The Story of a Young German at Bad Kreuznach WWII American POW Camp
On January 21 1945 my mother and her five children left Hindenburg O/S with the last west bound train to flee the encroaching Red Army. We made our way to Waldenburg where we stayed with relatives. My father who had not been drafted into the Army joined us a few days later. We remained in Waldenburg for some time and then made our way further west.
Eventually, in March of that year we landed on the estate Greifenstein of the famous family of von Staufenberg in Stucht Bavaria. We were able to stay in old farm house which we shared with a Frau Schaefer and her young son. This farm house was part of the Greifenstein estate. Frau Schaefer’s husband was not with his family since he was still in the Army.
At the end of April, an American tank crew destroyed this house with four well aimed shells so that we found ourselves without quarters. It was by the grace of God that our family and Frau Schaefer with her son were not killed in this senseless attack. We took refuge in the cellar which saved our lives.
Fortunately, we were eventually able to find living quarters in Russenbach and then later on in Ebermannstadt, a larger village not too distant. Ebermannnstadt is today a tourist attraction. At that time it was a sleepy little village surrounded by small Bavarian farms. When the war finally ended large numbers of refugees ended up in this small village. They were primarily from the Sudetenland and other East German provinces. The population grew quickly in a relatively short period of time.
Between the end of the war and the beginning of 1948 food was extremely scarce. We were however more fortunate than most in that we lived in a rural area so that some food was available from the local farmers. This was not the case for people living in the larger bombed out cities. I can recall quite vividly that even in a rural setting one literally did not know were the next meal was going to come from.
As time went by we also noticed that the first prisoners of war were returning from captivity. For the most part these men were in terrible physical condition, suffering primarily from malnutrition. Usually they did not live more than a few months after their release from the camps. Surprisingly, this high death rate was almost accepted as normal and people quite expected it.
Finally, in 1948 my father was able to find work in Mainz – Gustavsburg at the MAN Company and the family shortly thereafter moved away from Ebermannstadt. My father was a structural engineer and the Gustavsburg Division of the MAN unlike the Nuremberg and Augsburg Divisions, was involved in the German reconstruction effort. They also were beginning to do work in foreign countries. There was plenty of challenging work and he was happy to get back to practicing his profession.
It was in Gustavsburg that we first heard about the conditions in the American run prisoner of war camp at Bad Kreuznach. I remember one particular experience rather well. My parents became friends with a couple whose young son who was in his early twenties at the time and had been in captivity there. From what they told us, the food, water, and hygiene in this camp were terrible. Further more the prisoners had no shelter and were literally exposed to the elements for months at a time. The parents of this young soldier attempted to bring food to their boy but were prevented from doing so by the Americans guarding the camp. Under these conditions their son did not survive. He was one of countless other young soldiers that succumbed to the same fate.
Michael L. Reisch November 7, 2002 Carlisle Ma. USA
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