prisoners

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.

Sep

13

1941

Russian POWs arrive in camps in Austria

They were reduced to eating grass and weeds at the side of the line. At the stops the guards had just thrown the bodies of those who had died out on to the side of the railway. When they arrived at Wolfsberg station scores of dead bodies were still in the wagons and these were left there, when the survivors were marched off to the Stalag.

Aug

31

1941

German treatment of Soviet POWs

But these were not animals, they were men. We made haste out of the way of the foul cloud which surrounded them, then what we saw transfixed us where we stood, and we forgot our nausea. Were these really human beings, these grey-brown figures, these shadows lirching towards us, stumbling and staggering, moving shapes at their last gasp, creatures which only some last flicker of the will to live enabled to obey the order to march ?

Aug

22

1941

Reprisals against Russian POWs

It so happened that we had taken very many prisoners during those fatal days, and so the lives of 4,000 men fell forfeit. They scarcely looked up when our interpreter told them in a cold voice of their fate. They lined up eight at a time at the side ofa large anti-tank ditch. As the first volley crashed, eight men were hurled forward into the depths of the ditch, as if hit by a giant fist. Already the next row was lining up.

Aug

16

1941

First experiences of a German POW camp

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.

Jun

1

1941

Waiting to surrender on Crete

The British Navy, and some of the British Army, left the island of Crete – but I didn’t. Nor did several thousand other dejected lads. Sunday, June the first, was a black day indeed for many assorted British huddled in valleys back from the beach at Sphakia, a small village on the south coast.

Jan

31

1941

Italian prisoners bombed by Germans

Relays of men spent hours in the bitterly cold surf dragging the Italians to safety; others assisted them into slings and those on the escarpment hauled them to the crest. The wounded had to be brought ashore on Carley floats, so the last stages of their journey were extremely hazardous, but groups of volunteers brought them through the breakers and had everyone ashore by first light.