28 paź 2015

The pre-war history of the P.O.W. camp(s) site in Szubin

Many sources, in a rather abridged and sometimes even incorrect way, recount the history of the camp site and institution during World War II, noting that it was transformed into a prisonerof war camp for allied officers and noncoms. There had been no Polish women’s college previously, but stating that it originally was a school for boys is also not enough.  Let me give you a brief pre-war history of the place where Stalag XXIB, Oflag XXIB and finally Oflag 64 were.

1. The gate of the the minor edifice of the Provincial Protective-Educational Centre
(In German: die Erziehungsanstalt)
in Schubin, circa 1910.

2. The minor edifice of the Provincial Protective-Educational Centre in Schubin, circa 1910.
For POWs this building was known as the camp hospital.

This history is closely linked with the history of the city of Szubin and dates back to the second half of the 19th century. Outside the city on the road to Kcynia (Exin), the county infirmary was built on the premises and was put into use on June 3rd, 1880. The so-called Kreislazaret (in German) was only active for 8 years. In 1888 the building and surrounding grounds were bought from the city for the use of the Provincial Educational Institute and significantly expanded. The former hospital, which still exists, was preserved to a certain extent as the central part of the building known to the POWs as The White House.

3. The main edifice of the Provincial Protective-Educational Centre, Schubin, circa 1910.
For POWs t
his building was known as 'The White House'.

4. The so-called 'White House', circa 1910.

5. The postcard showing the residential buildings for the staff, the minor (Hospital) and main (White House) residences of the Reform School, circa 1917.

The Provincial Department of Compulsory Education was established in Szubin on 3rd August 1888 and at the beginning it was named the Provincial Evangelical Department of Preventive Education. The pupils were boys aged 10-12, mostly of Polish origin (i.e. Catholic). During the years 1888-1898 the premises expanded considerably and consisted of: the dormitory, four barred prison cells, residential buildings for staff, including a separate building for the principal, and a chapel, as well as economic facilities like a pigsty, barn, stables and workshops which could be used by a smithy and a cartwright.

6. This photograph was taken from the location of the pond across the street, circa 1928 – the pond was used by American POWs for skating during the winter.

During  the Prussian annexation, learning in the school took place in German.  Alumni were Germanized, forced to be subordinate to the occupying authorities (the term Germanization refers to the the forceful imposition of German culture and language upon Poles on territories partitioned by Prussia). The main method of resocialization was a requirement for absolute obedience, the lack of which would result in corporal punishment used together with meager food rations and hard physical work, mainly in farming. The situation improved after 1900 when by legislation the juvenile prison was transformed into a preventive education facility, in German called – Erziehungsanstalt – an institution to which youthful offenders were sent as an alternative to prison; a reform school.

7. This photograph showing the boys gathered beyond the fence was taken from across the street circa 1928.

8. Pupils in the front of the school building, circa 1928.

During World War I, between the years 1914-1918, the facility was abandoned and in its place the field hospital (Lazaret) was established. After Poland regained its independence, the correctional facility was reopened as a Polish institution under the name National Educational Institute. New methods of resocialization were introduced when an orchestra, choir, and theater group were founded. In 1928 the Military Training Regiment, KS Polonia football club, and a scout troop were founded. In the following year a squad of volunteer fire fighters was created. The Reform School had a library of several hundred volumes.

9. This is a 1928 photo of the “White House”, which was a dormitory for boys.

10. The chapel, circa 1920s.

11. Pupils and teachers of the Reform School in front of the chapel, circa 1928.

Workshops for apprenticeships were built in 1934-35. The school offered vocational training to achieve qualifications in the following occupations: blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, cobbler, tailor, bookbinding, printing, baker and boot-maker. Between 1934-1939, students published their own newspaper called "Our Bulletin". The Air and Anti-aircraft Defense League was set up and also established were secular and ecclesiastical choirs, theater and oratorical groups, a sports club, and a brass band which was widely known in the region. A 3-year vocational training school specializing in agriculture and horticulture was introduced.

12. Students of the vocational school practicing horticulture, circa 1930s – the garden and the greenhouse were also effectively used by American POWs.

13. Workshops for apprenticeships of the vocational school offering training to achieve qualifications in the following occupations: blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, cobbler, tailor, bookbinding, printing, baker and boot-maker supposedly this building was used by American POWs as a tailor shop, shoemaker's workshop, carpenter shop, supply house - quartermaster's building, etc.
The successful development of the institution (having about 230 pupils) was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. The juveniles were to be transported to Volyn.  However, at Kutno their train was bombed and employees, seeing the futility of further travel, decided to disband the group. During the German occupation of Szubin, the Forced Labor Camp for Polish citizens of Szubin County was established on the premises of the Reform School. Thereafter it became a Prisoner of War Camp.

14. National Educational Institute, shortly before the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

 Sources and acknowledgments:
  • Photos: 1-5 and 14 © Muzeum Ziemi Szubińskiej, used with permission, thanks to Mrs. Kamila Czechowska, the head of the Muzeum Ziemi Szubińskiej.
  • Photos: 6-13 © MOAS, found in the pre-war chronicles of the Reform School, used with permission, thanks to Mr. Wiesław Guziński, the head of the MOAS (Młodzieżowy Ośrodek Adaptacji Społecznej) – the Home and School for At-Risk Youth in Szubin. 
  • "Spacer z historią w tle" by Kamila Czechowska, Urząd Miejski w Szubinie, Szubin, 2015.
  • "W kręgu Eskulapa" by Mieczysław Boguszyński, Pejzaż, Bydgoszcz, 2014
  • "Zakład dla nieletnich w Szubinie w latach 1988-1989" by Jacek Andruszkiewicz, in: "Duch i Czas", Muzeum Ziemi Szubińskiej, 2007, pp. 7-22.
  • History of MOAS available at: http://www.zpszubin.pl/index.php/historia

© Mariusz Winiecki

7 paź 2015

Oflag 64 timeline – June/July 1943

There is not much information available in the War Diaries of former Oflag 64 POWs or in other published books that recreate a detailed timeline of the first weeks in the camp. One of the entries in Lt. Col. John Waters’ War Log dated June 9th notes the arrival of 149 Americans. It refers to the second group of Prisoners of War which arrived in Szubin from Oflag IX A/Z In Rotenburg mentioned in one of the earlier entries: “Roads to Oflag 64 – Arrival of the first groups of American POWs at Szubin”.

1st Lt. O. L. “Brad” Bradford and 2nd Lt. John Glendinning also mentioned the celebrations of Independence Day '43. Brad wrote (7/4/43): “Quite nice program for 4th of July – our first memorial service in the chapel. Fairly good chow (for a change) ball games and a program in the evening in the mess hall”, whereas John noted (July 4) – “Celebration -- taps brought back memories. Had never appreciated its doleful notes now heavy with wreaths of remembrance. Good dinner. Had saved up food”.

On the next day (July 5) John Glendinning acknowledged:  “Swiss came. Germans did not send telegram to Switz for food as they claim to have done”. More space should have been devoted to this comment.

There were five official visits of the Swiss Legation in charge of American interests in Oflag 64. The first and the second were by Fred O. Auckenthaleron July 5th, 1943 and September 20th, 1943 respectively. The third and fourth visits were on December 30th, 1943 and March 24, 1944 by Walter Broun.  The fifth was on October 23rd, 1944 by Albert A. Kadler. There were also official visits by Red Cross and YMCA personnel, but these will be described later.

In his report, Fred O. Auckenthaler recorded on the occasion of this first visit that there were 211 prisoners in the camp, of which 191 were American officers, including eight doctors, one dentist, and one chaplain; and 38 enlisted men, 18 of whom were British soldiers. From his report we can learn that at the beginning Americans used only the large cement building, where officers were quartered 4-6 or 8 to a room, depending upon rank, while junior officers were quartered dormitory style, 24 to a room. The orderlies were at this time billeted in the infirmary, which restricted the available bed space to one room.

Further, the representative of the Swiss Legation describes the sanitary facilities as poor and in disrepair, without a needed sewer system. The next paragraph of the report corresponds more closely with John’s note – Americans, who were cooking for themselves, had not received the Red Cross parcels yet, which were needed to supplement the small food ration. The Swiss Representative arranged for the Red Cross parcels from the British Senior Officer of the neighboring camp to be obtained. One can also learn that the clothing situation was very bad and that many officers were given British uniforms while at another camp, because the German Government had issued no clothing for them. Germans also did not provided much for the canteen which had very limited supplies.

Finally Auckenthaler mentions that recreation activities had been started, but there was very little equipment available. Americans were also restricted in that a portion of the camp was marked “out-of-bounds” as a security measure.

On July 10th John Waters briefly noted – “Attack on Sicily” and in John Glendinning’s diary a related entry, dated July 11th, can be found: “Little polish painter ran back and forth in front of building as he promised to do if an invasion occurred”, which gives a picture of how Americans interacted and cooperated with local citizens of Altburgund.

On July 28th Waters wrote: “Discovered RAF Tunnel”. It is not known which one, because according to Harry Day, the participants in the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III and also in the escape from Schubin (March 5th/6th, 1943) they had six major tunnels under way in Oflag XXIB and also several so-called ‘blitz tunnels’ which had been developed by RAF pilots.

The discovery of the tunnel probably caused the immediate Gestapo visit to the camp, as mentioned by John Glendinning on July 29th. But the most priceless is his additional comment reflecting, as I guess, the overall attitude of the majority of POWs in the camp in relation to their captors. He wrote: “Proper decorum and non-asbestos paper make it impossible for me to give a candid openness of those unworthy ignobles”.

For better understanding of his father's sense of humor, the additional comment was provided by John's son, David Glendinning: “Dad's diary entry was a bit of sarcastic humor. He is saying, essentially, that because it would be improper for him to write using offensive language (which would violate proper 'decorum'), and because the paper he is writing on is not fire-proof (the use of the words "asbestos-paper" here meaning that his words for the Gestapo would be "incendiary" strong and harsh and might, due to their power, cause the paper itself to go up in flames!) he cannot really say what's actually on his mind to properly describe them (the Gestapo).

  • Transcript of War Log of 2nd Lt. John H. Glendinning available in “Sketches of lives of Kriegies in Oflag 64” (Thanks to Cynthia Burgess).
  • Memories of 1st Lt. O. L. “Brad” Bradford: "The Way It Was" available at www.oflag64.us.
  • Scan of Lt. Col. John Waters War Log (Thanks to James Sudmeier).
  • Sydney Smith, Wings' Day, 3rd edition by Pan Books Ltd., London, 1970.
  • Special thanks to David Glendinning for his comment regarding his father's diary entry.

Any additions, suggestions, corrections, or comments regarding Oflag 64 timeline are welcome.

© Mariusz Winiecki

6 paź 2015

Kalendarium Oflagu 64 - czerwiec/lipiec 1943

Nie ma zbyt wiele wpisów w znanych mi pamiętnikach byłych jeńców Oflagu 64 czy szczegółowych informacji w dostępnych publikacjach książkowych, na podstawie których można by odtworzyć pierwsze tygodnie życia amerykańskich oficerów w obozie. Jeden z wpisów w dzienniku podpułkownika Johna Watersa z datą 9 czerwca informuje o przybyciu grupy 149 Amerykanów. Była to wspomniana we wpisie „Roads to Oflag 64 – w drodze do Oflagu 64” grupa jeńców przytransportowanych z Oflagu IX A/Z w Rotemburgu.

Także opisane już wcześniej obchody Dnia Niepodległości  ’43 utrwalili w swoich pamiętnikach porucznik Otis “Brad” Bradford oraz podporucznik John Glendinning. Brad napisał (4/7/43) – „Całkiem ciekawy program obchodów 4 lipca – nasze pierwsze nabożeństwo poświęcone pamięci [poległych towarzyszy broni] w kaplicy. Dość niezła wyżerka (dla odmiany) rozgrywki w piłkę i wieczorny program okolicznościowy w mesie”, John zaś zanotował (4 lipca) – „Uroczystości -- capstrzyk [sygnał ku czci poległych] przywołał wspomnienia – nigdy bardziej jak teraz nie doceniałem jego rzewnej melodii i wieńców pamięci. Dobra kolacja. Zachowałem trochę jedzenia”.

Następnego dnia (5 lipca) John Glendinning oznajmił: „Przyjechał Szwajcar. Okazuje się, że Niemcy, przeciwnie jak twierdzili, nie wysłali telegramu z prośbą o żywność”. Tej notatce warto poświęcić więcej miejsca.

Łącznie w Oflagu 64 miało miejsce 5 oficjalnych wizyt szwajcarskiego wysłannika reprezentującego amerykańskie interesy: pierwsza i odpowiednio druga miały miejsce 5. lipca 1943 roku i 20. września (był to Fred O. Auckenthaler), kolejne trzecia i czwarta – 30. grudnia 1973 i 24. marca 1944 (Walter Brown) oraz ostatnia, piąta – 23. października 1944 (Albert A. Kadler). Miały miejsce również wizyty przedstawicieli z Czerwonego Krzyża oraz YMCA (Związek Chrześcijańskiej Młodzieży Męskiej), ale te zostaną opisane później.

Sporządzony przez Auckenthalera raport z pierwszej wizyty donosi, że w obozie przebywa 211 jeńców, z czego 191 to amerykańscy oficerowie, w tym 8 lekarzy, 1 dentysta i 1 kapelan; oraz 38 żołnierzy o stopniu poniżej rangi oficera, z czego 18 to Brytyjczycy. Dowiadujemy się również, że zamieszkały przez jeńców jest jedynie duży murowany budynek, w którym oficerowie w zależności od rangi są zakwaterowani w pokojach po 4-6. lub 8., zaś podoficerowie są zakwaterowani niczym w bursie, po 24. w pokoju. Ordynansi w tym czasie spali w budynku szpitala, co zawężało liczbę łóżek dostępną dla chorych do jednej sali.

Dalej opisuje on warunki sanitarne jako słabe – toalety zniszczone i nie ma szamba. Informacja zawarta w kolejnym nawiązuje niejako do przytoczonej powyżej notatki Johna – „Posiłki przyrządzają Amerykanie, racje są małe i zachodzi potrzeba uzupełniania ich zawartością paczek żywnościowych z Czerwonego Krzyża. Na chwilę obecną jednak takich nie dostarczono. Możliwe było jedynie otrzymanie paczek z Brytyjskiego Czerwonego Krzyża dzięki uprzejmości jego brytyjskiego komendanta (BSO, Brytyjskiego Starszego Oficera) z sąsiedniego obozu. Było także kilka skarg związanych z działaniem wentylacji w kuchni zlokalizowanej w piwnicy jednego z budynków. Obiecano zaradzić temu problemowi. Bardzo źle wygląda sytuacja z odzieżą. Wielu oficerów otrzymało brytyjskie mundury w poprzednim obozie. Niemiecki rząd nie dostarczył żadnej odzieży. Międzynarodowy Komitet Czerwonego Krzyża został o tym poinformowany. Kantyna jest bardzo słabo zaopatrzona”.

Dalej Auckenthaler wspomina, że w obozie prowadzone są zajęcia rekreacyjne pomimo bardzo ograniczonej ilości odpowiedniego wyposażenia oraz o tym, że Amerykanie zostali ograniczeni w ten sposób, że nie mogą poruszać się po części terenu obozu odgrodzonej i oznaczonej napisem „wstęp wzbroniony” ze względu na środki bezpieczeństwa.

10. lipca John Waters krótko wspomniał – „Inwazja na Sycylię” [10.VII.1943 r. rozpoczęło się lądowanie aliantów na Sycylii, które zakończyło panowanie reżimu faszystowskiego we Włoszech].

W dzienniku Johna Glendinninga, z data 11. lipca można znaleźć powiązaną notatkę: „Mały polski malarz biegał tam i z powrotem z przodu budynku, jak obiecał zrobić, jeśli inwazja się rozpocznie.”, co daje również pogląd na to w jaki sposób Amerykanie porozumiewali się w lokalną ludnością okupowanego Szubina.

Pod koniec miesiąca, 28. lipca, Waters napisał: „Odkryliśmy tunel pilotów RAF-u”. Nie wiadomo który, ponieważ według Harry’ego Day’a, uczestnika oryginalnej „Wielkiej Ucieczki” ze Stalagu Luft III w Żaganiu oraz ucieczki z Szubina (5/6 marca 1943 r.), w Oflagu XXIB, piloci RAF-u kopali jednocześnie 6 większych tuneli i kilka tzw. krótkich tuneli (‘blitz tunnels’).

Odkrycie jednego z tuneli spowodowało prawdopodobnie wizytę Gestapo w dniu następnym, o czym wspomina John Glendinning we wpisie z datą 29. lipca. Najbardziej bezcenny jest jednak rozbrajający komentarz, który zapewne odzwierciedla powszechny stosunek Amerykańskich jeńców do Niemców: „Należyta przyzwoitość i nieognioodporny papier uniemożliwiły mi szczerą otwartość wobec tych nic nie wartych nikczemników”.

Sarkastyczne poczucie humoru tego niełatwego do bezpośredniego przetłumaczenia wpisu pomaga nam zrozumieć syn Johna, David Glendinning, w szczególności w kontekście użytego określenia – „non-asbestos paper”. Nie tylko dobre maniery powstrzymały jego ojca przed zapisaniem w mocnych i ostrych słowach tego, co miał naprawdę na myśli pisząc o wizycie Gestapo, ale również fakt, że papier, na którym pisze nie jest ognioodporny. „Non-asbestos paper” oznacza tutaj „nieognioodporny” w tym znaczeniu, że gdyby jego dziennik dostał się w ręce Gestapo, co było bardzo prawdopodobne podczas przeszukiwania obozu, mógłby okazać „bombą zapalającą”, a on za taki zbyt szczery wpis mógłby zostać potraktowany jako wichrzyciel.

  • Transkrypcja dziennika wojennego podporucznika Johna H Glendinninga zamieszczona w "Sketches of lives of Kriegies in Oflag 64" - wspomnieniach jeńców Oflagu 64 skompletowanych na dorocznym spotkaniu w Newport, Rhode Island, 1997 (podziękowania za udostępnienie dla Cynthii Burgess ).
  • Wspomnienia porucznika Otisa Bradforda: "The Way It Was" dostępne na stronie internetowej The Oflag 64 Association.
  • Skan dziennika wojennego podpułkownika John Waters (podziękowania za udostępnienie dla Jamesa Sudmeiera).
  • Sydney Smith, Wings' Day, Wyd. Pan Books Ltd., London, 1970.
  • Podziękowania dla Davida Glendinninga za komentarz wyjaśniający słowa jego ojca.
© Mariusz Winiecki
Copyright © for the Polish translation by Mariusz Winiecki