Reviewing a Lifetime
(A Psychotherapist's Nightmare)
by John D. Sedory

Copyright©2015 by Daniel B. Sedory, Editor. All Rights Reserved.

Appendix D-1

Experiences As A Prisoner of War
by
Philip A. Sedory

(The Author's Brother)


 

Introduction
(Written April 11-13, 1945)

Captured in Italy

    [I was] captured in Florence, Italy, September 18th [1944] and sent to a camp at Mantoba [1], Italy via truck.

Taken to Germany

    After a two-week stay, we boarded box cars and arrived at Moosburg [2], Germany three days later.

1944
SUN
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
September
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
October
1
2
3
 

After finding "October 2nd" in Phil's account below and looking at a 1944 calendar, we discovered that Phil 'rounded-up' his stay at Mantova; it was in fact only 10 or 11 days (not 14).

The two dates in RED are specifically mentioned by Phil in the beginning of his account.

 

The trip was gruelsome and tiring. We never were allowed to get off the train until we reached our destination. The cars were filled and overcrowded with an average of 55 men to a car. Our food consisted of bread (five to a loaf) and a piece of sausage each day. We received water once during the trip and some were unfortunate and didn't get any water. When we arrived at Moosburg, on the morning of the third day, the weather was cold and rainy. I can not describe how glad we were to disembark from the train after this journey. Our legs and bodies were stiff and sore from the cramped conditions in the cars, therefore it was a great relief to walk once again. It is a short distance from the railroad to the camp known as Stalag VIIA [3].

Stalg VII-A (Day 1)

    In 15 minutes we arrived at the prison camp anxious and desiring to get within shelter of the barracks. A count of the prisoners was immediately taken, discovering the absence of several men who had escaped during the journey. We were kept waiting in the cold until the names of the escaped were obtained. A separation of nations represented followed and we were put in barracks which had excelsior [wood wool] scattered on the floor. Except for the excelsior which served as our beds, the barracks were practically empty and unheated. I might add that most of us possessed only jackets and shirts during the journey and as a result many of us were affected with head and chest colds as the weather turned colder. I tried to get some sleep but found it impossible due to my cold. We were then issued one blanket and a food container and utensil which brought a more cheery aspect to each of us. Once we were hungry, the thought of food was foremost and consistently in our minds. We were disappointed to receive hot tea for our first meal, nevertheless I drank it because it was hot. The so-called tea was unlike any other tea inasmuch it had a bitter taste similar to herbs. However, after drinking it several times, we became accustomed to it. A short time later, onion soup was brought to us in pitchers. The soup was good, but there wasn't enough for our group. That afternoon we moved to another barrack nearby, and we received 3 or 4 potatoes and a ration of bread (one fifth a loaf). This amount of food had to last us until the next day but almost everyone devoured it in a few minutes. As for cigarettes, they were scarce and it was a hardship for the smokers. Instead of tobacco, the boys were rolling cigarettes with tea leaves that they obtained in the last camp. I never knew tea has such a disagreeable odor when burnt, but the fellows seemed satisfied in smoking it. That night my buddy and I slept together on a mattress filled with excelsior. I was tired and exhausted toward evening, and in a moment I fell asleep. This was my experience the first day in Stalag VIIA and at that time the future looked gloomy and dark with little to look forward to, except the end of the war. I was also thankful that the Lord had spared my life thus far.

(Day 2; OCT 2nd)

    The next day, I awoke about eight 'o clock in the morning and we put the mattresses in one end of the barrack. There was a coal stove in the center of the room, but no fuel except a few pieces of cardboard which the boys managed to find. Those that had tea, heated water, although very little actually got hot. I had managed somehow to save a small piece of bread and that was breakfast for that day. Our registrations followed later that morning of October 2nd together with a much needed shower and delousing of our clothing. Feeling much better after a refreshing shower, we marched to another part of the camp, to Barrack 29.[4] Here we were divided into sections or groups of 12. An hour or so later, I was surprised to receive an English[5] parcel (1 per 2 men) which to me was quite a treat. That night I was amazed when entertainment was provided - namely an English orchestra giving a show. I was still quite ill with a cold and can't say that I enjoyed the performance which seemed to last for hours. We slept on the floor once again that night. I was restless during the night and bothered constantly with fleas and bedbugs.

(Day 3)

    On the morning of the next day, the NCO's move to Barracks 34A and the Privates are detailed to work in Munich. Bk 34A was somewhat better because it contained bunks (3-deckers) and was uncrowded at the time. We were the only Americans in the hut (another name used for the barracks), but gradually more NCO's moved in until it was completely filled. The existing S.A. [South African] & English staff remained in charge.

Time Drags On

    I do not remember all the daily incidences that took place in this hut, but I'll name a few which were outstanding. Roll call daily at seven 'o clock in the morning; Sunday, eight 'o clock. Two weeks or more without any Red Cross parcels. Cases of theft, some caught in the act and punished; others not discovered. The item usually stolen was food. Searches by the Germans, and the usual confiscation of tools such as hatchets, hammers and metal bars, etc. A parcel per man for Christmas, and a cut or reduction in the rations. A daily ration at that time was a cup of tea for breakfast, soup (various types) at noon and an average of 4 potatoes of poor quality, average of 1/6 loaf of bread with a ration of either cheese, sausage or margarine, including a spoon of sugar. Since the NCO's didn't work, the day was occupied by either sleeping or reading. Outdoor recreation was impossible because of the winter weather. Here the Christian Fellowship[6] originated, and later, moving to Bk 36 under the direction and leadership of Jimmy Ferguson, enlarged the membership to over a hundred members. Rumors of war news were numerous and predictions of the war's end limitless; but at this writing the war continues.

The weather, which is always an important factor, did not actually get cold until late in December, and remained the same in January; although the snow was comparably light. Early in February, we moved to Bk 16B in the open compound under the direction of an American staff. The hut was found to be in a deplorable condition of filth and dirt, and it took hours to clean it up. After living in our new hut a few days, the weather turned unexpectedly warm and remained the same for almost two weeks. During this period, I played softball and a little basketball. The mild weather was ideal for sports, but it came to an abrupt end due to rain and cooler weather which continued until the middle of March.

Several times we were warned by the Lager captain to improve the cleanliness of our hut and to cease going on the Munich detail which was prevalent at the time. Transgressing these orders [he said] would eventually bring us to the unliked South Lager; but the threat never materialized. A new American staff was inducted when the former chief had harsh and bitter words with the German in charge of roll call. The new chief was T/Sgt. Wright who was previously in my section. Conditions became worse when 30 more men moved in with us. The hut was [already] overcrowded, but now more so than ever; with a total of 290 men, whereas the normal number was 200 for a hut occupancy.

March, 1945

    In the latter part of March, Moosburg was designated as the distributing point for Red Cross supplies[7]. Several warehouses were soon set up in town and guards were needed for protection [from being stolen]. Volunteers were called upon from the NCO's hut and as a result, half of section 4; [including] myself, procured a job that we still hold at the time of this writing.

April, 1945

    The first week of April, a large movement was made within the Camp: Barracks 9 through 19 were evacuated to make more room for officers [who] are continually arriving. All non-workers moved to the North Lager, some Privates were sent out on working details and the remainder to Barracks 4 to 8. All the Red Cross guards are now in Bk 5B, except for the Frenchman. During the past week, several tents were put up to house the continuous stream of prisoners arriving lately from camps north of here. For over 6 weeks we have been receiving a parcel a week per man. [But our camp] rations have [been] cut considerably since last Fall. At present we get a loaf of bread for 7 and 8 men, soup approximately 3 times a week and potatoes usually every day including cheese or sausage. Without the Red Cross parcels, the food situation would be disastrous for all of us. The chief disappointment to me is the continuation and length of the war which most of us thought would surely end in 1944.

[Editor's Note: See Appendix D-2 for April 13 - 30, 1945; including the Liberation of Stalag 7A!]

 
 
 

Appendix D

TOC

Appendix D-2

Footnotes

1[Return to Text]  Or Mantova (in Italian), but most often spelled outside Italy using its earlier Latin name, Mantua; as it is found in the English Wikipedia.

2[Return to Text]  Moosburg is about 25 to 30 miles NE of downtown Munich. Some prisoners from Stalag VII-A were assigned to work details in Munich.

3[Return to Text]  For further references, see: Moosburg Online: POW Camp Stalag VII-A. This page contains links to many personal accounts of the camp's former Allied prisoners! Note that after its liberation, the camp then housed Nazi prisoners and those accused of war crimes. After the Internment Camp was closed in 1948, refugees from former German territories in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia and Russia; mainly the Sudetenland, Silesia, the Danube region, etc., settled in the camp.
    Also see: AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR IN GERMANY - STALAG 7a. The following photo of the entrance to Stalag VII-A shows that the word Stalag is a shortened form of the longer German word "Stammlager" which itself is short for the full name of the camp on the sign, "Kriegsgefangenen - Mannschafts Stammlager VIIA," which basically means in English: 'Prisoners of War' (literally: War caught) - 'Enlisted (and NCO)' Camp (or Stockade) 7A.

4[Return to Text]  The Barracks numbers can be found on this map of Stalag 7A.

5[Return to Text]  Phil uses the word "English" where we might use British or Britain or the phrase "from England". This becomes very clear from the context, when he talks about the "S.A. & English staff" on Day 3.

6[Return to Text]  This was not the name of an official organization, but simply what a group of Stalag 7a prisoners who met together for Christian fellowship called themselves. South African prisoner, Arthur George Garvie, mentions "Our little Fellowship" under his entry for Friday 17th November 1944 in his diary. Phil only listed the following as those who helped with a 'Christmas Fund'; but we know there were eventually over 100 members:

 Bk 33A  Jimmy Ferguson (S.A.)
 Bk 34A  Philip Sedory
 Bk 34B  Joe Blasczyk (from New York)
   "     Roy Crawford (from St. Charles, IL)
   "     Kelly Frost
 Bk 35A  William Barton
   "     Len Kirk
   "     Vernon Meyer
   "     Paul Rhodes
 Bk 36A  Clarence Barkimer
   "     Eugene Foster
   "     Clarence Hall, Jr. (from Ohio)
   "     Roy Janes
   "     W.D. Metcalf (from N.C.)
   "     Herbert Poole
   "     William Reid
 Bk 36B  Clyde Branch
   "     Robert Fuchsteimer
   "     Robert Levy
(Note: Arthur Garvie's son, Colin, stated in an email to us, that Jimmy Ferguson was a friend of his father and that "Jimmy started the Youth for Christ movement here in South Africa. I recall as a boy my father introducing me to Jimmy at a YFC Beach Mission that Jimmy was running on our South Coast. Jimmy later went to Chile and Argentina as a missionary." Arthur Garvie wrote: "In 33 Lager [Barrack 33] there is a wonderful keenness to learn of our Saviour. Jimmie Ferguson a fine lad and so sincere is doing fine work. A number of us from NCOs lager go over for the midweek and Sunday evening services.")

7[Return to Text]  This link shows some of the Red Cross packages that were sent to POW camps by way of the neutral 'Protecting Powers' (mainly Switzerland).