World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I


World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I


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Lt. Robert Ahrens - World War II B-24 co-pilot
Lt. Robert H. Ahrens
Co-Pilot of B-24 "Miss Fit"
455th Bombardment Group

Shot down June 26, 1944 over Austria

Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft I
North Compound 2 - Barracks 9 - Room 6
Kriegie # 4804


Passed away March 31, 1994
E-mail his son at



Ahrens Crew during World War II
Click on photo to enlarge

Robert Ahrens and his crew.

Robert is second from the left, top row.


German Prison Of War Camp World War II
(This report was written by a high school student 30 years ago)

The contents of this paper was obtained through a personal interview with Dr. Robert H. Ahrens, a veterinarian from Jewell, Iowa, through records kept by him while in the German prison camp and through a book, written by Flight Sgt. Budgen and published after returning to the United States. 

As a member of the 15th Air Force Italy, 2nd Lt. Ahrens had flown twenty-two missions as a co-pilot in a B-24 before he was shot down by German fighter planes over Austria on June 26, 1944. The day he was shot down was the last day the Germans were able to put up a large air offensive. Both sides suffered great losses in the day’s air battle. In Lt. Ahrens’ squadron of ten planes, only one returned to the air base in Italy. 

Lt. Ahrens flew as a member of a crew of ten. During the attack on his plane, six crew members were killed, all from the rear section of the plane. Lt. Ahrens’ air regulator was shattered by enemy fire thus making breathing virtually impossible. One engine was out near Lt. Ahrens and as he tried to fan the engine it exploded into flames, burning his hands and face. He then bailed from the plane. Shortly after he bailed out, the plane exploded, sending parts of the aircraft speeding past him as he drifted to the ground. 

After being picked up by the Germans, he was taken to a hospital in Austria where he was treated for his burns. Following his one month stay there, he was transported to an interrogation center in Oberursel, Germany. For two and a half days he was kept in solitary confinement while under interrogation. An interesting note here; Lt. Ahrens, after having several sessions with the German Sergeant, asked the Sergeant how he could speak English so fluently. His reply was that he had probably spent more years in America than Lt. Ahrens had. 

The Germans had obtained a very accurate file on Lt. Ahrens. Their intelligence had somehow gotten local Jewell, Iowa papers which told about Lt. Ahrens and his background. 

After his stay in Wetzler, Lt. Ahrens was moved to Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany. There were about 3,000 men¾all officers¾in this prison camp. About all that was required of the men in this camp was to report for roll call twice a day. They were not required to do any type of manual labor. 

Lt. Ahrens was placed in Room 6, Block 9 of North Compound #2. The barracks each contained room for about twenty men. Their triple-decker bunks lined the walls. A table and benches sat in the middle of the room with the kitchenette¾a stove¾in the corner. They also had two cabinets in the room. 

Since all that was required of the men was two roll calls a day, it was left pretty much up to the POWs as to how they were to entertain themselves. The typical day consisted of chess in the morning, cards in the afternoon and reading at night. The books for reading were obtained from the library which was contained within the prison camp. The POWs also had ball games, boxing matches and other sports activities in which they could participate. Walking also became a favorite pastime of many of the men. 

The Germans were pretty humane in the way they handled their prisoners. There were several escape attempts; however none of them succeeded. Lt. Ahrens stated that about the only aspect of camp life in which the Germans were hard on the Americans was in its food. There was very little meat given and some of the food wasn’t of top quality. A couple of instances would be the “Jerry cheese” which the POWs used for asphyxiating rats and the margarine which was used for fuel in lamps. The Red Cross helped out with the food, sending food parcels containing spam, corned beef, salmon, meat pate, margarine, powdered milk, “K” ration biscuits, jam or peanut butter, prunes or raisins, “D” ration chocolate, cheese, coffee, sugar cubes, cigarettes, soap and vitamin tablets. 

While in the prison camp, the prisoners remained well informed on the war by way of an underground news service. A radio was hidden in the camp from which the war news was obtained. A sheet was then typed up and passed around the camp at night. They also received a German version of the news but this often went unread. 

Reflecting back to this experience in Stalag Luft I, Dr. Ahrens remembers a lot of fun. Instances that particularly stick out in his mind were some of the costumes used at roll call and the bragging and betting that took place in the barracks. One room in particular sticks out in Dr. Ahrens’ mind for their ingenuity in roll call dress. The men in this room would take papers and make cowboy or chorus girl outfits and then hurry out to roll call in them. 

The Americans loved it but the Germans couldn’t quite figure out how the Americans could have so much fun in a prison camp. 

Because of their underground news service, the Americans knew pretty much when they would be liberated. The Germans also knew and, about five days before the Russians came from the east, the Germans pulled out of the camp. The prisoners had their own chain of command and organized the digging of trenches and the like in case the camp was strafed. When the Russians came to liberate the prisoners, they were drunk and wild. They couldn’t understand how the Americans could be so organized and why they didn’t want to completely demolish the camp. Also, a few days after the Russians came through, Russian families came in wagons, looting. 

Lt. Ahrens was freed on May 1, 1945. He was flown from a German airfield to France for processing and from their he returned to the United States by troop carrier. 

After talking with Dr. Ahrens about his imprisonment. I could tell that, even though about 30 years had passed since he was in the prison camp, the events were still very much alive in his mind and had had a very real and lasting impact upon his life.


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