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. Henry Bengis


Stalag Luft I POW - North 1 and North 2 Compounds

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Humor Behind the Wire Stalag Luft-1 POW Camp Barth, Germany
Henry Bengis

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.





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