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”.
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