How did the Germans transport allied prisoners of war

The second World War

Dr. Thomas Vogel

Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Thomas Vogel, born in 1959, is project division manager at the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr (ZMSBw), formerly the Military History Research Office (MGFA), in Potsdam. He has long been interested in the military opposition in the 'Third Reich' and the resistance of soldiers against National Socialism. For several years he has been dealing more intensively with various aspects of warfare in the age of the world wars, most recently with coalition warfare in particular. He has, inter alia. published: "Uprising conscience. Military resistance against Hitler and the Nazi regime, 5th edition, Hamburg et al. 2000 (publisher and author); Wilm Hosenfeld:" I try to save everyone. "The life of a German officer in letters und Tagebüücher, Munich 2004 (ed. and author); Tobruk 1941: Rommel's Failure and Hitler's Success on the Strategic Sidelines of the 'Third Reich', in: Tobruk in the Second World War. Struggle and Remembrance, ed. v. G. Jasiński and J. Zuziak, Warsaw 2012, pp. 143-160; "A fruit knife for chopping wood." The battle for Stalingrad and the failure of the German allies on Don and Volga 1942/43, in: Stalingrad. An exhibition of the Military History Museum of Bundeswehr, edited by G. Piecken, M. Rogg, J. Wehner, Dresden 2012, pp. 128-141; A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare: The Axis Powers and Operation Herkules in the Spring of 1942, in: Coalition Warfare: An Anthology of Scholarly Presentations at the Conference on Coalition Warfare at the Royal Danish Defense College, 2011, ed. v. N. B. Poulsen, K. H. Galster, S. Nørby, Newcastle upon Tyne 2013, pp. 160-176; The First World War 1914-1918. The German deployment into a warlike century, Munich 2014 (co-publisher and author).

6 million European Jews fell victim to the racial madness of the National Socialists, and Jewish life was extinguished in large parts of Europe. With a total of 60-70 million deaths, World War II represents the tragedy of the 20th century. A bipolar world order emerged, the face of Europe changed completely.

Death and wounding in war

The Second World War was primarily a human tragedy. The acts of war themselves and their immediate consequences had cost the lives of around 60 to 70 million people worldwide, the majority of them civilians. The Soviet Union alone mourned 27 million deaths, almost half of them members of the Red Army, of which one in four did not die in combat, but in
An American soldier guards German prisoners of war in the Rhine meadow camp near Remagen (& copy Heimatmuseum Sinzig)
German prisoner of war perished. In contrast, the aggressor Germany, with 6.35 million dead - mostly soldiers - suffered significantly less both in absolute terms and in relation to the population. A similar picture emerges for the Far East. China, the main victim of Japanese aggression, recorded around 13.5 million deaths between 1937 and 1945, while Japan "only" 3.76 million. In India, on the other hand, which was only marginally a theater of war, two million people died of starvation as a result of food shortages caused by the war. However, the worst suffered was Poland, with six million dead. Every sixth inhabitant of the country had died. This horror balance is linked to that of the murder of European Jews. Because every second Pole killed was of Jewish faith. A total of around six million European Jews fell victim to the National Socialist racial madness during the war. In much of Europe, Jewish life was all but wiped out.

The world war also had the health of millions more people
A war invalid receives alms from passers-by on a street in Essen, 1948. (& copy Bundesarchiv)
or less severely and permanently damaged. Their number cannot be estimated even remotely. For a long time after the end of the war, severely physically injured victims of the war shaped the streets in the affected countries. However, they only represented the "tip of the iceberg". Many war invalids could not tell that they were disabled. The mental damage caused by the war remained largely invisible. Immediately after the war there were one and a half million physically and mentally disabled people living in Germany alone who received state benefits. According to the German government, 372,069 people were still entitled to such in 2000. Beyond this officially recorded number, fighting at the front, atrocities of war, the Holocaust, bombing, flight and displacement left a whole traumatized generation behind. Even if there is no doubt about the facts themselves, there is little reliable knowledge about the extent and consequences of this trauma.

Political Consequences

Call of the allied military government to the liberated members of the United Nations ("workers, prisoners, deportees") in Germany with rules of conduct, approx. 1945. (& copy Federal Archives)
To come to the point: The Second World War fundamentally changed the political face of the world. First of all, the perpetrators of the war suffered painfully from the political consequences of their defeat. The victorious Allied powers held Germany and Japan for years and subjected both countries to their political will. Germany was particularly affected by this. It lost all areas that it had more or less forcibly appropriated since 1938. Austria, which was also occupied by the Allies, had already declared itself independent on April 27, 1945. But the German Reich did not remain in its 1937 borders either. As a result of the Potsdam Agreement of August 2, 1945, it had to cede its areas east of the Oder and Neisse rivers to Poland and the Soviet Union, thereby losing a quarter of its territory. The remaining Germany was ruled by an Allied Control Council in which the four victorious powers (France, Great Britain, Soviet Union, United States) were represented by their military governors. With proclamations, orders, laws, directives and ordinances, he went to the inner side
Prosecution and investigation: Poster in the American occupation zone with photos of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp by US troops, around 1945. (& copy Federal Archives)
The transformation of Germany and the re-education of the Germans. He did this on the basis of the decisions of Potsdam, which decreed demilitarization, denazification, democratization, decentralization and dismantling in Germany. However, the common ground between the victorious powers was soon lost. The four occupation zones into which Germany was divided developed quite differently according to the political guidelines of the respective occupying power. The three western powers established democratic systems in their zones. This enabled the economic amalgamation of the three western zones until 1948 and finally in 1949 the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, a democratic West German state with, for the time being, still limited sovereignty. In contrast, the Soviet occupiers of their zone decreed the pseudo-democratic model of a "people's democracy". The German Democratic Republic emerged from this in 1949.
Proclamation No. 1 of the Allied Control Council in Germany of August 30, 1945. (& copy Federal Archives)
A communist dictatorship based on the Soviet model ensured that eastern Germany remained completely dependent on Moscow. Especially in divided Berlin, a tense relationship developed between the Allies, up to and including the blockade of the Western Allied sectors by the Soviet Union in 1948/49.

This division of Germany in 1949 made it clear that the allies of the world war had finally drifted apart. This not only had far-reaching consequences for Germany, it also changed Europe and the world. This development was due to the fundamental political and ideological contrast between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The compulsion to fight together against Hitler concealed this contrast for the time of the war. It then broke up very quickly when the Soviet Union unscrupulously used its conquests in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe to permanently expand its sphere of influence there and combined this with the export of its totalitarian system. In all the countries it conquered, it brought regimes to power that complied with it and relied on Soviet bayonets and tanks. This quickly led to a dispute with the former allies in the west. The creation of a democratic and free Europe, as agreed by the "Big Three" in Yalta in January 1945, meant something different there. Shortly after the end of the war, Churchill therefore spoke of an "iron curtain" that had descended on Europe, and by that meant the isolation of the unfree Soviet sphere of influence. When Greece, Turkey and Iran were eventually threatened by Soviet intervention, the conflict broke out openly in 1947. US President Truman promised economic and military aid to all countries to defend their freedom and even threatened the Soviet Union with a nuclear weapon. Barely two years after the end of the war, a "cold" war broke out between the former allies, which would last for decades and shape world events. The camps in East and West formed into two large alliance systems: on the one hand, the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) was formed in 1949 under the leadership of the USA. From 1955, it was confronted by the Moscow-dominated Warsaw Treaty Organization (WVO) - known in parlance as the Warsaw Pact. At the forefront of the Cold War, the two German states that had just been founded found themselves as opponents.

Maps and graphics: "Consequences of the war"

The Far East also became part of the East-West conflict and the new, bipolar world order. Japan got off relatively lightly after its defeat. It lost only smaller areas in the north to the Soviet Union; his motherland was spared from a division. The Western occupying power, led by the United States, limited itself to transforming Japan into a parliamentary democracy. They were satisfied with the political disempowerment of the Tenno and did not abolish the empire that was sacred to the Japanese. After the conclusion of a peace treaty in 1952, the Western Allies released Japan into independence. Political explosive, however, arose from the bankruptcy of the Japanese sphere of influence on the Asian mainland. The conflict over the former Japanese colony of Korea exacerbated the Cold War here into a "hot" war in 1950/51. Many saw the Third World War approaching. As an ally of North Korea and the Soviet Union, the young People's Republic of China under Mao Tse-tung first appeared externally and militarily in a massive manner during the Korean War, thus completing the impression of a politically and ideologically divided world.

Human misery after the war

Hardly less than the world war itself, the subsequent political reorganization of the world caused further human misery on a massive scale. The first thing that stands out here is the Korean War, which killed around four million civilians and one million soldiers. Millions more people were left homeless or displaced. In Europe it hit particularly hard those Germans who lived in the eastern regions of the empire or who had often settled outside the boundaries of the empire in eastern and southeastern Europe for generations. Their flight from their homeland had already begun in the final phase of the war for fear of the approaching Red Army. It was very often accompanied by attacks by the non-German local population. Frequently, injustice previously suffered was retaliated with a new injustice. The "wild" expulsions at the end of the war were followed by the systematic expulsion of the Germans from the East on the basis of the Potsdam Agreement of August 2, 1945. In Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the Germans still living there were forcibly resettled to the area of ​​the Allied occupation zones under state supervision after their property had previously been confiscated except for hand luggage.
Victims of forced resettlement: the belongings of the German inhabitants of a village near Opole in Silesia are loaded onto two trailers to be taken to the train station; A Polish officer checks the luggage on the car, around 1945. (& copy Federal Archives)
Between 1944 and 1950, a total of 12 to 14 million Germans or citizens of other countries of German origin were affected by flight, expulsion and forced resettlement; at least 600,000, possibly well over a million, perished. But the victims of the ethnic "cleansing" were not only Germans. Once again, the long-suffering Poles were forced to resettle, this time due to the renewed annexation of eastern Poland by the Soviet Union. Mainly from there up to one and a half million people were "repatriated" to Poland, as it was euphemistically called. In return, almost half a million citizens of Ukrainian descent were deported to Ukraine; eventually around 3.5 million people were resettled within the new Polish territory. The Balts were not spared either. Over a quarter of a million of them had fled their homeland before the Red Army in 1944. The subsequent brutal Sovietization of the Baltic region led to the deportation of tens of thousands to Siberia.

In West and Central Germany, the admission of the Germans who fled and expelled from the East aggravated the already tense living situation. Also because the occupying powers neglected the supply of the population, im died
Mass rally in the Düsseldorf Hofgarten on March 28, 1947 against the inadequate food supply in the hunger winter of 1946/47. (& copy Federal Archives)
so-called hunger winter 1946/47 several hundred thousand Germans in extreme cold and food shortages. However, the food situation in the countries of the victorious powers, with the exception of the United States, was also tense due to the war, and in the Soviet Union it was so catastrophic that two million people died of starvation there between 1946 and 1948. Life was particularly hard in the bombed German cities. Much of the apartments and infrastructure were destroyed, and the water and energy supplies collapsed for some time. Due to poor medical care and hygienic conditions, tuberculosis and typhus spread. In some respects the worst conditions prevailed in the Soviet occupation zone (SBZ). The occupiers pursued a particularly ruthless dismantling policy here, which destroyed more industrial capacity than the previous bombing war, and thus held themselves harmless for the destruction wrought by the Germans in the Soviet Union. Hardly less brutally than the Nazi regime before, they suppressed politically dissenters in their zone. Tens of thousands of Germans, some of whom fell into disrepute for minor reasons, died under miserable prison conditions in camps in the Soviet occupation zone, others even in the Soviet Union.
"5,000,000 missing - release them!" SPD poster from 1947 calling on the Soviet Union to release its German prisoners of war. (& copy Federal Archives)
Many had been taken there for forced labor. Quite a few were executed for alleged or actual "anti-Soviet activity". Almost defenseless, the women were exposed to a completely different kind of arbitrariness. In contrast to the western occupation zones, they were en masse victims of sexual violence by members of the Red Army in the Soviet occupation zone, although the military authorities did take action against it. Estimates put up to two million victims by 1947 alone.

Prisoners of War and "Displaced Persons"

Identity card of the Western Allied forces for a "Displaced Person" (D.P.), 1945. (& copy Deutsches Historisches Museum)
The fate of the prisoners of war forms a separate chapter. Over 11 million members of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS were taken prisoner by the Allies, most of them in the final phase of the war or even as a result of the German surrender. Their fate was very different, depending on the detaining power. The almost 200,000 German soldiers in Yugoslav hands had the least chance of survival. In the majority, their whereabouts have not yet been fully clarified; in any case, not even half returned. The more than three million German soldiers in Soviet captivity were also hit hard. At least half a million died, most of them as a result of inhumane conditions in the camps, the others on the way there or when they were captured. Other calculations even come to a million deaths. The survivors' release took a long time because they were being held back as valuable labor for the reconstruction. In addition, in a wave of sham trials in 1949/50, thousands - mostly innocent - were branded war criminals and almost without exception were sentenced to long prison terms. The worsening East-West conflict also made the German prisoners of war the plaything of international politics. It was not until 1955/56 that the last 10,000 prisoners of war returned to Germany and Austria.Here the joy was clouded because one had expected considerably more returnees and now had to come to terms with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of missing people. It was hardly easier for the 1.8 million non-German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union, including 600,000 Japanese alone, of whom over ten percent died as a result of forced labor in Siberia.

Source text

Official redress for the injustice committed against Soviet prisoners of war under Stalin

"Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU and Council of Ministers of the USSR of June 29, 1956 on the elimination of the consequences of gross violations of the law in relation to former prisoners of war and their family members:

The Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR state that in the Great Patriotic War and in the post-war period, gross violations of Soviet law were permitted in relation to military personnel of the Soviet army and navy who were captive or encircled by the enemy .

The Soviet soldiers fought heroically against the fascist invaders in the Great Patriotic War and honestly and self-sacrificingly fulfilled their duty to their homeland. Nevertheless, as a result of the difficult circumstances of the first phase of the war, a significant number of Soviet military personnel who were in a confinement were taken prisoner after all opportunities for resistance had been exhausted. Many members of the military were wounded or injured in captivity, after being shot down in aerial battles or while carrying out combat tasks in the enemy's hinterland. The Soviet soldiers who were in captivity remained loyal to their homeland, behaved bravely and steadfastly endured the labors of captivity and the scorn of the Hitlerites. Many of them fled captivity at risk of death, fought the enemy in partisan units or made their way through the front line to the Soviet troops. Notwithstanding this, and in violation of Soviet laws, the former prisoners of war were met with unfounded political mistrust, unfounded repression and unlawful restrictions on their rights.

Members of the military who had broken out of an encirclement, escaped from captivity and had been freed by Soviet units were taken to special camps of the NKVD for examination, where they were held under almost the same conditions as prisoners in the corrective labor camps.

In addition to exposing some individuals who had actually committed crimes, a large number of military personnel who had honestly performed their military duties and had not defiled themselves in any way in captivity were unfoundedly repressed as a result of the multiple use of unlawful, provocative investigative methods during the investigation.

The families of members of the military who were captured were falsely stripped of financial aid and all stipulated perks for the entire war, regardless of the reasons or circumstances of the detention. The practice of relegating officers who had been captive or the encirclement of the enemy to men without trial and sending them to assault battalions was a serious violation of the law.

Military personnel who heroically escaped captivity or who demonstrated themselves to be a model of valor and steadfastness in captivity were not commended in any way.

From 1945 onwards, all freed and repatriated prisoners of war, even if no compromising information was available against them, were grouped into battalions and sent to remote regions as punishment for permanent work in companies in the coal and wood industry.

The state security organs continued in the post-war period to illegally bring former prisoners of war to criminal responsibility, many of which were illegally repressed. Various unlawful restrictions on former prisoners of war and their relatives in the areas of job creation, social activity, starting an apprenticeship, changing residence, etc. were widespread.

A wrong attitude towards former prisoners of war was also evident in the decision on the question of their party membership. Many members of the CPSU, who showed courage and steadfastness in the struggles against the enemy and who in no way tainted themselves in captivity, were and are not infrequently still refused to join the ranks of the CPSU. These gross violations of Soviet law, which were permitted with regard to former prisoners of war, were primarily the result of the criminal activities of Beria, Abakumov and their henchmen, who had introduced mass arbitrariness and repression. Loopholes in Soviet law on prisoners of war also contributed to the violation of legality.

All of this contradicts the fundamentals of our socialist order, the Soviet constitution, the Leninist principles of attentive and sensitive treatment of Soviet people. The permitted violations cause great moral and political damage to our party and the state. The atmosphere of suspicion and suspicion against former prisoners of war creates feelings of hurt and dissatisfaction among them and their family members. Such treatment of former prisoners of war is used by the enemies of our state for propaganda among the Soviet citizens who are still abroad in order to prevent them from returning home and to involve them in anti-Soviet activities.

For the purpose of eliminating the gross violations of Soviet law admitted in relation to former prisoners of war and their family members, the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the Union SSR decide: 1. The practice of indiscriminate political distrust of former Soviet military personnel who have found themselves in captivity or encirclement of the enemy is to be condemned as being contrary to the interests of the Soviet state.
Military personnel who heroically escaped captivity or who demonstrated themselves to be a model of valor and steadfastness in captivity were not commended in any way.
Party, Soviet, trade union, Komsomol and economic organs are to be obliged to lift the various restrictions that exist in their practice with regard to former prisoners of war and their family members, in particular:
a) to examine the question of the employment of these persons and to take measures to give them a job appropriate to their qualifications;
b) not to put any obstacles in their way when entering higher and medium-sized teaching institutions and courses.

2. The CK of the [Communist] parties of the Union Republics, the regional, regional, city and district committees as well as the main political administration of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR have the cases about the party affiliation of former prisoners of war who in connection with the imprisonment unfounded from the Ranks of the CPSU were excluded to review.

3. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR is asked to extend the scope of the Ukaz of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of September 17, 1955 on the amnesty of Soviet citizens who cooperated with the occupiers in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, on former servicemen of the Soviet Army and Navy convicted of imprisonment and serving or serving the sentence.

4. The Ministries of Justice of the Union Republics and the Public Prosecutor's Office of the USSR, when reviewing the judicial proceedings against ex-servicemen of the Soviet Army and Navy who were in captivity, ascertained those who were captured under circumstances caused by the military situation and who were unfounded were convicted of traitors to the fatherland, and to ensure their rehabilitation in accordance with the procedure determined by law.

5. The Legal Commission at the Council of Ministers of the USSR, the Public Prosecutor's Office of the USSR and the Ministry of Defense of the USSR have submitted proposals to the Council of Ministers of the USSR on necessary clarifications and additions to the articles of the Ordinance on Military Crimes, which make a military member responsible for imprisonment as well as for crimes during determine the imprisonment, submit without allowing a mitigation of the sentence for voluntary imprisonment.

6. It is to be stipulated that if the capture was not voluntary and the military member in captivity has not committed any crimes against the homeland, the duration of the captivity, encirclement and [special inspection], the duration of the army service as well as the general working hours and the uninterrupted Employment time is to be taken into account.

7. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR (Gen. Dudorov) and the State Security Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (Gen. Serov) are obliged to comply with all previous orders and instructions from the NKGB and NKVD on former prisoners of war that contradict this decision to review and repeal.

8. The Ministry of Defense of the USSR (Gen. Žukov) has:
a) to review in individual proceedings all cases of former prisoners of war whose ranks have been stripped of their ranks without a court decision and to reinstate them in all necessary cases and to grant a pension to those who are entitled to a pension;
b) propose former prisoners of war who were wounded or escaped from captivity but were not honored with government awards for award;
c) Submit proposals to the Council of Ministers of the USSR on necessary amendments and additions to the Ordinance on the Financial Support of Military Members in Captivity and on the Pension Provision of These Military Members and their Families;
d) To examine the question of the introduction of corresponding additions to the current statutes of the Soviet Army and the Navy, which define the attitude of Soviet soldiers to captivity.

9. The Ministry of Culture of the USSR (Gen. Michajlov), in coordination with the Ministry of Defense of the USSR, has devoted the preparation of artistic products to the heroic behavior of the Soviet soldiers in fascist captivity, their daring escapes from captivity and the fight in partisan units against the enemy are to be included in the thematic plans of publishers, film studios, theaters and cultural educational institutions.
Articles, stories and sketches about the heroic deeds of Soviet soldiers in fascist captivity are to be published in the party, Soviet and military press.

10. The State Security Committee at the Council of Ministers of the USSR is to be obliged, through the “Committee for Homecoming” and the Union of Societies of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent of the USSR, to take the measures of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Soviet Government with regard to former prisoners of war who are set out in the present resolution to bring to the attention of Soviet citizens who are abroad in order to expedite their return home.

The secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU N. CHRUŠČEV
The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union SSR N. BULGANIN "

Source: Rüdiger Overmans, Andreas Hilger, Pavel Polian (eds.), Red Army soldiers in German hands. Documents on the captivity, repatriation and rehabilitation of Soviet soldiers of the Second World War, Paderborn 2012; Pp. 846-851.



German soldiers experienced the American, British and -
Poster: Announcement by the Weimar city administration on the repatriation of foreigners ("Displaced Persons") from June 1945. (& copy of the German Historical Museum)
with restriction - the French captivity. Above all, the approximately 380,000 German prisoners in camps in the United States were well looked after. They were most likely to be threatened by the terror of incorrigible Nazis in their own ranks. A total of 3.8 million Germans fell into American hands. 90 percent of them stayed in Europe, where they temporarily caused supply problems for the US Army. Several thousand died. The lowest mortality was in British custody. Similar to the Americans, a total of 3.6 million German soldiers, 400,000 of them in camps in Great Britain, were treated correctly in principle. In comparison, around 700,000 Germans had difficult prison conditions: They were handed over to the French army by the Americans and British immediately after the end of the war. This used their more than 900,000 German prisoners under often harsh conditions for clean-up work, for reconstruction, in agriculture and industry. Around 50,000 mines had to be cleared, killing every tenth person. Because France itself suffered great hardship after the war, the material supplies for its prisoners of war were also poor. This explains why a total of around 30-40,000 of them perished - a relatively high number by Western standards, but far from the mass extinction in the East. The French were also the last Western victorious power to release the last German prisoners at the end of 1948. The Americans had already taken the lead in June 1947.

Source text

Report by Wehrmacht soldier Johann Lampert, born 1918, about his French captivity in autumn 1945

"With a few exceptions, the security team consisted of German-speaking French from Alsace. Every morning at seven o'clock we had to line up for roll call in the barracks yard.
Suddenly a shot was fired at one of these roll calls. The word spread like wildfire that a marine mate had been shot dead by a French corporal in his camp. The mate was sick and hadn't been able to come to the roll call in the barracks. The corporal was known to be a German hater and had previously been with the French Foreign Legion. He held a high post in the camp. We were all outraged and excited. The French then strengthened their guards, they feared a mutiny and let us march into the accommodations. A few more shots were fired, but they were more likely to have been warning shots. Ultimately, things remained calm in the camp. The matter was reported by the German camp administration in the form of a petition, and a commission from Geneva allegedly came as a result, but I neither heard nor saw it. Nothing happened to the corporal. He continued to harass people and spread the word that he had not made a mistake under Foreign Legion law.

My thirst for freedom and the desire to come home grew bigger and bigger. I looked for ways to escape all over the camp. I was very happy when I got a job in the kitchen that took me out of the camp. We had to take the cook to the St. Avold slaughterhouse to pick up meat and bones. It wasn't a good product, and despite my constant cravings, I lost my appetite for meat. Our rifle-armed guards never let us out of their sight for a second. Nevertheless, the thought of escape moved me incessantly.

In addition to pictures of German concentration camps and camps for Soviet prisoners of war in Germany, advertisements for the report on the Foreign Legion were posted on the notice board. For me that was a glimmer of hope and seemed to me to be a more favorable starting point for an escape than the camp. Without thinking twice, I registered as an applicant for service in the Foreign Legion. From then on, my guards appeared to have been changed, and for the first time I was received politely and very friendly by the administration. They welcomed me and, completely unexpectedly, gave me a nice new khaki shirt. I was told to confirm in writing tomorrow that I would join the Foreign Legion.

But my father's friend kept me from my plan. I didn't show up at the scheduled time and didn't sign anything. Before long I was picked up by two armed French soldiers and brought before a colonel and his assessors. You can't say they were squeamish about me. When I accepted my refusal, I was beaten back to my quarters with rifle butts and kicks. Due to my rash report to the Legion, I had lost my labor service at the camp kitchen and was now subject to special security. I was the only one who signed up for the Foreign Legion but backed out. Since then I have been called "Legionnaires" by my comrades and have assumed a position of leadership, which was not exactly conducive to my escape plans. Shortly afterwards, when fifty men were assigned to a minesweeping squad, I was there - I was practically transferred as a punishment. I was surprised that I was allowed to keep the khaki shirt. Saying goodbye to my fatherly friend was terrible and very painful for both of us.So I ended up with another hundred comrades in a small prisoner-of-war camp on the Maginot Line.

In a larger stone building, probably the former farm building of an estate, we were accommodated on the upper floor in one of the halls. Fortunately, we camped on a wooden floor that was poorly covered with straw. The room was very tight for the hundred men, but we were used to it. The ground floor was occupied by the French camp management and the security team, while a field kitchen, stores and other utility rooms were located in the basement.

Our security team was largely recruited from German-speaking French. Oddly enough, I got along better with the French-speaking guards here too. They seemed friendlier and more honest with us. In barter deals over the camp fence, it was mainly German-French civilians and the military who had our belongings thrown over and simply ran away without us getting the agreed barter item.