Daily Occurrences and the Liberation of Stalag VII-A
[Editor's Note: Phil's entries more often than not use the word "Rumors" to refer to news that often could only come from outside the camp, and moreso, of data received within a day or so of the event described. How did prisoners get news which even the German guards were never told about? By radio of course!.]
13, Fri. Living now in Bk 5B instead of 16B. Weather cool and partly cloudy with intermittent showers. Played catch with the new baseball equipment received. Issue of a Canadian parcel (1/6 daily). Face healing up fairly well. Strong rumor that Roosevelt died last night. [This was all over the German news and prisoners were officially informed.] Went to sleep at 10:00.
14, Sat. Awoke at 9:00! Weather fair & partly cloudy. Received khaki shorts and tee shirt from ARC [American Red Cross]. Played catch for an hour prior to dusk. Rumors state that Allies advance toward Berlin. Went to sleep at 9:30.
15, Sun. Awoke at 8:30 after a restless night (dreamt of being home). Washed and shaved. Weather fair and partly cloudy. On Red Cross guard today (3[rd relief?] rail car post). Memorial service for Roosevelt at 1:00.
16, Mon. Finished ARC [American Red Cross] guard at 12 noon. English parcel issue (1/2 daily). Air raid in afternoon with a large number of bombers participating. Landshut[?] and Regensburg hit. Raid lasted over 2 hours. Weather warm, skies clear, except for scattered clouds. Played catch prior to raid. Rumors of fighting in Berlin suburbs. Advances progressing on Western front. Went to bed 9:15.
17, Tue. Awoke 8:30 (no roll call at present in Bk 5B). Washed clothes in afternoon. Brand new pair of pants (31-33) issued for guards. Size 31 fits me perfectly, indicating a loss in weight. Weather clear and warm. Rumors that Nuremberg and Leipzig have fallen (unconfirmed). Also fighting in Ulm. Went to sleep at 10:00.
18, Wed. Awoke at 7:30. Washed and shaved. Got ready for guard relief. Wagon guard. Issue of British parcel (1/2 daily). Air raid in afternoon. Target S.W. towards Munich. Weather fair, partly cloudy. Several tents were put up north of barrack. Rumors that Leipzig has fallen and advances beyond Nuremberg.
19, Thu. - Finished guard at factory at 10:30 (16 cars of ARC supplies in factory grounds). Weather cool, cloudy to partly cloudy. Came back to barrack and slept until 2:30 in afternoon. Rumors that the Americans are 50 km from the Russians in the Dresden sector. Artillery flashes and reports [i.e., the noise the artillery made] W. and S.W. of Moosburg. Sounds of artillery also N.W. & N. Prisoners arriving here daily from other camps. Received new shoes - size 8-1/2 C and 5 packs of R.M.s[?] from ARC. Went to bed at 9:30.
20, Fri. - Awoke at 7:30 and made rolled oats for breakfast. American parcel issued at 10:00. Weather fair and clear. Air raid N.E. of camp. Washed khaki shirt and underwear in afternoon. More prisoners arriving from Nuremberg. Rumors of fighting near Regensburg; city in flames. American army penetrated to the Czechoslovakian border (unconfirmed). Fighter plane over Moosburg at 9:30 PM and drops either gas tank or bomb (incendiary) causing a fire. Went to sleep at 10:16.
21, Sat. - Awoke at 7:30. Ate breakfast and shaved. On Red Cross guard at post #1 - 3rd relief.
22, Sun. Two night shifts the past night were miserable because of the rain and cold weather. Doesn't seem like Sunday as I'm unable to attend church services due to guard. The rain has stopped but the weather remains cold and cloudy. Slept practically all afternoon after completing guard. Rumors scarce.
23, Mon. Awoke at 8:30. Weather continues to be cold and cloudy; therefore stayed in bed and done some reading. Received American parcel. Rumor that the officers may move. [Allies] advance towards Augsburg.
24, Tue. Awoke at 8:00. Weather cold and cloudy. On guard (wagon) 3rd relief (4:00). Rumors that Augsburg has fallen. Moosburg [was supposed to be declared an] 'Open City' (German news). [But the American army never agreed to the proposal, so there ended up being some fighting in the city and around the perimeter of the camp; see details below.]
25, Wed. - Last night weather was clear and cold. Had to stand 4 hour guard due to the possibility of the German guards evacuating camp.
26, Thu. Awoke 8:00. Weather clear and warm in morning. No air activity noticed or heard. Rumors that Gen. Patton stated we would be liberated in a week. Americans and Russians meet near Dresden. Germans hold 1/3 of Berlin. Red Cross issue of soap, toothbrush, 1 pair socks, flea powder, shoe brush, polish. Washed clothes in afternoon. Few drops of rain in afternoon but the sky cleared later in the day. German rations today were 1/10 loaf of bread and 1/8 block of cheese; soup at noon. Considerable trading with the air corps officers who are directly north of us. Items of exchange are watches, rings and clothing for varying amounts of food in the Red Cross parcels. Went to sleep at 10:15.
27, Fri. - Awoke at 9:00 A.M. Weather fair, sky fairly clear. Shaved this morning. No air activity in morning. Rumors numerous. Allies 30 km west of Moosburg and 50 north. French in Munich. German troops in Italy capitulated. Over 100,000 captured. Rest camps set up in England. Poland not recognized in San Francisco peace conference. Went on Red Cross guard at 6:00 P.M. near cheese factory. Thunder showers at 8:15 P.M. diminishing at 12:00.
28, Sat. - Finished guard at 8:00. Went and got a hot shower shortly afterwards. After a bite to eat, I went to sleep and awoke at 1:30. Steady rain all day. Rumors that civilians of Munich revolt against SS troops. Artillery or tank fire approximately 10 to 15 miles N.W. of Moosburg. German vehicles moving south throughout night. Orders of formations tomorrow of all prisoners. Everyone in camp excited and happy as the Allies near. Majority of German guards evacuate this evening and designated persons of camp take over the guard duty to preserve discipline. Ranking officers now in full charge of the camp. Went to sleep at 11:00 P.M.
29, Sun. - Awoke this morning at 7:00. Excitement still continues within camp. Formations of all nations at 8:00. Notifications that we are in Company E, 3rd Batt. to obtain organization. Announcement by Capt. Ryan (Btn. Com.) of discipline, trading and etc. Allies expected this afternoon or tomorrow. Clouds of smoke rising in the N.W. Weather this morning fair and clear. Approximately 11:00 in the morning two P-51's circle camp several times at a low altitude. Shortly after, small arms fire began directly west of the camp, and continued for an hour with SS troops and the Allies engaged. During this entanglement, 2 prisoners were wounded as rifle fire sprang across the camp. Simultaneously, Mustangs [another name for the P-51 aircraft] strafed targets in and around Moosburg. At 12 noon, small arms fire ceased as the Allies advanced to Moosburg; receiving machine gun fire from one of the two church steeples in town. In the meantime, the German camp guards, offering no resistance, became prisoners of the oncoming Americans of the 14th Armored Division. Eventually Moosburg fell with light resistance because firing within the town came to an abrupt end. At 1:00, shouting commenced within camp as the prisoners were now liberated. Signified by attaching each nation's flag upon the front of the barracks roof followed by the raising of the American flag in front of camp headquarters. This act immediately drew a loud applause from the liberated. I got my first glimpse of an American Piper Cub at noon and it brought about a happy feeling which cannot be expressed in words. In the afternoon, an American Sherman tank passed through the camp. On it was a General and several G.I. soldiers. It was later learned that the 99th and 86th Divisions participated in this sector. An exciting and not forgotten day came to an end, marking the liberation of 30,000 prisoners of war.
30, Mon. Awoke at 7:15. Roll call at 8:00. Slept well considering the fact that yesterday the Allies passed through. Most interesting news today concerns arrangements for our evacuation. Will supposedly leave for the US within the next few days via truck to an airport 60 km north, then by plane to either Le Havre, France or England. It is likely we will travel by boat from these countries, and time of voyage approximately 12 days. It really seems unbelievable but I pray God that it be His will. Latest war news of B.B.C. states there is fighting in Munich. Berlin is completely surrounded by the Reds and practically fallen. English forces are in Bremen. Hitler and Mussolini reported dead. The Germans are a disorganized army offering sporadic resistance, but continue to fight even though thousands have been captured recently. At present, Germany is cut in half and little territory or area remains untrodden by the Allies. In Italy, the Germans are also retreating steadily. The Americans are in Milan and the English 8th Army is in the vicinity of Venice on the Adriatic. The French in a sector south of Munich are meeting stubborn resistance. Went to bed at 10:15.
1[Return to Text] These would have been simple crystal radio receivers; which do not require any battery/electric power, being powered solely by the radio waves created by a transmitter at its tower. Few people, especially since the FCC mandated that TV signals in the USA had to be digitally broadcast after 2008, have experienced the wonder of listening to voices/music 'out of the air' with just an antenna wire, coil/tuner, detector/diode and high impedance earphone. As a kid, I had a crystal set called a Pocket Rocket radio (not to be confused with a Yo-yo by that name). The earphone or headphones would have been the most difficult part for a POW to obtain. Some were smuggled-in via packages from home, and one guy says he bribed a guard for headphones. Without any tubes/valves or modern-day diodes, they generally used something like Cat's-whisker detectors made out of razor blades as the substrate and pencil leads as the 'whisker'. There's a very brief article about POW ('Foxhole') radios here! And a good page here which not only shows how you can build your own crystal receiver using many common items, but very nicely explains how they work!
2[Return to Text] President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia. It was fortunate for the US that he was able to make it through the long trip to the Yalta Conference (February, 1945) and meetings with the rulers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the USS Quincy (CA-71; which the President used to travel from the US to Malta, and back again from Egypt; having continued by plane to Yalta, then flying to Egypt), and preparing for the foundation of the United Nations, all before his death.
3[Return to Text] We believe the best guess here would be "Ready Meal" as a general term Phil used for any number of the various K-rations or other such packs which could have been found in parcels from the American Red Cross (ARC).
5[Return to Text] If anyone has any official documentation concerning the number of POWs liberated on April 29, 1945, please contact us. We have read personal accounts where some POWs gave astoundingly large figures of 60,000, 80,000 or even more than 100,000 men freed. But there's no way that many men could have possibly been kept in Stalag VI-A at the same time. Those figures are mistaken, or perhaps were estimates of the total number of POWs who passed through the camp during the whole war. If one looks at this map of Stalag 7A here, it's also clear that at least one very low estimate of only 15,000 couldn't be correct either: Figures from the map show a planned 400 men each in barracks 1 thru 39 (400 x 39 = 15,600) and 200 each in barracks 41 thru 54 (14 x 200 = 2,800), giving us a planned minimum of at least 18,400. But recalling what Phil and others wrote about each of the barracks being overcrowded near the end; perhaps an extra 100 in the large ones and 50 more in the small ones, that would give us at least: (500 x 39 = 19,500) + (250 x 14 = 3,500) = 23,000, but we know there were also a great many in tents that had been set up and out on the ground with no shelter at all. Under those conditions, this would make Phil's figure of about 30,000 a believable number (since it may also include some prisoners that had been living in surrounding farms and work camps).