prisoners

Jul

17

1942

Auschwitz – the sudden death of Yankel Meisel


17th July 1942: Auschwitz – the sudden death of Yankel Meisel

In the tenth row outside our Block, the Block Senior found Yankel Meisel without his full quota of tunic buttons.

It took some seconds for the enormity of the crime to sink in. Then he felled him with a blow. An uneasy shuffling whispered through the ranks. I could see the S.S. men exchange taut glances and then I saw the Block Senior, with two of his helpers, hauling Yankel inside the barrack block.

Out of sight, they acted like men who have been shamed and betrayed will act. They beat and kicked the life out of him. They pummelled him swiftly, frantically, trying to blot him out, to sponge him from the scene and from their minds; and Yankel, who had forgotten to sew his buttons on, had not even the good grace to die quickly and quietly.

Jul

8

1942

Shipped out of Tobruk as a PoW


8th July 1942: Shipped out of Tobruk as a PoW

A freighter was tied up in front of us, lifting gently in the light swell that was rolling across the harbour. This was our ferry for the trip across the sea to Italy. We were going back to Europe, but not the way that we would have wished.

At last, we got the signal to embark and as each man reached the gangway he was presented with a packet of Italian cigarettes and a tin of corned beef. This was to last us until we reached Taranto and together with a quantity of rusty water all we had until we landed.

We were packed into the holds of the vessel and given to understand that nobody would be allowed on deck in any circumstances. A number of buckets were then passed down and the Italian interpreter indicated that these were our loo for the trip. Some of the men already had dysentery and after two hours below, the atmosphere could almost be leaned upon.

Jul

1

1942

Australian tragedy – Montevideo Maru torpedoed

1st July 1942: Australian tragedy – USS Sturgeon sinks Montevideo Maru

Proceeding to intercept target as before. Altered course to gain position ahead of him, and dove at 0146. When he got in periscope range, it could be seen that he was larger than first believed, also that his course was a little to the left of west, leaving us some 5,000 yards off the track. Was able to close some 1,000 yards of this, and then turned to fire stern tubes as:

i) Only three tubes available forward, and at this range and with large target four torpedo spread desirable.
ii) After tubes had 70D/ heads, while heads forward were small ones.

At 0225 fired four torpedo spread, range 4,000 yards, from after tubes. At 0229 heard and observed explosion about 75-100 ft. abaft stack. At 0240 observed ship sink stern first. 0250 surfaced, proceeded to eastward, completing battery charge. Ship believed to be Rio de Janeiro Maru, or very similar type, although it is possible it was a larger ship, he was a big one.

Jun

21

1942

‘Stunned amazement’ and confusion in the desert

The NAAFI storemen are machine-gunning stocks of beer worth £20 000. I feel an enormous apathy as I watch others rushing about with cases of canned fruit, liquor, jam. There is a mad abundance. I see men hacking tins open with bayonets, drinking the syrup and chucking the cans aside.

Jun

20

1942

The fall of Tobruk

Shells were coming more often now, the tanks with their big guns, had now got sight of the harbour. Boats of all kinds were trying to get away. Some were burning from end to end, passing just by our port, some of the men were jumping off and swimming to shore, some jumped off with kit on their backs and sunk. Later the rocket guns on the Harbour side were blown up, we began to think then.

Jun

9

1942

Taken prisoner out in the Desert


9th June 1942: Taken prisoner out in the Desert

We had not gone far before a carrier, closely followed by a fifteen hundredweight, came towards us. ’That’s all right’ I said to the D.C.L.I. [Devon and Cornwall Light Infantry] captain, ‘a patrol to check who we are’. They approached us at about fifteen miles per hour, the carrier with the familiar rocking motion fore and aft. When they were about a hundred yards away I shouted ’Halt, friend’ They did not halt but put on pace.

The carrier swung to my right, the fifteen hundredweight to my left, and then halted forty yards away. The ‘carrier’ was a German half-track with a machine gun in it pointing at us: the fifteen hundredweight was a British vehicle but with a machine gum mounted in front with two visored caps manning it; and previously concealed close behind the fifteen hundredweight was one of those German semi-armoured tracked vehicles with the silhouette of a tank, and mounting a forty-seven millimetre gun which seemed to be pointing straight at my stomach.

As I realised this in a split second, a German non-commissioned officer with a tommy gun jumped out of the half-track shouting ‘Hands up’. ‘B-, they’re Bosch’ I said, and – there was not much time to think – ’it’s no good, pack in’.

It was a neat bit of work just as dark was falling, and, in the state most of us were in I honestly do not think that an attempt at fighting would have been any use. My first reaction was one of intense anger, my next – immediately afterwards – to turn round, tear off my rank badges and medal ribbons, and drop them with my field glasses and revolver in a hole I scuffled in the sand with my foot.

May

11

1942

On the cattle wagon to Sobibor

11th May 1942: On the cattle wagon to Sobibor

We had to stand and the sea of filth grew bigger at our feet, and we went on and on like this for the whole day, locked inside the wagons, as if we were real beasts, in a stifling nauseating place, filled with dead bodies and putrid air. To add the finishing touch to the gruesome picture once in a while we would hear shots fired by the German soldiers who were on the outside of the convoy.

May

6

1942

The surrender of Corregidor

6th May 1942: The surrender of Corregidor – last US forces on Philippines

An enemy machine gunner was discovered on a ridge, and a squad of men calmly discussed the manner of his liquidation. A puff of dust in front of the machine gun would result in that rifleman being joshed for the poor use of his rifle. When the machine gun was finally knocked out the riflemen paused for a cigarette. After the scream of bombs and shells, ordinary bullets flying around them caused little comment.

Apr

26

1942

End of the Bataan death march

The camp was large, dotted by hundreds of grass and bamboo shacks, which were merely poles of bamboo with a grass roof. The ground flowed and undulated through the camp in tiny hills. Beside each of the shacks were stacks of bodies pullled there by the living , for they had nowhere else to put them. In the hot tropical sun the bodies swelled and bloated until they were no longer recognizable as the bodies of men.

Oct

5

1941

Russian POWs marched through Poland

This afternoon another” group of Soviet POWs was moved through town. Because today is Sunday, many watched. Bread, apples, and other goods were placed on the sidewalks on both sides of the street. Even though the soldiers from the convoy started shooting at them while they fought for food, the prisoners did not pay any attention to the Germans.