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Ossian Arthur Seipel's Memoirs


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Chapter 6

Moosburg


    They let us out of the freight cars about eight the next morning and got us in formation to march into the camp.  Stalag VII-A.  It was a very large camp and very over crowded.  As the camps up north and to the east were threatened by the Russians, the inmates were moved south to the Munich area.  The camp could also be considered the melting pot of prisoners, from Indians in their turbans to Scots in their kilts, it was a mixture of humanity like I had never seen before.  We were marched down the main or central road, past several inner compounds each containing dirty brick or stucco buildings with few windows until we stopped at what could be considered the worst, and it was ours.

    On one side of our compound was a compound filled with Indian and Australian enlisted men.  To the back was a compound with prisoners wearing what looked like striped pajamas.  They may have been Polish or Jewish civilians.  The camp up to this time had been used for enlisted men, but since our compound was filled with over 2000 officers the Germans figured we could lead the others in a revolt or something so they doubled the security around our compound.  They even built two additional guard towers with the guns facing towards us.

    Inside, the barracks were dirty, dark and dank.  It had been occupied by British enlisted men until we arrived then they moved them to work gangs.  There were triple decked bunks built side by side so that the sideboard for one also served as a sideboard for the other.  Twelve bunks took up a space of six feet by twelve feet in area.  The straw mattress pads were worn, matted down and infested with lice.  They did bring a number of cans of DDT type insecticide to be used in the bunks.

    The barracks consisted of two large rooms for sleeping, separated by a kitchen with a cook stove, and on each side a wash room with one cold water faucet.  Trying to get organized as we had been at Sagan was a disaster.  Fights broke out over who could use the stove and when it could be used.  Since we were each issued a Red Cross parcel when we moved in we decided that each man would be responsible for himself and his own meals.

    We had learned to make smokeless heaters while at Sagan and they became the only way you could have anything hot.  They were made by using a Klim can for the fire box.  You had to cut a door in it to bend open or closed to regulate the draft.  Above the Klim can and inserted through a hole in the top of the can you placed a smaller diameter can with small holes spaced around the unopened top of the can.  The bottom was left open.  A can a little larger in diameter than the second can was then placed around the second can with both top and bottom removed and formed into spacers to keep the two cans separated.  When a fire was going in the fire box the hot gases went up the second can and out through the small holes near the top and the fire coming up around the second can ignited the gases and you had a pretty hot fire to heat anything about two to four inches in diameter.  Anything like twigs or wood or cardboard or even paper twisted into tight rolls about 1/2” to 2” long could be used for fuel.

    They were supposed to be smokeless heaters, but some of ours were heatless smokers.  We found it best to use then outside, but you also had to have cooperation from a couple of other guys.  One to shield the heater from the wind another to keep the fuel going in to the fire box and the cook to hold the cooking can and do any stirring that was necessary.  On a windless day if you only wanted hot water, one man could handle the whole operation by himself.

    Towards the end of February the Red Cross parcels ran out.  The air force had disrupted the German rail system so that the parcels couldn’t get through.  Arrangements were made to have POWs drive large white Red Cross trucks from the Swiss border to Moosburg.  I don’t recall seeing anybody volunteer for the job.  In the mean time the German high command ordered their armies to live off what was available in the immediate area.  This was a cheese producing area so we had cheese in all stages of production.  Some was crusty on the outside but liquid on the inside.  It did change the taste of the black bread, but I don’t know if it was better with or without.  It was gaseous any way you ate it.

    The aborts in this camp were regular flush type.  Wooden seats had long since been sacrificed by the Brits, for fuel for the stoves.  There were about a dozen stools lined up along one wall and a dozen urinals along the opposite wall.  The food or lack of it was the cause of an epidemic of dysentery, and as a result, the plumbing backed up and the raw sewage covered the floor and ran out the doors and covered a large part of the compound.

    The German commandant showed up for the morning appel and got his boots muddied and soiled walking past the abort, so he called off the appels.  They did rouse us out periodically for a count when they discovered someone missing.  On two occasions the missing persons were found dead in their bunks.

    The commandant’s soiled boots were a blessing for us because it hastened the plumbing repair and the flooding stopped.

    The first week in April the kriegies who had been in the south and north compounds at Sagan arrived from Nuremberg where they had been since leaving Sagan.  They told stories about how the people along the march from Nuremberg helped them and gave them food and water and then gave them their names so that they might get better treatment from the advancing American troops.

    There wasn’t enough room in the barracks for the new comers, so the Germans erected huge tents to house them.  I had a chance to visit one of the tents and would have been happy to swap with any of the new men, but that wasn’t allowed.  I guess the tents leaked when it rained, so as long as it was dry they were better off.

    The Germans allowed gates to be cut in the fences so we could move from one compound to another.  One German hadn’t heard about the arrangement, so he shot one of the aussies who was cutting through his side of the fence.  They left the guy hanging on the wire for an hour before they finally realized we were about to start a riot.  Then they carried the guy off and hauled the guard off under guard.

    It was getting warmer now and we spent as much time as possible outside.  Even during an air raid we stayed out and cheered on the planes.  We laid on our backs and watched as the planes flew over from Italy to targets farther north.  One day while watching a formation of B-24s going over, we noticed a fast moving plane make one pass at the formation and four B-24s went down.  The fast plane didn’t slow down just disappeared into the distance.  Nobody had ever seen a plane as fast as that one and we thought it must be some new secret weapon of the Germans.  Fighter planes kept us entertained every day.  They’d always find time to buzz the camp and do a few slow rolls to let us know that they knew we  were here.

    I was still as hungry as I had ever been, and since I didn’t have food I tried smoking my pipe.  The juices from the saliva and tobacco made me feel sort of sick when I swallowed it, but it killed the hunger pangs.

    Now that we could get to the other compounds our chance for trading improved.  The Indians held cows as sacred so they didn’t eat any of the canned beef that they received in the British parcels, and they had a lot.  I traded my A-2 jacket for two cans of beef, a pound of powdered milk and a pack of Sweet Caporals, a British cigarette, that tasted real sweet.

    Things looked pretty bad for the Germans.  It was obvious by all the allied aircraft in the air that we were in control of the skies.  The sound of artillery fire could be heard closer every day, and would soon be here.  The Germans distributed a lot of pamphlets suggesting that they would like us to join them in fighting the Russians.  Indicating that we’d have to fight them some day anyway.  I don’t think they got any takers.

    The night of the 28th of April most of the Germans left, with only a token resistance force left in charge.  Our senior officers suggested that we would be safer if we stayed in camp to await the Americans, so I think with the exception of a few, we stayed.  Sunday morning the 29th of April there was some gunfire at the front gate and the whole camp came alive to see what was going on.  A couple of kriegies got hit by stray bullets but most every one else was happy and running around like crazy.  One of the guards in one of the goon boxes tried to defend the camp all by himself, and after taking one shot at one of the tanks, he was eliminated on the spot.  Shortly after noon the American flag was hoisted up on the church steeple in Moosburg, and the American tanks rolled into camp.

    Before the first tanks could get down to our compound they were swarmed over by anybody who could climb aboard.  The GIs tried to keep then off, but most of the ones climbing on the tanks couldn’t understand English.  The GIs threw candy and K-rations off by the armful and kept on going to the back gate which they crushed as they went through.

    When the back gate went down a number of us took off for the town of Moosburg.  I really don’t know too much about what I did.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was free and in a daze.  I do know that before I got back to camp I had been in a couple of houses and found Red Cross parcels galore.  I found a Luger pistol and another Mauser pistol that I immediately shoved into my pocket.  Back at camp, Personnel people were trying to get a list of who was there, but that didn’t work.  That evening we did have what every kriegie had been dreaming about.  A field kitchen arrived and with it a load of real white bread.  It tasted like cake.

    One of the first things we had to do was line up for a delousing.  It didn’t take long, just open your shirt and loosen your pants at the waist and you got two or three squirts of DDT under your clothes.  I think it worked ‘cause the movement of the vermin stopped soon after.

    We stayed in camp for another day eating K-rations and white bread and drinking hot coffee.  General Patton showed up one day and made the rounds of the camp.  While he was in our barracks he didn’t say much, but finally he asked, “Where are the officers quarters?”  When his aide told him these were the officers quarters, he shook his head, grimaced a little, turned around and yelled in that high pitched voice of his, “Get these men out of here, NOW!!”  By nightfall GI trucks were lined up to take us out of camp.  I don’t think anyone who was there at that time will ever forget that man.

Next

 

Chapter 1: Barksdale Field

Chapter 2: England

Chapter 3: Captivity

Chapter 4: Sagan

Chapter 5: The March

Chapter 6: Moosburg

Chapter 7: Liberation


 

 

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