collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I
If you are a former Prisoner of War or a next of
kin of a POW, we invite you to sign and leave your email address so others that
come may find you. Please mention camp, compound, barracks and room numbers if
Humor Behind the Wire Stalag Luft-1 POW Camp Barth, Germany
Those who were POWs at Barth will always be grateful to the Red Cross
and the YMCA. Food parcels from the Red Cross did more than just
supplement the German rations. They were an absolute necessity. The Y
meanwhile supplied morale builders such as books, wind-up phonographs,
architects graph paper, sports equipment like footballs, volleyballs,
nets for games, softballs, bats, gloves and other sports gear.
The prisoners also received items such as costumes and make-up for stage
plays, watercolor paints and educational material. This was a camp for
officers which meant the inmates could not be forced to do manual or any
other kind of labor. We put a lot of effort into trying to polish up our
American sense of humor. Some of it was weird, some very dangerous, all
of it very funny.
Just prior to Christmas, 1944, we were advised that a large new group of
POWs would be arriving. A group of our more artistic “Kreigies”, as
Germans called POWS, went to work painting travel posters to hang on the
barbed wire that surrounded the compound. “All men wishing to call home
to the USA sign up in Barracks 4!” “All men interested in a skiing trip
to Switzerland sign up in barracks 2 “A Christmas Eve dance with local
German girls will be held in Barracks 3.” Can you imagine what the new
“Kreigies” thought when they were marched through the gate?
Here’s a practical joke that could have backfired! POWS built a phony
artillery gun mount out of corrugated paper from Red Cross cartons, a
few bed slats, salvaged tin cans etc. It was armed with a long tube
salvaged from somewhere and painted olive drab. When completed a large
group of men carried it as close as they dared to the warning wire
(beyond which you would be shot) and set it down. A brave or reckless
fellow sat in a makeshift seat as though he were ready to aim and fire.
The gun was “aimed” at the nearest guard tower. The guard peered down in
absolute astonishment and then reached for his rifle. The joke was over.
Everyone scrambled to safety and then enjoyed a grand laugh.
We even put on a production of -*“The Man Who Came To Dinner.” All the
roles were played by men, of course. One of the female characters was
played by a fellow who shared our room. He looked so good when they got
him all dressed up he needed an escort to get back to the room when the
play was over. Look for Barth in your atlas. It’s on the chilly Baltic
northeast of Rostock and close to old Polish border. Remember this was
early 1945 and the Germans were in a desperate last ditch struggle as
the Red Army thrusts itself into German territory and pushes toward
Stalag Luft 1.