Sunday, November 25, 2007

Camp Stewartstown--Mixed Emotions

A reader in Pennsylvania has sent along a clipping from the November 11, 2007 edition of the York, PA Sunday News entitled "Enemy." This article profiles a 15-acre POW enclosure set up at the playground in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. It was in operation from June 30, 1944 to October 31, 1945 and housed nearly 2,000 Austrian and German prisoners of war in an area that, before the war, offered space for Sunday School picnics, fairs, and carnivals. Residents had used some of the land at the playground for Victory Gardens during the war.

The southern portion of York County, PA has many orchards and canneries, so the POWs were welcome as workers there, especially during harvest season.

It is interesting to note that York County had once before been home to POWs--from 1781 to 1783 during the American Revolution when British captives were held at Camp Security in what is now Springettsbury Township.

The York newspaper article notes that some residents believed the POWs were not guarded well enough and that they were treated too well. Others viewed them as "just boys, like county youth fighting overseas."

One resident wrote at the time, "Pity would rise in our hearts as we thought of them so far from their homeland. Then we remembered the hometown boys fighting and dying on foreign soil, in a war started by their leader--and one would then feel almost like a traitor."

These same sentiments could easily have been expressed by many people in Aliceville, Alabama, at that time.

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