

1944

Red Army reaches the Russian border


17 July 1944: Red Army reaches the Soviet border

For just a few minutes, people became completely different – unfettered, they straightened their backs and stood taller; pride appeared on their faces, and their eyes sparkled. If only for a short while, the terrible memories of the days of retreat and death slipped away, the years we endured together, the tears over those who passed away — all vanished in this moment of common triumph and joy! How splendid that we had lived to see this hour! That we were among the first of the first to cross this fixed geographical boundary, which was so precious to us all, and toward which we had all been striving so long! It seemed to all of us that the end of the war was now just a stone’s throw away.

Jun

27

1944

Why the other nations fought for Hitler


27 June 1944: Why the other nations fought for Hitler

That was the outward scene in the prisoners’ cage, and it made no sense at all. A dozen different nationalities. All of them reacting in different ways, pulling in different directions, speaking different languages. And yet an hour or two since they had all been fighting with a suicidal ferocity. Pillboxes were being held long after their eventual destruction was a certainty. The Russians had been firing right up to the last few yards before they threw up their hands.

Apr

12

1944

Avoiding Japanese ‘doctors’ in Shinagawa Camp, Tokyo


12 April 1944: Avoiding Japanese ‘doctors’ in Shinagawa Camp, Tokyo

If they got worse, they were operated on at night while he was out of camp. This was done in the face of his direct orders forbidding any surgery being done other than by Dr. Tokuda. Black with anger the next morning, he cussed and howled when he found out that a victim – had escaped his tender ministration. We told him blandly that it was an emergency and we were unable to reach him.

Mar

26

1944

OSS troops executed at dawn on Dostler’s orders


26 March 1944: OSS troops executed at dawn on Dostler’s orders

During the night from Saturday 25th to Sunday, 26th March, two attempts were made by officers of the 135th Fortress Brigade and by the Naval Officers to bring about a change in the decision by telephoning to the accused Dostler. All these attempts having been unsuccessful, the 15 Americans were executed on the 26th March, early in the morning. They were neither tried, nor given any hearing.

Mar

24

1944

The ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft III

The entrance to 'Harry',


24 March 1944: The ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft III

There were about 200 of us spread evenly in the rooms throughout the hut. I can’t honestly remember if we had been allocated rooms according to our escape numbers, but that was probably the case. Everyone was nervous, checking constantly papers, escape rations, appearance — all the small details your life might depend upon later.

Mar

12

1944

U-boat murder leads to last mass execution in U.S.


12 March 1944: U-boat murder leads to last mass execution in U.S.

The investigation in that case indicated that Drechsler had been used as an informant by G-2 or ONI to assist in the interrogation and processing of prisoners at Meade or some other installation in this vicinity. After his usefulness had been exhausted Drechsler was shipped to Papago Park for imprisonment. He was a submarine man, and Papago Park detains numerous Navy prisoners. Drechsler was recognized as a traitor to Germany and was murdered. This result could or should have been foreseen, to put it mildly.

Mar

9

1944

Leo Rawlings – War artist on the death railway


9 March 1944: Leo Rawlings – War artist on the death railway

Men still working in the jungle camps and the railway sidings were drafted out to operate on the track laying gangs. Up to eighteen hours per day, and in some cases even more, was expected and demanded of these unfortunates, the sick along with the half-fit — for now no fit men remained. All were either physically or mentally sick.

Feb

27

1944

Anzio – searching through the pockets of the dead


27 February 1944: Anzio – searching through the pockets of the dead

Bloody documents were no joy to inspect. And when they were both bloody and wet, which was often, because so much of the weather during the fighting was rainy, they were particularly revolting. Sometimes they were not removed from the fallen soldier’s pockets until he had lain dead for days in a rain-drenched field or ditch.

Feb

26

1944

Beaten to death for teaching children


26 February 1944: Beaten to death for teaching children

She held the side of her head as the blood seeped from between her fingers. I don’t think I could ever have imagined that much blood coming from such a wound. It covered her blouse and her skirt and fell in drops onto the dry earth. I couldn’t believe the blow to her head had not killed her, but she stood still and, although she was crying, I could see she was getting stronger by the second.

Feb

8

1944

Japanese brutality as they overrun hospital


8 February 1944: Japanese brutality as they overrun hospital

Lieutenant Basu was shot at twice. He was left stunned. At first he was not sure whether he was alive or dead. He felt at his ear, but there was no blood on his fingers. He could still see and his thoughts became clear once more. He realised how vulnerable he was lying there still alive.