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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Robert Swartz - B-17 navigator & POW in WWII 2nd Lt. Robert R. Swartz
306th Bomb Group
Navigator - B-17

Stalag Luft I - North 2 Compound
Kriegie # 5603


This page contains a transcribed copy of the YMCA issued diary of Lt. Robert Swartz .  He used it to write a letter to his family detailing his life as a POW at Stalag Luft I. 

Thank you to his niece, Jerry Lynn Cox, for sending it to us and giving us permission to share it  with you on our website. 

Robert passed away in 1998, but if you knew Robert please send and email to his family at

Lt. Robert R. Swartz
White Pigeon, Michigan


Dear Folks,

During these months as a POW I have not been permitted much freedom in corresponding with you.  Correspondence has been limited and there was much that could not be written.  Nevertheless, you folks were always on my thoughts and I know you were also thinking of me.  When thinking of you, I had memories of home to serve as a background.  However, I suppose you often wondered how I was living.  With this in mind, I decided to record a bit of our life here – may it help you to better understand how we lived as POWs.

I will not discuss the events of my capture and imprisonment.  It is military information not to be recorded.  Besides we refer to these events as “horror stories” and there is much we would like to forget.

            Our prison camp was Stalag Luft I located near Barth, Germany.  Barth was a small town on the shores of the Baltic north of Berlin.  The camp itself was on a small peninsula northwest of the town.

            Food was the most important single item in our existence.  Food seemed to take on a new meaning and meal time was the most enjoyable part of the day.  Naturally we ate many things we would have refused to eat at home, but for the first time we were eating to live.  Food preparation was hardly equal to that at home, but, with inexperienced cooks and primitive facilities, the meals were better than you might think.

            A great share of our food stuffs came as a gift of the American Red Cross through the International Red Cross.  At times we were issued the British Red Cross parcel.  The American parcel was designed for one man.  We combined our parcels and cooked for all fifteen men from them.  We were supposed to receive one parcel per man each week, but due to shortages we were not always that fortunate.

Red Cross Parcel No. 10

1 Can Spam, 12 oz.
1 Can Corned Beef, 12 oz.
1 Can Stew, 12 oz
1 Can Salmon,  7 3/4 oz.
2 Cans Sardines,  3 1/4 oz. each
1 Box K-2 Biscuits, 7 oz.
1 Box Cereal, 10 oz.
2 D-Ration Chocolate Bars,  4 oz.
1 Can Cocoa Powder, 8 oz.
        1 Can Pate, 6 oz.
        1 Can or Pk. Cheese, 1/2 lb.
        1 Can Powdered Milk,  1 lb.
        1 Can Jam or Orange Conc.,  6 oz.
        1 Can Margarine, 1 lb.
        1 Can Coffee, 2-4 oz.
        1 Box Sugar, 1/2 lb.
        5 Pks. Cigarettes
        2 Bars Soap

            Each week the Germans were suppose to provide the following rations for each prisoner:  

German Rations:


2425 gms
Margarine  150 gms
Sausage 100 gms
Cheese 625 gms
Jam  175 gms
Barley 200 gms
Meat 140 gms
Cooking Fat 70 gms
Sugar 70 gms
Potatoes 2000 gms
Cabbage  600 gms
Rutabagas 1200 gms

453 gms = 1 lb.

             Actually we received approximately 2100 gms of bread, 100 gms of margarine, 100 gms of cheese, and 70 gms of sugar.  Sometimes we received canned meat.  Rations of jam and barley were so infrequent that they could not be depended upon.  The issue of vegetables was likewise without regularity in either quantity or times issued.  The  only German ration that differed from similar products at home was the bread “Kriegies Brot” was the name we applied to the German “staff of life”.  The bread came in loaves 4 inches square and 12 – 14 inches long.  A loaf this size weighed 1800 gms  - nearly 4 pounds.  The bread was dark brown in color and poorly baked.  We always toasted the bread to remove the moisture before eating it.

            Our daily menu depended upon the amount of food issued. At first we ate two hearty meals, but during the winter the German rations were cut and so were our meals.  The usual menu consisted of three pieces of bread with cheese or jam for breakfast, two pieces of bread with meat, fish or jam for lunch, and potatoes, vegetables, meat and pie for dinner.

            We were without cook books and we had to depend upon memories for our recipes – or experiment.  I will note a few sample recipes for your pleasure

Sunday Spam Special

Place 4, 12 oz., cans of spam in a pan.

Spread pineapple or strawberry jam on back of spam rolls.

Bake well. Serve with baked potatoes.


Meat Loaf – 8 Men

2 cans corned beef

1 ½ cups bread crumbs

1 can pate

Mix the ingredients well.  Add klim for binding.  ½ lb. of cheese may be added if desirable.  Bake loaf in a hot oven – don’t worry if it falls apart.


Kriegie Pie


2 boxes K-2 biscuits, ground fine

1/3 can margarine

Knead flour and margarine, add water, continue kneading until crust can be rolled. Place in pan and bake.


2 Boxes of prunes cut into small pieces, stew in a small amount of water until cooked to a mush.

After baking, coat crust with a klim paste.  Place prune filling in pie shell.  Top pie with a klim-cocoa icing.  When cocoa is not available a pure klim or klim-prune top may be used.



2 lb. sugar

½ cup margarine

1/3 cup klim

6 spoons, heaping, American cocoa – English cocoa or D-bar

Add a small amount of water and cook over a hot fire.  After cooking stir and add raisins, prunes or nuts.  Cool and serve.


             Next to eating, our most important requirement was shelter. Our barrack was only a small unit in the entire Stalag – German for base camp.  As previously mentioned, our camp was northwest of Barth at the base of a small peninsula jetting into the Baltic – water on three sides made escape more difficult.  Originally there was but one compound – the west.  At first this was occupied only by the RAF, but later Americans were also held there.  Since many arrived and few departed – very few, the prison was soon overcrowded and it was necessary to expand.


            North compound I was opened in February of ’44, North II in September, and North III in December.

             Our compound, North II occupied an area of approximately 11 acres.  The buildings consisted of nine barracks, two latrines, and a cook shack.  The latrines were divided into two sections – wash rooms and toilet.  The only convenience in the latrines was running water.  The wash room was furnished with six wash stands, like those found in use in industrial establishments at home, three mirrors, and two tubs for heating water.  The less written about the toilet the better.  It was very primitive.  On our latrine there was a laundry wing.  This room was furnished with six double basins and some wooden tubs for washing clothes.  The cook shack was simply a temporary structure of rough wood and canvas to protect the German field kitchens and vegetable bins.

North II Compound

             Since it was a prison, our compound was enclosed with barbed wire. There were two fences, ten feet high, strung with horizontal and vertical barbed wires.  The fences were about four feet apart and the area between the two was covered with coils of barbed wire.  Ten feet inside the fence was a double strand of barbed wire that severed as a warning wire.  The compound was guarded by six towers – one on each corner and ones in the middle of each exterior side.


            An interesting survey of the compound was made by our roommate Homer Gregory.  The following is a portion of Lt. Gregory’s survey:


Barbs in double fence


Barbs in warning fence


Barbs in compound

     767 ½

Barbs per man


Water faucets


Water faucets - inoperative

             Barrack 201, our home was a prefabricated, hastily constructed wooden building 40 ft. x 140 ft.  The building contained 10 large and 4 small rooms.

Barrack 201

            One of the smaller rooms was occupied by the squadron commander and his adjutant.  Two others served as four men rooms and block kitchens.  The fourth was the night latrine.

             Room 11, our room was typical of the large rooms in the barrack.  It was living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom for 15 men.  The dimensions of the room were 16 ft. by 24 ft.  with an 8 ½ ft. ceiling.  The room was heated by a small stove that was also used for some of the cooking and water heating.  In the daytime the room was lighted by double casement windows.  After dark artificial light was furnished by a single 40 watt bulb.  The kitchen facilities consisted of two cabinets one for storing canned food and dishes, the other for vegetable storage.  Two tables, 35 x 46 inches, three long benches, and fifteen beds – one single and seven double bunks, completed the furnishings.

             The most important piece of furniture from the personal point of view was the bed – “kip” was the kriegie term for it.  Naturally the mattress is the most important part of the bed.  The army has never been noted for exceptionally soft beds, but our mattresses in room 11 embodied a maximum of discomfort.  One who was accustomed to the innersprings mattresses popular in the States would not have slept much at Barth, but man can accustom himself to most any thing in time and we did sleep.  The mattress was unlike anything we had seen before.  The covering was a very coarse burlap. The filling was “wood wool”.  This “wood wool” was simply a distinctive name for excelsior.  The excelsior became compressed and sank between the slats giving the bed a corduroy effect.

Kriegie uniform at Stalag Luft I

Kriegie Uniform

             Variety is the spice of life and variety was the term that best described the uniform of a kriegsgefangen.  Barth was one place where there was no regulation regarding what uniform should be worn.  You wore what you were wearing when you came down or what was issued you.  Greens, pinks, khaki, O.D. and RAF uniforms could all be found under GI or RAF overcoats, A-2, B-10, tank, field, heated suit or battle jackets, GI or RAF blouses, or parkas.  The “kriegie cap”, a knit cap similar to the helmet liner, was the only part of the uniform common to all.  To be more specific concerning our clothing, I can only describe my own collection of clothing.  My wardrobe consisted of two pair of pants, one green, one O.D., one khaki and two O.D. shirts, a red sweater, a blouse, a B-10 jacket, a kriegie cap, underclothes, socks, GI  shoes, and finally a necktie.  The necktie was worn only for inspection – yes, we had inspections, even in Germany.  In February we were finally issued a wool scarf but we were still without gloves.

             Now that I have discussed the three essentials of our kriegie life, I think it is time to give credit to those organizations that contributed so much to the things previously discussed and those to be discussed later.

             First was the Red Cross – the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, and the International Red Cross.  It was this organization that transported our food parcels and clothing; gave us our capture parcels, furnished medical, dental, and hospital supplies; supplied toilet articles, and sent representatives to inspect our camp.

             The YMCA furnished us with our library, school supplies, religious needs, musical instruments, phonographs and records and sports equipment.

             These two organizations deserve a sincere note of thanks for the way they served us and made our kriegie life more pleasant.

             As POWs we were under two separate, distinct organizations.  First there was the German camp organization.  When we arrived the camp was under control of the Luftwaffe, control passed from the Luftwaffe to the S.S. and finally to the Wehrmacht.  We were forced to abide by the rules of the Germans, but cooperation was unheard of. Whenever a new German order came out it was S.O.P. to ignore it until forced to comply.  The motto was “give them nothing but abuse and lofty indifference.”  Within the camp we had our own American organization.  Naturally we observed and obeyed all orders from our officers.  The chain of command of our organization was as follows:

USAAF Provisional Group V
Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany

Col. Hubert Zemke, C.O.


North Compound II

Lt. Col. C. Wilson, C.O.
Major J.J. Fischer, Adj.


Sqdn I, Block I

Capt. Robert Fry, C.O.
Capt. Kenneth Bales, Adj.


Room 6

Room 11

 1st Lt. Tom Schmerler, R.C

1st Lt. G. K. Madson


While at Barth I lived in two different rooms.  From my arrival until 3 Jan. 45,  Room 6 was home.

On 3 Jan. 45,  I moved into Room 11.  To give you an idea of my fellow kriegies I will list my roommates in the two rooms.


Room 6 Roommates:

Charlie Arnao
Wayzata, Minn.
Nav.  B-1

Wm. J. Collins
35 N. 8th St.
Easton, Pa.
Nav  B-2

Bill Kannapinn
2676 S. 28th St.
Milwaukee 4, Wisc.
1st Pilot  B-1
Warne S. May
4924 Sutherland Ave.
St. Louis, Missouri
Co-Pilot   B-2
Francis P. McDonough
5700 S. California Ave.
Chicago, Ill.
Nav    B-1
R.E. Lindemann
4457 N. Farwell Ave.
Milwaukee 11, Wisc.
Nav      B-2
Charles H. McVey
904 Halston Ave.
Nashville, Tenn.
Nav     B-1

D.M. Pepfmeier
Truro, Iowa
1st Pilot    B-2

Ted L. Prevost
224 Tunbridge Rd.
Baltimore, MD.
Co-Pilot    B-1 
Tom Schmerler
1642 N. McVickers Ave.
Chicago, Ill.
Bomb  B-2 
W.B. Terry
743 E. 7th S.
Salt Lake City, Utah
1st Pilot     B-1
Harry B. Yolodka
15 Hobart St.
Buffalo, N.Y.
Nav    B-1
W.R. Williamson
RR 6
Hillsboro, Ohio
Bomb    B-2  B-

Larry Wreyford
Star Route
Rochester, Texas
1st Pilot     B-1



Room 11 Roommates:

Robert Bell Jr.
Paris, Tenn
Bomb  B-1
Henry T. Bengis
519 E. 78th St.
New York, N.Y.
Pilot    B-1
Walter Boychuk
Ridgedale Ave.
Whippany NJ
Nav      B-2
Bert Daniels Jr.
127 Lakeside Dr.
Nutley, NJ
1st Pilot   B-2
Ray Delbert
211 7th Ave.
S. Charleston, W. Va.
Bomb    B-1
Homer Gregory
462 2nd St. W.
Birmingham, Ala.
Nav   B-1

J. Wiley Hansen
Box G-2
Wickenburg, Ariz.
Bomb   B-1

Fred J. Kushero
2022 Dorland Dr.
Whittier, Calif
Co-Pilot      B-1
John W. Lightwine
1216 Madeline Pl.
Ft. Worth, Texas
Pilot    P-4
G.K. Madson
2623 Brinkly Ave.
Ogdon, Utah
1st Pilot    B-2
Anthony B. Mancini
2401 Plum St.
Erie, Pa.
Bomb    B-1
Al Sapak
1875 Holihan Rd. Rt, 1
Saginaw, Mich
1st Pilot    B-1
Thomas J. Stitz
114 W. High
Canal Fulton, Ohio
Nav     B-1
Jack L. Timmins
1353 Grand View St.
Des Moines, Iowa
Bomb    B-1

           Most of our time as kriegies was leisure – leisure can certainly become tiresome.  However, there were certain routine activities worth describing in giving a true picture of our life.

Roll call twice daily was required by the Germans.  The times varied with the season, but it was usually held around 0900 and in the middle of the afternoon.  We formed by squadrons on the athletic area.  A German officer and two enlisted men would count the squadrons, while other enlisted men checked the barracks.  If the Germans  were not satisfied with the total, they went through the process again.  Often we stood for some time before the Germans were satisfied.  While the Germans were counting we were read the daily bulletin, and when the squadrons had all been counted we had morning calisthenics.  If the Germans were not satisfied at roll call we could expect an “identity parade” in the evening.  The Germans would come through the rooms calling each man by name and he was to answer with his POW number.

Only the Germans felt that roll call was necessary, but never can you get along without K.P.  We had it just like the rest of the army.  Two of us had it for a two-day period.  It was a common joke that “during those two days you never saw the light of day”.  The K.P.’s washed the dishes, did the cooking, swept the floor, built the fires, carried water, and brought in the coal ration.  In addition to the work you had to put up with the “needling” of the rest of the room when the meals were not on time or things didn’t go right.

Once each ten days our room had barracks guard.  This was commonly called “goon guard”.  One man was stationed at each of the two door.  The guards duty was to inform the barracks when the Germans were going through the barracks.  “Enemy up” was the call to warn the men that the Germans were in the barracks.

Another detail that fell to our room every ten days was work detail.  The day our room was on detail it was our duty to bring in all the German rations – bread and any vegetables or other rations given out that day such as sugar, margarine or barley.

Two aspects of personal cleanliness, showers and laundry, were sufficiently different from what you are accustomed to, that they are worth describing.  Daily showers were unheard of at Barth.  Once each week we had shower parties when 40 men were marched to North I for a quick, very quick shower.  Also there was no laundry.  When your clothes were dirty you washed them yourself.  The common practice was to store the dirty clothes until you were wearing the last clean ones.  Then put in a hectic day in the laundry room over the scrub board.

 In addition to the routine, there were certain activities that helped to pass the time.

The religious activities of our compound were in charge of Padre Clark.  He had our services every Sunday afternoon.  On Christmas there was a special carol service.

             Padre Clark was the resident padre and had charge of the service every second Sunday.  Clark was English and a member of the High Church of England.  On the odd Sundays Padre Clark was replaced by either Padre Mitchell or Douglas.  Mitchell was the dean of the three.  He was from Danedin, New Zealand and had been a Presbyterian minister before the war.  Douglas was from South Africa and had been a Baptist minister.

 The facilities were not good and service was often held in a barracks hallway, but we did have religious services that were faithfully attended.

 The library was one unit that had an important bearing upon our life.  There were times when without a book to read life would have been dull and difficult.  Thanks to the YMCA, for once in our lives when we had plenty of time to read we had books.

 At first the choice of books was not good, but it improved with time.  In December we started to receive Armed Services Editions and from there on we had excellent books.  To give you an idea of our reading I’ll list a few of the better books I read.


Forward the Nation -  Donald C. Peattie

Love at First Flight – Spalding & Carney

Goodbye Mr. Chips – J. Hilton

Circling Year – Van De Water

The Robe – L.C. Douglas

Magnificent Obsession – L.C. Douglas

Paul Revere – Esther Forbes

Death Comes For The Archbishop – W. Cather

 There was also a school schedule. Classes were offered in German, Spanish, Home Planning, Law, Economics, French, Art, Shorthand, Radio and Advertising  at different periods during our stay.  The greatest trouble was that facilities were limited and the classes  were overcrowded.   I was usually discouraged after the first meeting of the class, but I did manage to sweat out eleven weeks in Home Planning.

Home Planning was taught by an architect from Battle Creek.  It was an instructive course in which I gained some practical knowledge in home planning and building.  Kline was a member of the modern school, and convinced most of us of the common sense in his ideas.

 In addition to the regular classes there were text books available for home study. Stitz and I  went through several astronomy books with Stitz as the instructor.  I taught a little Government when I could get books.

Naturally we tried to entertain ourselves and pass away the time.  In addition to personal efforts to amuse ourselves, there were organized productions.

Each compound had its own orchestra and dramatic organization.  Our compound was handicapped by the lack of a large hall a great share of the time.  On both Christmas and New Years Eves we were permitted the use of a partly completed mess hall.  The orchestra, glee club, individual musicians and comedians all combined to give two fine variety shows.  Our compound was guest of North I for two productions.  The first was a variety show and the other was a fine job on “The Man Who Came To Dinner”.  The orchestras were quite capable considering the difficulties they encountered.  The kriegie orchestra produced all their own arrangements and even found time to compose a few songs as well.  Each new show seemed to feature a new song.  Probably the most popular of these compositions was “Low is the Sun”, words and music by POW John Lashley.


Days have their worries

Nights have their furies

But in between times its dull

            I hate to seem alone

            So hate to dream alone

            Evenings bring such a lull, so –

Low is the sun as slowly it leaves the sky,

Low is the moon as night draws nigh,

So is my heart whenever the day is through

Once a day, every day, evenings bring thoughts of you

            Each long shadow whispers -

            You must be lonely too

            But my heart keeps saying

“Don’t go back, your through”, so –

When in dusk I sit around just for fun

Its to think of you, only, lonely, when low in the sun.



On two different afternoons we were fortunate enough to see films sent to the camp by the YMCA.  Both were badly worn and the sound not too good but never have movies been shown to  a more appreciative audience.  Durbin’s “Springtime” and Rooney’s “Double Life” were both old films, but for two hours they took us away from the dullness of kriegie life.

About every two weeks we had a record concert in the barrack hall – thanks to YMCA phonograph and records.  Other nights we were entertained by quartets or informal music groups.

Cards were the most popular from of individual entertainment.  The decks of playing cards in the Christmas parcels were a most welcome addition to our stock.  Bridge, cribbage and Euchre were the most popular games.  In addition to cards, chess, “chop”, and checkers were other popular games.

When the weather permitted most available area was the scene of some athletic contest.  The YMCA furnished sporting goods and it was constantly in use.  Playing catch, softball, football and volleyball were most popular.  There were golf clubs available, so golfers devised balls and laid out a course.

Another favorite activity in fair weather was walking.  Of course barbed wire placed restrictions upon movement, but just inside the warning wire encircling the compound was a well-trodden, heavily traveled path.  Our walks were full of exercise, but there was little of scenic value. The north and south sides offered nothing but views of other compounds.  The west side furnished a small wooded area to break the monotony.  Only the east side offered an interesting panorama.  To the southeast was the village of Barth.  The town was dominated by the large, square, solid rather grotesque, poor, gothic church.  The only other object to break the roof line was on old steel windmill.  North of Barth was a factory featuring a large cement smoke stack, which often reminded me of the paper mill at home.  Due east and to the northeast was the bay and the two peninsulas in the distance.

In a group the size of ours there are always poets or would be poets – we were no exception.  Some of the verse was poor, some profane, but some was good – at least it seemed good to us and expressed some of our thoughts for us.

Waiting is typical of the verses that gave expression to thoughts shared by all.



When your far away from the one you love

  Stop and gaze at the heavens above,

Whether the time be the sun-scorched noon

  Or a frosty night with a glittering moon,


And there up above in that realm of space

  I see not the sun or the moon, but a face

A beautiful face with a tender smile

  Which tells me she’s waiting to make life worthwhile.


Perhaps tonight from her windowpane

  She’s gazing aloft, on her lips my name.

As she prays to God, way up above

  To watch o’er, keep safe, and return that love.


So when you’re feeling alone and forlorn

  Watch into the night and the wakening morn,

And remember that westward across the blue

  She’s watching and waiting, the same as you.


Many of the kriegie poets were bitter and cynical.  One of the more mild was as follows.


Mamma take down your service flag,

  Your son’s in the A.T.C.

He’s S.O.L., but what the hell,

  He’s safe as he can be,

He’s flown over North Africa

  And half way up the Nile,

But I’ll be damned if he ever flew

  A part of a combat mile.


Another poet, like the rest of us, must have been thinking of the Red Cross

Kriegsgefanganen Kelly

Kelly get your barracks bag
   The shipping list is here.
We're sailing on the first tide
    For home and yester year.
But Kelly strained no muscle
   To join the homing flocks.
He was packed before a tiny stove
   Beside a Red Cross Box.

Kelly, we are sailing,
   The bitter war is done.
We’re off to the USA
   To sweethearts and to fun
But Kelly turned a deaf ear,
   His stubbornness he kept.
"I should sail for anywhere
   With all these groceries left."

It's a sad, sad tale they tell these days
   Along the bowery streets
Of Kriegsgefangen Kelly
   And his parcel full of meats.
Some men love adventure,
   And some love curly locks,
But Kriegsgefangen Kelly
   Loved his faithful Red Cross Box.


The Germans furnished us only the bare necessities.  We had tables, chairs, beds and one cup, bowl, knife, fork and spoon per man.  It did not take the kriegies long to construct essentials items and substitutes for many of the things considered necessary at home.

Most of the kriegie kitchen utensils were devised from “klim” cans – standard terminology for all powdered milk cans.

Pans for cooking were essential.  All sizes were developed, but they were usually square or rectangular.  We had one unusual pan.  It was made from a piece of stove pipe and proved to be an excellent frying pan.

Potato mashers were of many designs.  The two I was familiar with were a stick and a tin can filled with gravel and fitted with a handle.

“Klim mixers” were a vital necessity.  Once again I was familiar with two types.  The one resembled the beater portion of an eggbeater. The other was a fanlike affair that worked equally well.

“Klim cans" were also utilized for stove grills, ovens, pails and coffee pots.

One item not much used at home, but a great help to us was a cracker grinder.  The crackers were used in piecrusts and it was important that they were finely ground.  A round shaft covered with nail-punched tins revolving very close to a piece of sheet tin was the answer to the problem.  The efficiency of the unit, then, depended entirely upon construction of the frame, the ratio of the crank; the clearance between the cylinder and plate, and the sturdiness of construction.

There were even a few irons built - most of us were satisfied to press our pants beneath our mattress. These irons were tin-covered bricks furnished with a handle.  The irons worked well but required a very hot fire to heat well.

The “kriegie maytag” was a boon for the laundry.   It was a clothes plunger fashioned from a klim can and fitted with a wooden handle made from a bed slat.

“Klim cans” and odd pieces of wood were the materials used in producing conveniences for the room.

With “beau coupe” smokers in the room ashtrays were absolutely necessary.  Most of the trays were simply converted tin cans, but some of the more ingenious ones were produced from sheet tin.

Storage space was required for our few possessions.  Red Cross boxes were attached to the wall to serve the purpose.  Open shelves were made from bed shelves.

To increase the efficiency of our single light bulb we made klim can reflectors.

When we had air raids and when we were cut off from our power supply it was necessary to provide other types of light.  While the material was available, we made candles from the wax we melted from wrappers on the date boxes.  Our lamps used liquid margarine for fuel.  The wick for these lamps was usually a piece of a web belt.

The most ingenious production was a clock. Very few of these were produced.  There were two types.  One had wooden works the other used tin.  The amazing thing was that these clocks kept accurate time.

There was always some little personal item that was being made.

A mallet was necessary for many of our activities.  This was made by securing a block of wood and burning a hole through it for the handle.

Another project was the molding of wings.  These wings were made from the solder melted from the tops of corned beef cans.  This was then poured into a clay mold.

Shaving and soap bowls, shower sandals, coat hangers, ersatz insignia, American flags, note books, chess sets, drawing instruments, ink, sailboats, model airplanes, cigarette cases and holders, and gloves were a few of the other objects produced.

Christmas was different from the yuletide at home.  Here in the country where many of our Christmas customs originated seemed very little like Christmas.  You soon discover that it is family and friends and the joy of giving that make Christmas worthwhile.  We tried hard.  We had the room decorated and a small tree but the spirit of the season was not present.  The Red Cross provided a special parcel for the season and we did have a fine meal.


1 can Turkey, 12 oz. 1 pack Dates, 1 lb.
1 can Honey, 8 oz. 1 pack Tea, 1 3/8 oz.
1 can Butter, 3 ¾ oz. 1 box Bouillon cubes, 12 cubes
1 can Cheese, 4 oz. 2 Fruit Bars, 2 oz. each
1 can Deviled Ham, 4 oz. 1 Wash Rag
1 can Vienna Sausage, 4 oz.  1 Pipe
1 can Cherries, 4 oz. 1 pack Pipe Tobacco
1 can Jam, 4 oz. 3 packs Cigarettes
1 can Nuts, 8 oz. 4 packs Gum
1 can Candy, 12 oz. 1 deck Cards
1 can Plum Pudding, 12 oz. 1 game 2 pictures


Pants pockets that once carried change were only used for old nails, wire and other odds and ends.  The money we carried on that eventful day was taken away from us and camp money was only a myth.  Therefore, the kriegie financial system was forced to revert to barter.  All articles of trade were assigned a point value for trade. However, the D-bar was the primary item of exchange.

This system featured a maximum of inflation. A 10-cent D-bar was equal to a carton of cigarettes and four D-bars would often pay for a cigarette lighter.

After some delay I am writing again.  Times have not been too pleasant recently.  The Red Cross parcels have not been reaching us.  In eight weeks we have received only nine parcels, 5.6% of our normal ration (160). Our diet now is almost entirely German rations.  One of our doctors tells us we are receiving only about 1500 calories per day.  As our food supply ran low we devised substitutes for products we were accustomed to.  Pea flour was one German product we never used before the emergency.  The pea flour and bread crumbs became the flour for cakes.  We even attempted to make ersatz peanut butter from the pea flour.

It was during this lean period that I celebrated my twenty fourth birthday.  This birthday was vastly different than those of the past. There were no old friends or members of the family present.  The food was exceptionally scarce and the meal was far different than the usual natal day feast. We did have cake but sugar was not available for an icing.

All during our confinement we were denied many of the things we once thought were the essentials of life.  Food was the most important of these and especially during  the lean period, we talked of little else.  When I first get home I want to make up for lost time.  For once in my life I will pay the bills and I want to eat.  So you can prepare, here is an idea of what I am looking forward to.



  Cream of Wheat Chocolate or Raisins cooked in.

  Corn Flakes
  Bran Flakes, etc.
    Milk, sugar & fruit

Bran Muffins
  Whole Wheat
     Butter and Jam 
Peanut Butter
Apple Butter
Main Dish:
French Toast
Fried Mush
   Maple or other syrup
Canadian Bacon
Vienna Sausage
Smoked Sausage
Pork Sausage
Sweet Rolls
Long Johns
Jelly Filled Donuts
Glazed Donuts
Cinnamon Rolls
Pecan Rolls
Coffee Cakes
Jelly Roll
  Hot Chocolate
  Egg Nog






Orange Juice
Chocolate Oatmeal
Scrambled Eggs & Ham
Raisin Toast, Butter & Cherry Jam
Mixed Sweet Rolls
Hot Chocolate
Tomato Juice
Bran Flakes, milk, sugar & bananas
White toast, butter & marmalade
Pancakes, smoked sausage & syrup
Mixed Sweet Rolls
Peaches, milk


Shrimp Cocktail
Fruit Cocktail
Tomato Juice
Vegetable Soup
Smoked Salmon
Hamburger                             Cheeseburger
Hot Roast Beef & Gravy       Bar-B-Q
Toasted Cheese                         Beef
Creamed Beef on Toast            Pork
Ham Salad                             Egg Salad
Cold Cuts
Steaks                              Liver
  Swiss                             Fish
  T-Bone                             Pike   
  Sirloin                              Bass
  Round                              Perch
  Porterhouse                   Roasts
  Flank                                Pork
  Hamburger                       Beef
Ham                                Chicken
  Smoked                         Liverwurst
  Fresh                             Baloney
Cutlets                            Cold Meats
  Veal                              Gouloush
  Pork                              Chili
Weenies & Kraut             Meatballs & rice
Macaroni & Cheese                
Tomatoes                          Cold Slaw
Deviled Eggs                    Waldorf
Pineapple & Cheese         Pears & Cheese
Carrot & Raisin                Cottage Cheese
Potato                               Mixed Vegetable
Cranberry Sauce

Milk                                 Iced Tea
Chocolate                         Lemonade
Coffee                               Coca Cola


Potatoes                      Corn
  Candied Sweets            Creamed
   Mashed                         Escalloped
   French Fried             Baked Beans
   American Fried        Candied Carrots
   Escalloped                Candied Beets
Creamed Peas              Carrots & Peas
Stewed Tomatoes         Lima Beans
String Beans                 Cauliflower
Onions                          Egg plant
Homemade Bread Biscuits
Baking Powder Biscuits
Whole Wheat
    Parker House
Sandwich Buns
Dill Pickles             Sweet Pickles
Cucumbers              Bread & Butter Pickles
Catsup                     Chili Sauce
Relish                      Mustard
Steak Sauce             Horseradish
  Thousand Islands



Ice Cream
Peach Cobbler
Baked Apples
Pineapple Upside Down
Strawberry Shortcake
Fruit Cake
  Angel Food
  Devil Food

  Chocolate       Rice
  Custard           Tapioca
  Caramel          Bread
  Mince           Cherry
  Apple            Raisin
  Pineapple      Peach
  Pumpkin       Chocolate
  Huckleberry  Lemon
  Butterscotch  Custard
  Coconut Cream
  Banana Cream



  Vegetable Soup
   Beef Bar-B-Q
   Baked Beans
   Potato Salad
   Tapioca Pudding
   Iced Tea 


Tomato Juice
Sauerkraut & Weenies
Macaroni & Cheese
Candied Carrots
Parker house Rolls
Chocolate Cake
Ice Cream
Fruit Cocktail
Veal Liver
Fried Onions
American Fried Potatoes
Creamed Corn
Whole Wheat Bread
Chocolate Pudding



Shrimp Cocktail
Baked Smoked Ham
     Raisin  Sauce
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Candied Beets
String Beans
Tomato Salad & Deviled Eggs
Pumpkin Pie
Angel Food Cake
Homemade Bread Biscuits

Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken & Dumplings
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Stewed Tomatoes
Lima Beans
Pineapple & Cheese Salad
Clover Leaf Rolls
Custard Pie
Strawberry Short Cake

Tomato Juice
Sirloin Steak
French Fried Onions
French Fried Potatoes
Escalloped Corn
Mixed Vegetable Salad
Rye Bread
Pineapple Pie
Fruit Cake
Hot Chocolate

  Ham Salad
  Egg Salad
  Cold Cuts
Ice Cream
Pie     Candy
Coca Cola


Tuesday 27 March 1945 was a momentous day in my kriegie existence.  Most of February and March had been grim times.  Food had not been plentiful.  We were never starving, but we had been mighty hungry at times and all of us lost weight.  We had not had a single Red Cross parcel since the 27th of February and in eight weeks we had received only nine parcels.  On regular rations we would have received 160 parcels.  Today we received a quarter issue – 5 parcels and were promised another quarter issue tomorrow and more important there are strong rumors that more are coming in.  Along with the food parcels, personals parcels also came in.  I hadn’t received any mail, I certainly didn’t expect a parcel.  Imagine my surprise when I received a cigarette parcel.  It was most welcome because I was out of cigarettes and they were my favorite brand.  Even more important, was now for the first time I knew that you folks know definitely that I am safe.  On top of all this, the weather had been fine the past few days and the news from the fronts has been exceptionally good.  Now all I have to “sweat out” is continued Red Cross parcels, letters from home, and the end of the war.  To be perfectly frank, today when I received that parcel, I was as happy and excited as a kid on Christmas with a new toy.

One interesting feature of our religious program here in camp was the celebration of Holy Week.  It was something entirely new for me.  Each day, Monday through Thursday we had a morning service.  Each day the Padre discussed the events of that day before the death of Christ.  Friday afternoon we had a Good Friday service and naturally Easter service on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday 1 April 1945 – Easter was the climax of a week of great pleasures. The preceding week had been full of surprises.  After many weeks, we received a full Red Cross issue and by the end of the week there were over 70,000 parcels in camp.   The war news was good and our hopes of liberation were greatly improved.  Throughout the week we enjoyed an interesting series of Holy Week services.  The weather was good and these were signs of spring in the air.  All week long we had been putting in “beau coupe” man hours in preparation for the Easter dinner.

Easter started off with an exceptional breakfast - two slices of bread with cheese spread  and fried spam and a third spread very thickly with oleo and jam and two cups of coffee.  Lunch was two pieces of toast even more thickly spread with peanut butter and jam and a cup of coffee.

In the afternoon while some were preparing for the evening meal others of us attended Easter service. There were approximately 1000 people in attendance.  We were privileged to hear Padre Mitchell deliver one of the most inspiring sermons I have ever heard.

After roll call came the climax of the day – the Easter dinner.  It was a fine meal – one that would have been enjoyed anywhere but was especially appreciated here.  This meal was possible only through the cooperation of the entire room.  The tables were covered with ersatz table cloths – clean sheets.  Decorations were a large center piece – Easter basket & large decorated egg, decorated cookies, mint cups, and cigarette boxes and place cards.

The menu was :  tunafish salad with dressing, fried spam with pineapple sauce, escalloped potatoes with cheese, buttered carrots, ersatz applesauce – mashed, sugared turnips, bread & butter, chocolate – fruit pie, assorted cookies, stuffed prunes, coffee, cream and sugar.  After a short delay we found our places, said grace, and “chowed up”.  It was a delicious meal.  There was for once seconds on carrots and applesauce.  No one even considered the pies & cookies.  They were left for later.

In the evening we had a snack of cookies, pies and very rich hot chocolate. Even then much was left for later.  The change in morale was amazing.  The good humor and laughter in the room caused one to doubt that we were prisoners.

The news of our preparations spread throughout the compound.  The Colonel, the other wheels and roughly 500 kriegies dropped into the room to see our cookies and table decorations.

The cookies were the most famous of our products.  These were made by Paaske and decorated by Kushero.  The cookies were of several designs.  Easter rabbits, crosses, eggs, USAAF insignias, & the Russian red star.

Everybody worked hard to make the day a success. Paaske & Bengis did the cooking assisted by Gregory and Mancini, Boychuck and Delbert as KPs.  Stitz was responsible for the stuffed prunes and tunafish salad. Timmins and I did our bit by making the baskets for the prunes and center piece. Frye, Delbert & Turner made the name plates and Bell typed the menus.

Padre Mitchell’s Easter sermon was one of the finest I have ever heard.  To achieve the full significance of this speech you must picture the speaker.  A man with Rev. Mitchell’s dynamic personality is most difficult to describe.  Picture a tall, six foot, New Zealander; a powerful speaker; a man who has been a POW since the fall of Tobruk in 1941; one who has more than once refused repatriation because, “I can do more good here.”  If you can see that picture, you have a partial impression of the speaker, Rev. H.A.M. Mitchell.  The following is not a complete text of the sermon.  It is simply the speakers rough notes, but it will give you some idea of this excellent sermon.


Easter Sermon  1945

Rev. H.A.M. Mitchell          Stalag Luft I, Barth, Pomm.

Romans 6: 3-5  Do you not know that all of us who were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Well, then, by our baptism we were buried with Him in death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we also should live an entirely new life.  For if we have become one with Him by sharing in His death, we shall also be one with Him in sharing His resurrection.

That great passage has some technicalities in it.  I’m not going into them.  What it means by and large is simply this: Accepting the Christian faith means dying to the old life and resurrection into a new life of power & beauty & peace.  The death , burial & resurrection of Christ are historical facts, but more, they are timeless realities which have a meaning in all great living.  That’s my theme.  Death, burial, & rising into new life.  Those are elements in every life which has the seal of eternity on it.  But here is the trouble.  We want the triumph of resurrection without the committal of ourselves to the burying of the old things in us which can’t stand in any resurrection day.  Why will we think that we can have worthwhile victory without the battle, great life without sacrifice? I’ll come back to that.

To me, this whole week has had the wonder of resurrection in it and perhaps more so for you.  Here is resurgence of life.  A week ago men were duller, whiter, weaker.  Now they are in the verve and energy of life again.  There is food.  There is more.  All are conscious from the news we have received, that the day of homecoming gets nearer.  There is hope.  Add to it all the pulsating life of spring, with the warmer days, the power of growth going on, and the aliveness there is in the springtime, and go worlds beyond all I have said, and remember that it is today – Easter day – the day of the triumph song of the church, which has to do not with passing things of yearly phases of nature, with full or empty stomachs, but with our eternal destinies. 

The Church, because Christ rose, has the final reply to all sorrow, sin and death; and the joy supreme beyond all passing joys, for defeat on this day was turned into victory for the world.  Think of it: Good was it that day to be alive, and to be young was very heaven.  

But look, have you noticed that it is all, all based on death and sacrifice?  Good war news, how many dying to make it possible?  Red Cross parcels:  sacrifice in every bit of it. How much we just don’t know, and the name?  Red – blood, Cross – after the Cross of Christ.  The country's blossoming and alive with life, but at the root of every plant there is a burial and a death.  Except the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

 Resurrection is glorious, food is glorious, but it all goes back first to giving up of life.  It means that for us, it means that for the world, if a new era is to dawn and there be a resurrection of all we hope for.  There is no other way. 

But it is a sacrifice which is as nothing to the glory of the resurrection, like the seed dying gives birth to millions; it’s the sacrifice makes to become fit.  He doesn’t call it sacrifice at all. It is rather accepting fitness and health then a giving up. 

 Why will we remain spiritual invalids? No great nation can be built that way. Why remain in winter with its cold iciness, when springtime, when great destiny is awaiting the soul of man?  And resurrection power?  Remaining there we see only a little bit of life, and think we see the whole. 

He stops short of Easter Day in the cross and grave of life, and wondering whether there be a resurrection.  We are like the disciples between Good Friday and Easter Day.  To illustrate this, “Wellington defeated – the French.”  The second half has less letters in it, but is changes the whole message. 

 What life needs at it's spring is an infusion of the new in springtime.  We’ve tried long enough to be merely men, but man is contaminated by sin.  We’ve got to try a cross so that there can be resurrection and the power of an endless life. 

We have fooled about with life, as men and nations, and thought aspirins would do instead of the surgeon’s knife, with the result we all know too well.  Aspirins didn’t work this time, and we got war.  It will always be so.  It has always been so, unless we include God in His own world.   

 We really do think we can grab at God’s gifts and leave out God.  Ask Him in our extremity to lead us through war, and then when led through, ignore Him once again, thinking we are sufficient ourselves for the task of doing an even greater thing than winning a war, and that is winning the peace, proving worthy to be victors.  It won’t work!  Ah!  But someone says: “Why should we include God,” and then another adds, “I know as many good people outside the church as inside, and I know a man who gave up going to church and he’s not a bit the worse for it.  So what’s all your talk about the need for God.”  For every man who quit going to church and is none the worse for it, I can show you ten who are the worse, etc.

Look, the moral and spiritual life of man can have no real meaning apart from God. And without Him, there is no real resurrection.  I simply appeal to history. A man may give up the faith, or never have had one for that matter.  But he can’t give up his responsibilities as a man.  Now where does that lead to?   The giving up the faith means always that he never had real faith.  No man can ever give that up.  But he stops going to church say.  He can still feel that good is good, can still help his neighbor, and so on.  But where is that going to end in the next generation or the one after?  Answer that from history!  You see though there is no intake, there is a reserve, a capital to work on.  But when that is finished, what then?  When his children grow up without a home example in leading to the source of all life, what then? 

Well, we’ve seen “what then" enough.   You see a railway engine does not stop as soon as the driver shuts off the steam, nor does a potato die quickly as soon as it is pulled out of mother earth.  No indeed, it wins prizes when out of the earth.  But eventually it dies.  And such a man can go on for a long time and exhibit the fruits of life.  No the fruit of nature, out freshly is still infused with something of the life of the living tree from which it came.  And it can be preserved even longer on ice. 

But sooner or later – and sooner rather than later – the fruit grows woody and  withers and we have to return to the living tree for more.  So with many, the ice of habit, discipline, moral education, etc. keeps for him – tho he has cut himself off from the creator and sustainer of life – some of the flavor of life.  But his life will become woody and lusterless in the end unless he gives back to the living God. 

And I mentioned responsibility of a man.  The 19th century opponents of Christian belief largely shared the Christian estimate of moral values.  They may not have believed in God, but they did believe in justice and mercy in honor and truth, in the rights of the weak, and in the existence in all men of a spiritual birthright which had preference over all differences of race and color and blood and nation.  Very high morality indeed.  

But those very people looking out today on this country and seeing those great truths thrown overboard, war and moral laxness and the life, and they are appalled.  And so are all 20th century people who share the 19th century unbelief.  What they do not understand is their own responsibility in the matter.  It is they and people like them who have produced this cataclysm.  They didn’t understand the inevitable nature of this disastrous result. 

And the modern so-called “food Pagan” doesn’t understand either that inevitable disaster involved in his outlook.  You demand the impossible when you push the cart over the hill, then let it go and expect it to stop halfway down -  Prof John Baillie.  You can’t have fruit without root – no, not even fruit to put on the ice & preserve.

Here it is then a sentence or two.  Crucify the evil, and inevitably there is a resurrection of good.  But then, only if life is rooted to its source as the tree to the earth and the branch to the tree.  Crucify the good and you get hell.  God has made the world and us that way. 

 Well, in the great days of flaming banners of world opportunity, of spring at the heart what shall be our choice?  And you especially, men, going back with a reputation, because you have been defenders of your country.  You’ve given the sacrifice, and were prepared to do. 

 But is there to be a resurrection?  The greater influence you now have is a terrific responsibility.  How are you going to use it?  Unless you go back to the source of all life, “the living God, it will vanish away, become icy, and disappear, and you with it. 

I challenge you to be as big as the hour demands and as this wonderful time in history gives opportunity.


12 April was another eventful day – my first letter.  It was from Grandma Swartz. It proved to be a short letter and answered only a few of my questions.  However, it was most welcome.  It was a good letter in itself and it gave promise of more to come.

Friday the 13th proved to be bad luck for us.  It was a day of both joy and sorrows for me personally.  For the second consecutive day I received mail.  This time the letter was from Jeanne – long and interesting.  Now all I have left to sweat out is a letter from you folks and a personal parcel.  The days bad news came first in the form of a rumor that President Roosevelt had died.  Naturally our first impression was to disbelieve it.  Later we learned that the rumor was correct.  The news of Roosevelt’s death cast a shadow of gloom over the  entire camp.  Every place you looked men with long faces were standing in small groups discussing the news.  All men, regardless of party, were shocked and sorrowed by the sudden announcement. It was generally agreed that we had lost a great man and it was too bad that he could not live to see his work successfully concluded.  If ever a man died for his country, President Roosevelt did.

April 30th & May 1st were memorable days for the prisoners of Stalag Luft I.  For the past month the news had been unbelievably good.  The war had advanced to a point where we at Barth had the questionable advantage of being in that part of Germany proper that was the greatest distance from the allied forces.  When the Russians crossed the Oder below Stettin our attention was naturally centered on that area.  The advance moved rapidly and rumors spread like wildfire.  Monday the 30th was very exciting.  Throughout the day there were frequent room commander meetings, bulletins, etc.  About 10:00 orders were issued to dig slit trenches.  Our attempt at a slit trench stuck water at two feet, so in the afternoon we selected a new location and Stitz and I dug a three man foxhole.  By evening the entire compound was scarred in colonies of foxholes and long lines of slit trenches.  There were few shovels and we found another use for the klim can – digging.   All afternoon and far into the night we were often disturbed by the explosions caused by German demolition squads.  Around 02:30 on the 1st we were startled by the question, “How does it feel to be free?”  Our M.P.s were in the towers!  At 23:30 the German commandant turned the camp over to Col. Zemke.  The German guards pulled out around midnight and around two our men took over.

            All day long men were standing in the southeast corner of the compound looking into the distance.  They were looking for only one thing the Russians.  All morning long the rumors were flying thick and fast.  By afternoon things had calmed down and we settled down to enjoy our new privileges – no Germans, relative freedom and B.B.C.

            In the evening after dark we settled down to enjoy the radio. We were listening to a re-broadcast of the Hit Parade.  Suddenly there was a movement through the door.  Outside we could hear cheers from the other compounds.  There could be only one reason for the excitement – the arrival of the Russians.  It was too dark to see anything, so we returned to the barracks.  We had just come in when, at 10:25, Col Zemke made the following announcement:  “This is the historic moment we have all been waiting for – when 10,000 American & British parachutist trapped near Barth have been joined by their Russian allies”.  As soon as the Colonel had finished everyone rushed outside in a great display of emotion.  Just as we returned to the barracks, 10:35, the radio program was once again interrupted this time by an announcement of Hitler’s death.  This announcement caused a burst of cheering that was exceeded only by the one following the arrival of the Russians.  The Hit Parade returned with the number on hit – "Don’t Fence Me In”.  This struck a humorous chord with the ex-kriegies.  The evening was brought to a successful conclusion by the playing of the national anthem. – the first time we had heard it on over eight months.

May 2nd also had its highlights.   The day started out very normally.  About noon we were ordered to leave by the Russians.  Col. Zemke said we should be prepared to leave within the next six hours.  The middle of the afternoon we were attracted to the fence by a procession led by Col. Zemke and a Russian Col.  It seemed the Russian Col. was intoxicated and was disgusted because we were not displaying enough enthusiasm over our liberation.  At the point of a gun Col. Zemke told the men to let off a little steam.  Up until this time discipline had been good. But there was no control over certain elements once turned loose.  The fences went down, the towers were destroyed, men went into Barth, and others started for the lines.  Late in the afternoon it was announced to that it was not necessary to leave.  In the evening we had permission to leave camp, so we went into Barth to look over our Allies.  It was an impressive sight.  The Russians were a mighty rough looking bunch.  Most of their transport was horse drawn wagons that were really moving along.  The soldiers were nearly all intoxicated.

May 3rd & 4th were days filled with rumors, but little action.  There were some rumors, but little action.  There were some rumors about the Russians, but occupation forces who moved in were a little more sane.  Other rumors were concerned with the concentration camp that was found at the air field.


The diary ends here.  No further entries.




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