Friday, September 28, 2007

German POW Camps in Pennsylvania

A reader of Guests Behind the Barbed Wire e-mailed last week to say that he has been a WWII history buff for many years. Although his interest centers on the European Theater, he would like more information about two German POW camps in the United States during WWII. One of them was in Hanover, PA, and the other in Stewartstown, a small town south of York, PA.

If anyone has information about either of these camps, please let me know. I will be happy to put you in touch with this reader.

Escaped POW Opened Bookstore in Chicago

One of the more interesting stories I've come across since finishing Guests Behind the Barbed Wire is that of Reinhold Pabel. Pabel was a member of the 115th Panzer Grenadiers who was captured and sent to a POW camp in Illinois. He escaped in 1945, made his way to Chicago, and eventually became the quiet proprietor of a bookstore on Chicago's North Side under the name of Philip Brick. He was captured by the FBI in 1953 and, after many headlines, returned to Germany.

Jim Reed, owner of Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, told me about the book Pabel wrote about his experiences--Enemies Are Human--and sold me a copy of the out-of-print volume. It was fascinating reading, and Jim wondered out loud what had ever happened to Pabel. I was curious, too, and found an article on the Internet in a Chicago-style "what ever happened to" column.

It turns out Antiquariat Reinhold Pabel is still in the book business, now in Hamburg, Germany. His motto is, "Name the book--We'll get it!" and the website for his bookstore carries the following notice at the bottom: Gegruendet 1948 in Chicago, Illinois (founded in 1948 in Chicago, Illinois).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Searching for Passengers on the Henry Baldwin 1944

After my essay on Camp Aliceville appeared in The Anniston Star, I heard from a man in Eastaboga, Alabama, who is searching for former German POWs who might remember making the Atlanta crossing on a Liberty Ship named the Henry Baldwin. He says they picked up 350 German POWs in Algiers and discharged them in Newport News, Virginia about May 23, 1944.

If the name of this ship sounds familiar to any of my readers, please let me know by e-mail, and I will put you in touch with this man.

The Liberty ships carried supplies to American troops in Europe and then carried POWs (mostly Germans) back to camps in the US during WWII. There are numerous memories about those crossings--how crowded the ships were, how they tossed and turned sideways and front to back, sleeping in hammocks in the hold, eating pretty well, and wondering where on earth they were headed, and what would happen when they got there.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Words from Germany

An e-mail arrived this month from one of the former German POWs who was held in Camp Aliceville during WWII. The e-mail was in English, and his English is on about the same level as my German--readable and understandable, with a few quirks here and there.

Wilhelm wrote that he has been reading Guests Behind the Barbed Wire with great pleasure, while keeping his German to English dictionary to hand. I smiled when I read this, because while writing the book, whenever I wanted to communicate with one of the former POWs, I definitely kept my English to German dictionary to hand.

Wilhelm wrote that Walter, another former POW, has told him he keeps his copy of Guests on his writing table and goes back to it frequently. Wilhelm also expressed the thought that it is a shame so many others of their war comrades have passed away and cannot read the book.

Finally, he wrote that he thinks often about Aliceville and especially about what he calls his "hospitable house," which is the home of a couple named Chuck and Jane who have been his and his family's gracious hosts on several occasions when they have returned for visits and reunions. He also said he thinks often about Mary Bess, whom he describes as "the soul of the museum." (This is the Aliceville Museum in Aliceville, Alabama, which is a wonderful repository for records having to do with Camp Aliceville.)