23 cze 2015

The march of prisoners from the railway station to the camp

The railway station in Szubin, 2014.

Most of the prisoners in the POW camp in Szubin had only one chance to march through our town. It was on the way from the rail station to the gates of the camp, which was located at the opposite end of the town. Read from their personal memories about the last stage of their road to Oflag 64.

 The railway station in Szubin, 2014.

"We stayed for about two hours in this city, which was called Bromberg by the Germans and Bydgoszcz by the Poles. We were still ready to take advantage of chance to escape, but our chances looked slimmer and slimmer as the day wore on. It was full daylight when we left Bromberg, and our destination was very close." [H]

 The railway station in Szubin, 2014.

"Our train started just as far as it had stopped, and of we went. We stopped and started once more before we arrived at our destination, but again we made and express stop and start and there was no chance to jump." [H]

 The railway station in Szubin, 2014.
The photo below (on the left) shows Szubin and the camp from Walter Hotz’s camera. Walter Hotz was a German art historian and Protestant pastor. During WWII he probably was in Szubin as a German soldier and possibly also was a guard in the camp. After the war, during the years of 1947-1977, he served as the parson of the Evangelical church in Reinheim, Germany. These rare and little-known photographs are courtesy of Bildarchiv Foto Marburg (published with written permission) and were probably taken during the winter of 1941/42 or 1942/43. The photograph on the right shows the same place as seen today (2015). Unfortunately, because of the trees and lush vegetation, as well as changes in the urban structure of Szubin, the author was not able to duplicate the photo as originally intended.


 St Martin's Parish Church in Szubin as seen from the railway station, close to the Water Tower. Behind the inscription of the name Szubin, the lettering of the German town’s name – Altburgund, can still be seen.  From this perspective the arriving prisoners saw the city for the first time.

"In a few minutes we pulled up at a small polish town which the sign said was Altburgund. This again was the German name for it, but we always called it by the Polish name which was Szubin. We saw that we were really far from any industrial area. There were no motor vehicles sitting around the station at all, only a couple of horse-drawn wagons. We were lined up immediately and marched down the street toward our new camp." [H]
 Szubin market square

"The village of Szubin was surrounded by farmland with a very short growing season. It was indeed a hinterland. With no soldiers around, the surroundings gave one the feeling of an isolated rural atmosphere, far away from war. One of the most striking characteristics of this place was the absence of any motor vehicles. There were even very few horses and wagons, and the only vehicles present, even in moderate numbers, were bicycles. "ormed in a column and ordered forward, we marched for about a mile to a large barbed-wire entanglement which we immediately recognized as a Prison-of-War camp." [F] 

On their way to the camp they passed by the Evangelical Church (currently the Parish Church of St. Andrzej Bobola) These photos were taken from the parallel street to the main artery of the city.

 "In the houses along the streets, we caught occasional glimpses of a face peering at us from between curtains, and we watched them with interest, because it seemed to us that they looked as if they afraid of the Goons, and we thought perhaps they were really as downtrodden here as it was rumored they were. We marched along cheerfully, because we wanted to give the impression wherever we went that we were far from discouraged and that we were only temporarily unfortunate." [H]

 The POWs marched along the road named Adolf Hitler Strasse. When they passed the evangelic cemetery on the right side, they saw the house of the camp commandant. In the photo, the inscription “Oflag XXIB Kommandant” can be seen on the plate by the gate. Next they saw the fence of the camp and one of the main buildings inside the compound – known as the White House.

"We walked through the cobblestoned streets of the town to a well paved road which, for some 'strange reason' was named Adolph Hitler Strasse. It was the main east and west thoroughfare, and one which we came to know quite well, because it ran directly in front of our camp. As we walked along this shady, tree-lined street, we were almost upon our new home before we finally saw it. Again there was that now familiar impression of unending barbed wire…" [H]

  The camp as seen from the north-east side (and a bit more north in the right photograph). In the background the second main building inside the barbed wire compound – the camp hospital – can be seen.

 The chapel, which was also inside the compound (St Anna Chapel currently in restoration), and the watch tower. 

The quoted memories are taken from books:
  • [F]: Kriegsgefangener 3074: Prisoner of War Hardcover by Clarence Ferguson, 1983, Thanks to David Ferguson for the book.
  • [H]: Escape to Russia by Howard Randolph Holder, 1994, Thanks to David Durgin for copy of the book.

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