Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Winter Family Further Identifies Track Meet Photo

I had an e-mail last week from the father of Philipp Winter who told me that he has a photo very similar to the one at the right that appeared in my book. The information written on the back of the photo adds a little to the story:

This track meet, at Camp Aliceville, was held on October 28, 1945. The race shown in the photo was the 100 meter dash, and the three men in the photo, left to right, are:

1st Place--Hartmann, from Compound C, 11.9 seconds.

2nd Place--Winter, from Compound F, 12.2 seconds.

3rd Place--Esser, from Compound A, 12.4 seconds.

If anyone has information about the other two runners (Hartmann and Esser), please send me a comment.
I love the serendipity of life--even after many years. I was amazed to discover that the grandson of the man named Winter who won 2nd Place in the hundred meter dash is an American Field Service exchange student studying in Idaho this year. The reason this amazed me is that I was once an American Field Service exchange student myself--representing Bedford, Ohio and living with a family named Ott in Ravensburg, Germany during the summer of 1961. AFS is a wonderful organization.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A POW Story from Stalag Luft III

The two photos above are from the book, 33 Months as a POW in Stalag Luft III by Albert P. Clark, a retired general of the United States Air Force. They are used with permission of the USAFA McDermott Library Stalag Luft III collection in USAF Academy, Colorado.

This book offers fascinating insight into the experiences of American Army Air Force officers who were captured by Germany during World War II. Their ordeal is a poignant contrast to the experiences of German POWs at Camp Aliceville. Clark describes day to day camp life and numerous efforts to build escape tunnels while distracting the Germans from what was going on. The book culminates with a brutal forced march, as Russian liberators approached, through Bavaria to Stammlager VIIA at Moosburg.

The photo above, of the Luft Bandsters band/orchestra that was formed within the South Camp at Stalag Luft III, is eerily similar to one that can be found in Guests Behind the Barbed Wire depicting a German POW dance band playing for an Officers Club event at Camp Aliceville. In POW camps on both sides of the war, individual men coped with boredom and loneliness while striving to maintain their integrity as soldiers for their country.

Stalag Luft III is the POW camp made internationally famous by the book and movie that portrayed the Great Escape from this camp. Clark's book offers a unique perspective on this event, which took place on March 24, 1944. Escapees from this and other German camps were routinely returned to POW camps when captured, and the episodes often appeared almost like playful cat and mouse games between captors and prisoners.

In this instance, however, the Luftwaffe guards who tolerated the antics of many prisoners were not in charge. Of the 76 men who escaped through a tunnel, 73 were recaptured by early April. Of those, 50 were executed by a shot to the back of the head by the Gestapo, ostensibly because they resisted arrest or attempted to escape again after their capture.

Clark offers an interesting analysis of the Geneva Convention stipulations as they applied to his captivity and to issues of treatment and the right to attempt escape.

33 Months as a POW in Stalag Luft III was published in 2004 by Fulcrum Publishing in Golden, Colorado

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grandson Identifies Heinrich Winter in Camp Aliceville Photo

Recently, Mary Bess Paluzzi, Executive Director of the Aliceville Museum, recommended my book, Guests Behind the Barbed Wire, to Philipp Winter who has been an exchange student in Idaho this summer. Philipp discovered Camp Aliceville on the Internet and made inquiries about the camp because his grandfather, Heinrich Winter, had been interned there.

When Philipp told his parents about the book, they bought a copy and were amazed to see the Plate 15 photograph (displayed above) in the center of the book. It shows Heinrich Winter, the middle runner, with the number 154 on his shorts during a running event at Camp Aliceville during World War II.

"A little wonder," Philipp wrote to Mary Bess Paluzzi. "That is so amazing. Thank you so much."

Mary Bess is also excited because this information identifies by name someone in the collection of Army photos of Camp Aliceville. I am excited, too.