Thursday, April 23, 2009

Descendants of "Kriegies" Retrace Steps

The current issue of Museum News from the Aliceville Museum carries a story about an unusual reenactment that took place in Poland and eastern Germany this past January. Beginning at 11:00 p.m. on January 27, a group of "Kriegie Kids" set out to cover a 60 mile journey in four days. They were honoring and remembering a forced journey made by their fathers and grandfathers in 1945, as World War II was grinding to a close.

"Kriegies" refers to American soldiers who were prisoners of war in Germany. (The German word Krieg means "war" in English.) When word reached Poland that the Russians were advancing into German territory, Adolf Hitler ordered the evacuation of thousands of Allied prisoners from camps like Stalag Luft III so he could continue to hold them as hostages and bargaining chips. These prisoners were ordered on a forced march in sub-freezing weather.

During the reenactment, the "Kriegie Kids" met a man named Hans Burkhardt in the town of Spremberg. Burkhardt, who was eleven at the time of the original march, remembered seeing tired, mostly barehanded men marching in the freezing weather. He says his family offered food and water to several of them.

Borkhardt had a watch and a carved placque that belonged to a deceased friend who had been a German POW at a camp in Arkansas. This friend, Ervin Vorssatz, had carved the placque during his POW time in Arkansas. Borkhardt presented these items to the Kriegie Kids.

On March 17, 2009, former Allied POW Lieutenant Colonel Edward M. Bender (USAAFR, retired) and his daughter Miriam Larson, presented the watch and the placque to the Aliceville Museum. They are now on display.

For more information about the Kriegie Kids and their experience, please visit the website

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Aliceville Veterans Wendell Parrish and Robert Kirksey Meet with Blue Star Foundation

My book, GUESTS BEHIND THE BARBED WIRE, uses the experiences of former Allied POW Wendell Parrish (at left in photograph) at Stalag Luft IV to contrast German POW camps for Americans with American POW camps for Germans (like Camp Aliceville).

Recently, the Alabama Blue Star Foundation visited Aliceville and toured the museum. Aliceville World War II veterans Wendell Parrish and Robert Hugh Kirksey met with the group over lunch.

This federation sponsors the Blue Star Salute, which is a concerted effort by caring citizens and organizations to set aside a day to honor military service. At 9:00 a.m. on May 25, 2009, a memorial wreath-laying ceremony will be held at Alabama's National Cemetery. This new cemetery is located next to the American Village on Highway 119 just outside Montevallo. On that same day, Alabama's Fifth Annual Blue Star Salute will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at American village. Events will include a recognition of wounded waqrrios, a Gold State Salute to Alabama's fallen heroes, a re-enactment of Douglas MacArthur's "Duty, Honor, Country" oration, and other activities.

For more information on this event, please go to

Please see the next upcoming post to this blog for the story of Wendell Parrish's experiences in the forced march of American POWs in Poland and Germany near the end of World War II.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mary Bess Paluzzi Returns to the Aliceville Museum

Health concerns have caused Aliceville Museum Director Ann Kirksey to leave the museum, and we wish her well with her recovery. Her winning smile has welcomed many visitors in the past few years--many of them readers of this blog.

We'd like to welcome back her sister Mary Bess Paluzzi, who was the original director of the Aliceville Museum. She now returns to this post after serving several years as Clerk/Manager for the City of Aliceville.

It was Mary Bess who first welcomed me to Aliceville when I expressed an interest in writing about the German POW camp there during World War II. Her initial reaction to me was one of definite skepticism. "You know," she said, "a lot of people have come down here and said they wanted to write a book, but none of them ever followed through." She tried to put me off by giving me a long list of reference books to consult before contacting her again.

I found the reference books fascinating, and they spiced up my interest in the project. In the end, Mary Bess and I became great friends, and my book GUESTS BEHIND THE BARBED WIRE is dedicated to her and her dedication to the museum.

Welcome back, Mary Bess!