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OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept

 
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OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept - 8/23/2015 5:58:36 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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http://www.startribune.com/in-1944-a-hunt-for-nazi-escapees-up-north/322609251/

An interesting story about a little-known facet of German POW life in the USA. I especially liked the last paragraph.

The lead:

"In 1944, a hunt for Nazi escapees Up North

It was a routine bed check. That is, until a note was found on the bunk where a German prisoner was supposed to be asleep Up North in a Minnesota lumber camp housing Nazi prisoners of war near the shores of Lake Winnibigoshish.

A second bed, belonging to Nazi Cpl. Heinz Schymalla, 22, was also empty at 9:45 p.m. on Sunday night, Oct. 29, 1944, at Algona-Branch Camp No. 4 near Bena, Minn. The lightly secured stockade in the woods was one of the World War II prison work camps established in Minnesota, joining facilities in Owatonna, Faribault and Fairmont.

They all used prison labor to offset worker shortages left when lumbermen and farmers were siphoned off to battlefields in Europe and the Pacific. Schymalla and his 21-year-old, note-writing comrade, Walter Mai, were among 208 Germans cutting timber for Minnesota’s pulp industry.

Make that 206.

“Our Fatherland, Our Homeland are now in a very difficult position and needs all available sons,” Mai wrote in German. Mai and Schymalla had been captured in Tunisia in May 1943.

Prisoners of war like Schymalla and Mai earned 80 cents a day in canteen coupons for their sawing and chopping. They also received mail. One letter — detailing how his 60-year-old father and brother had been conscripted to join the beleaguered Nazi military — sparked Schymalla to make his dramatic jail break.

A sense of duty compelled him to hatch a getaway plan to get back to the front. When he whispered his intentions to Mai, they agreed to make a joint run for it."


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RE: OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept - 8/23/2015 11:55:29 PM   
wdolson

 

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I've read elsewhere some interesting stories of Axis POWs in North America. One story of a German fighter pilot captured in the Battle of Britain and sent to Canada escaped and tried to make it to then neutral US. He was picked up at the nearby train station because in part he got stumped by the train schedules. There was something very different about North American train schedules (not explained in the article) that he just couldn't figure out.

Another case was a bunch of Italian prisoners who were working as farm labor at a near by farm. On Christmas day, a bunch of them turned up missing (about 10 of them). They were found at the farm where they worked enjoying Christmas dinner with the family they were working for.

The actual fascist and Nazis were usually separated into different camps. These people were agitators who stirred up the non-fascist POWs who were feeling guilty for sitting out the war, but actually kind of happy they were going to survive and were eating well. A lot of the u-boat crews were pretty hard core as well as the SS troops. The US had separate higher security facilities for those guys.

My father said when he was at Dayton Field in Ohio the mess line was run by a bunch of German POWs. He said most of them had Afrika Korps uniforms. They seemed quite happy and cheerful. He said they were always chatting and joking with one another in German.

Bill

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RE: OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept - 8/24/2015 4:53:53 PM   
geofflambert


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I saw a program that had German prisoners telling about their experiences and remember one who was sent to a farm in the Midwest somewhere. He recounted that kind people would show up and give them food and drink (people who weren't the affected farmers) and he said to the best of my recollection "The best meal I ever had was an American peanut butter and jelly sandwich". I think it was his first day there. Don't think there was much security wasted on them and I believe the majority of the German POWs opted to stay here and become citizens.

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RE: OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept - 8/24/2015 4:57:43 PM   
geofflambert


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Oh, and I'm not sure there were very many "Nazi" prisoners here, they had this bad habit of not managing to be taken prisoner for some reason. SS I mean.

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RE: OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept - 8/24/2015 8:54:36 PM   
bomccarthy


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Interesting escapee was Georg Gaertner, who escaped from a New Mexico POW camp in Sept 45 to avoid being sent back to his Soviet-occupied hometown. He changed his name to Dennis Whiles and spent the next 38 years working various jobs in the US (including ski and tennis instructor), marrying an American wife and raising two kids. He came clean to US authorities in 1983 - his wife had become suspicious after he kept turning down job offers that promised higher salaries. He finally obtained his US citizenship in 1989.

He wrote the book Hitler's Last Soldier In America with Texas A&M University professor Arnold Krammer, who had mentioned Gaertner in a previous book (Nazi Prisoners of War in America) while Gaertner was still "in hiding."

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RE: OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept - 8/27/2015 8:34:09 AM   
ndworl

 

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Australia got a lot of PoWs from North Africa and used them as labour, a lot of them staying on after the war. Slightly different experience with the Japanese. A prison camp (itself an indication the Japanese were different) at Cowra experienced a mass break out by Japanese PoWs with a very high death toll. A book was written about it "Die like the carp." Today in Cowra (which is a small farming town) there is a Japanese Australian peace garden.

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RE: OT: Newspaper Account of Nazi Escape Attmept - 8/27/2015 11:45:43 AM   
JocMeister

 

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Cool story!

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