World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I

The Guards


World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

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

The POW Stories
The Photos
The Roommates
The Art
The Poetry
The Newspaper
The Interrogators
The Guards
The Russians
The Evacuation
The Return
The Kriegies
Letters From Home
Books & Videos
POW Benefits
POW Medal
Research Tips
Allison's Thoughts
What's New


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 possible.

 Sign or view our Guestbook

Visit our
Online Store




If you would like to
  help us keep this website online, please click on the above PayPal link, where you may make a monetary contribution to this site using your credit card.  Thank you.



Stalag Luft I - E-mail us

Click to send us e-mail

The German Officers and Guards of Stalag Luft I


Allied aircrew shot down during World War II were incarcerated after interrogation in Air Force Prisoner of War camps run by the Luftwaffe.  These camps were called Stalag Luft, short for Stammlager Luft which translates to Permanent Camps for Airmen. The German Luftwaffe, who were responsible for Air Force prisoners of war, maintained a degree of professional respect for fellow flyers, and the general attitude of the camp security officers and guards should not be confused with the SS or Gestapo.

The German guards were called "Goons" by the POWs.  It was a nickname which puzzled them.  When asked, the POWs told them that it stood for "German Officer Or Non-com"), which they believed for a long time and accepted, even at times referring to themselves as Goons. ( In fact the term "goon" was from a Disney character which is described as ridiculous looking with a prolific growth of hair on the legs. Their language was unintelligible and they were not credited with having much intelligence.)  The tall sentry watch platforms with mounted searchlights and machine-guns were therefore called "Goon Towers".   Annoying the guards was known as "Goon Baiting".  When a guard was seen approaching an area the POWs would say "Goon Up" as a warning to their fellow POWs.   The guards were known  to shoot first and asked questions afterwards if any prisoner was rash enough to stray over the knee-high warning wire and then fail to surrender if challenged.

The German guards specializing in escape detection were known as 'Ferrets' and would enter the compound at any time and search any hut without warning.  Often in the middle of the night they would enter, order the POWs out, and they would literally throw everything into a pile on the floor after searching it, leaving the room a huge mess.   English-speaking ferrets would lie under the barracks in the crawl space and listen for careless talk.  As a rule the POWs were aware of this tactic and were careful not to discuss important information. 

There is evidence to suggest that when a tunnel was detected by the guards or ferrets, it was allowed to continue without intervention until it appeared to be near completion at which time they would stop it and collapse it.  It is felt they allowed the tunneling to continue to keep the POWs occupied and busy and therefore not working on another escape that they did not know about. 

The German personnel changed frequently during the existence of the camp.  The officers, their positions, and the dates that they served are listed below:
Commandant Oberst Hartwig von Winckler Mar.  40 to June 40 
  Major Roland von Oertzen June 40 to May 41
  Major Burkhardt May 41 to Apr. 42
  Oberst Scherer  (see photo below) Oct. 42 to Jan. 45
  Oberst Warnstadt (see photo below) Jan. 45 to Apr. 45
Adjutant: Hauptmann Thams (see group photo below) Sept. 43 to Mar. 44
  Hauptmann Erbsloh Mar. 44 to June 44
  Major Buchard June 44 to Apr. 45
Lager Officer - West Hauptmann Eilers (see group photo below) Sept. 43 to Feb. 44
  Hauptmann Wolf Feb. 44 to Jun. 44
  Hauptmann von Beck  Jun  44 to Oct. 44
  Hauptmann Luckt Oct. 44 to Jan. 45
  Major Opperman Jan. 45 to Apr. 45
Lager Officer - North 1 Hauptmann Erbsloh Feb. 44 to Jun 44
  Major Schroeder Jun  44 to Jul 44
  Hauptmann Von Stradiot Jul  44 to Oct. 44
  Hauptmann Probst Oct. 44 to Dec. 44
  Major Steinhower Dec. 44 to Apr. 45
Lager Officer - North 2 Major Sprotte Sept. 44 to Oct. 44
  Major Steinhower Oct. 44 to Dec. 44
  Hauptmann Bloom  (or Blohm) Dec. 44 to Apr. 45
Lager Officer - North 3 Hauptmann Probst Dec. 44 to Apr. 45


Camp Commandants

Willibald Karl Scherer - Kommandant of Stalag Luft I

Oberst Scherer

"The Commandant is Oberst (Colonel) Scherer - whom we rarely see. Our contact with him is, in the main, through orders signed with his name which are issued from time to tiume., threatening to "shoot to kill" any prisoner found doing something or other.  Then there was that notable occasion when he gave the order that men in the cooler could have three cigarettes a day - oh, happy thought.  He is a man of medium height, Florid complexion, grey hair, in all a fairly neat looking officer.  What with the German High Command on one side, however, and our Senior Officers threatening him with trial for war crimes after the war.  I don't envy him his job."

From Charles Early's Wartime Log

Gordon Hemmings (HEMMINGS G.W. SGT RAF 2215965) suggests that a good addition to the information on Barth would be a refutation of the things said about Oberst Scherer in Hub Zemke's book. He feels that what was said was bad enough, but to publish a photo purporting to be Scherer when it was in fact some completely unknown German officer is unforgivable.

Scherer was, he says, actually a very cultured man, a competent musician, and the best type of officer. He was in fact removed from Luft 1 and sent to Berlin to face charges of undue leniency toward the POWs. Luckily the end of the war saved him from any punishment. Gordon provided genuine photos of Scherer to prove his point.

If you would like to discuss this further with Gordon his email address is


Intelligence Officers at Stalag Luft I

Major von Miller at Stalag Luft I

Major von Miller zu Aichholz

Major von Miller was the Head of the Intelligence Section at Stalag Luft I  from 1942 to Jan 1945.  He had lived in Santa Barbara, California before the war began and still owned a home there. He said he intended to go back there after the war.  It is known that Major von Miller returned to Barth at the end of April 1945, and he is described as being the man waving the white flag to surrender the town of Barth to the Russians.

In the book "Behind Barbed Wire" it states that  von Miller was executed by the Russians on the 14th May 1945 at Barth.  Helga Radau has found this to be untrue.  He in fact, returned to Vienna, Austria in Oct. 1945 where he lived until his death in 1969.


"What would correspond to our Intelligence Officer is Major von Mueller, but there the correspondence ceases.  I acquired my first _________ for him when he failed to return my salute when I reported to him on entering the camp in December.  Since that time, he has done nothing to cause me to alter my first impression.  He is the one who is in charge of preventing escapes, and I must grudgingly admit that he has brought that to a high peak of perfection.  He, too, is Austrian - a baron.  He spent some time in the States, played polo, guest of Marshal Field, the arch shop-keeper. Speaks fluent English, is reported to have been attached to the German Embassy in London.  Is rather ________ which isn't particularly becoming to him."

From Charles Early's Wartime Log

Henry the butcher at Stalag Luft I

Heinrich Haslob

Henry was an Intelligence Officer.  He was known to the POWs as "Henry the butcher" because he had once lived in New York where he owned a butcher shop. Click on his name to the left for more information and to view photos of Stalag Luft I from his personal photo album.

"But Henry!  He is undoubtedly a very high class German, having once owned a butcher shop in New York.  Arrogant, he is in the abwehr department and pulls the blitz-barracks searches.  Short and fat, with straw colored hair - the boys don't like Henry.

From Charles Early's Wartime Log

"When I was young and living in Garden City, Long Island, New York, my mother would always drive to a neighboring town, named Hempstead, on Saturdays for her weekly supply of meats.  I always wanted to go with her because I loved the atmosphere of the shop due to it's large chopping block and the sawdust on the floor.   This was during the 1930's.  The name of the owner was "Herman".   Mom told me one day that Herman had returned to Germany in the late 30's because Hitler had demanded all Germans born in Germany to return to the Fatherland to help become a great nation.  As he put it "Once a German, always a German".  Herman related to that, according to my mother and left the US with his family.  She missed him very much, and never found another butcher she liked as she did "Herman".

I, as a member of the 8th Air Force, was shot down in July 1944.  I arrived in Barth and Stalag Luft I (Eins) in August.  Upon arriving, I was processed as a prisoner in the normal fashion.  About the second or third German to whom I presented myself said to me "Richard ! -- how wonderful to see you.   How is your mother?"  It was "Herman the butcher"!


Richard A Matheis
Stalag Luft I POW


Hauptmann Rath




Guards in the Camp:
Major K. H. Steinhower

Commandant of North I Compound -  a fine man. It was thought that he was not in favor of the war, but  he had to be careful about this because it was dangerous for a German to appear to be opposed to it.  In civilian life he had been a professor of languages at a boys' school in Wuppertal, Germany.  He had a wife and a son whom he seemed to have on his mind all of them time.  His face and head were covered with old dueling scars inflicted during his school days when such marks were considered to be in good taste.  He was about 56 or 57.  He is remembered as having tired to help the POWs out as best he could.

From Not As Briefed by C. Ross Greening

Major Steinhower possessed a rational approach to life, was well educated and not obsessed with the fanaticism of Nazi superiority.  He had been a professor in mathematics and history in a higher educational establishment prior to being drafted into Luftwaffe uniform.  Well along in years, this mild mannered ex-teacher would have much preferred to be back in his seminary writing European history rather than involved in the thankless task of trying to resolve the endless problems and complaints of a POW compound.  He was fluent in English, and of reasonably open mind, he could be talked to and reasoned with.  Daily he'd report to our room in North 1 to partake of a cup of ersatz tea and discuss any subject.  In due course I could see we were influencing and using this man for the POW's bests interests.  That said, Steinhower was anything but a dumb stooge; he well knew his paychecks came from the Third Reich.  On the other hand I doubt if he condoned negative attitudes and deprivations as dealt out by those with the real power in  Stalag Luft I administration.  Much credit could be given to his efforts in assisting the establishment of theatrical plays, POW band performances, a library, educational courses and sundry projects.  From my observations this officer was way out of place in the military.

From Zemke's Stalag by Hubert Zemke

Major Schroeder
    "Smiling Jack" or
    "Happy Jack"
Executive officer - had learned to speak English in the United States where he'd been employed by Pan American Airlines.  Supposedly still held stock in the company.  Was called "Smiling Jack" because he was such a sourpuss.  Most remember him for his vigilance noting when a Kreigie failed to salute him.  He put many men in solitary confinement for this violation.  He'd say " I vill poot you in der coolah if you keep forgetting to salute der sooperior officers! I vill make you respect der Chermans yet!"

From Not As Briefed by C. Ross Greening

Major Schroder headed the Lager personnel. Col. Zemke was warned that he was a committed Nazi. 

From Zemke's Stalag by Hubert Zemke

Thought to have been a West Coast gambler by Capt. William Hendrickson of San Francisco, CA

Hauptmann von Beck "Perhaps the best known of the German officers is Hauptmann von Beck - Managetta, the senior Lager officer.  He is an Austrian nobleman, baron or count, I can't remember which.  From what we can gather, his family was impoverished after the last war, losing the ancestral castle, etc.  He was a flyer in the last war, and seems to have as his main interest hunting and fishing - has shot in Scotland in happier days.  He is the smartest officer I have seen among the Germans and his boots are the envy of Kriegie.  Hauptmann von Beck has undoubtedly been instrumental in making conditions in the camp somewhat more comfortable, and has come as near to capturing the affection of the camp as any German could.  He is very inch an officer and a gentleman, and regardless of whether we like him or not, we respect him.  During the early part of the war he was a flak officer on the eastern front.  He speaks tolerable English, which we expected to be better, as he is reported to be quite a linguist."

From Charles Early's Wartime Log

"The Compound Commander was a spruce, spare Captain named von Beck.  He was from a fine old Viennese family and at sixteen he had been the youngest Austrian pilot in World War I.  He had a psychopathic fear and hatred of the Russians and imperfectly concealed the friendliness he felt towards the British and Americans.  Although he was cautious in mentioning it, he had little empathy with the Nazis.  Had he joined the Party, he would have been a Colonel or possibly a General in the Luftwaffe. Instead, because of his lukewarm support of the Nazis, he was relegated to the thankless task of supervising prisoners of war. Between wars he had owned large baronial estates throughout Austria.  He was fond of skiing; he hunted big game and was a crack shot.  Before the war he visited America and England and had spent his summers in the south of France.  He was always dressed immaculately in a beautifully cut uniform and polished black boots.  In spite of the fact that he was only forty-five, he was now old, frail and graying a little forlorn and lost int he frantic fervor of Hitler's Germany. 

Von Beck and I found we had many mutual acquaintances in Vienna and the ice was completely broken.   From then on von Beck made us frequent social visits and in the evenings requested that we close our shutters so that the guards would not see him.

One evening after roll call, we heard his knock.  After his customary cup of coffee and American cigarette, he rose from the table and went over to check if the shutters were firmly shut. To our astonished eyes, he then stood in the corner of the room, carefully lowered his breeches and solemnly pulled out a long eared rabbit.  He made a courtly bow as he presented it.  He told us to be extremely careful in cooking it and to be sure to dispose of the bones to protect both himself and us.  He then left the room in his usual manner.  Ultimately the Germans caught up with von Beck.  In the winter of '45 he disappeared from camp and we later heard from the guards that he had been shot for excessive fraternization with Allied officers. It was a humiliating end for a proud and gallant gentleman."

 From "Time Out" by John Vietor

"One of the German officers at Stalag Luft I was an Austrian aristocrat, Hauptman von Beck.  He took a fancy to the occupants of Room 2 and often visited them in the evenings, bringing a loaf of crisp, white French bread - a sheer luxury to Kriegies, who were used to the harsh and unappetizing black goon bread.  He would entertain them with various stories of his time in England.  On one occasion, when staying at a country house, he had disgraced himself by shooting a fox.  It was obvious that he preferred the company of Room 2, to that of his mess, where, he told them, he was unpopular, being not only an Austrian, but in the supposedly invincible Luftwaffe."

From "The Man With Nine Lives" by Geoff Rothwell

Bill Edwards tells
of a very kind German prison guard at Stalag Luft I who was an ex WWI pilot who admired the American pilots.  He says that this guard wore large baggy pants and would sneak in rabbits in his pants for the starving men to eat. 

Bill Edwards
 Stalag Luft I POW

Hauptmann Probst "At Roll Call - Hauptmann Probst, although only a Captain was saluted as Commander of the Compound (North 3).  He was fat, comical, good natured man whom the men called "Santa Claus".  After the salute, he never failed to issue the same order in exactly the same manner:

"Shank you, sir: pleeeeze put the men at eass."   (speaking to Colonel Gabreski as American Compound Commander)

He would then click together the heels of his black boots in a resounding crack; practically throw himself off balance with a vigorously executed Hitler salute and begin his count.  We had to warn new Kriegies ahead of time, to keep them from laughing aloud -- embarrassing us all. "

From "Journey to a Star" by William G. Blum


Fred - a guard at Stalag Luft I


"Fred was a middle aged guard, too old to fight at the front and we felt, probably too stupid.  He was fairly good natured, for a Goon.  He also loved American cigarettes, as did most of the German guards.  Cigarettes were our money, and if we could collect enough of them, we  could buy a lot of otherwise verboten goods.  It was amazing what those guards could find for us in trade for a few cigarettes. 

I met Fred after dark trading through the window for some simple things at first-- a toothbrush and toothpaste, some screws for a pendulum clock a fellow POW was making out of Klim cans and later the works for the clock from an old cuckoo clock."

Lorin Hamann
Stalag Luft I - North 2 Compound POW

(Possibly Uffz. Friedrich Haenschke)

Siemen A tall man, with a dirty looking mug. He wasn't even liked by the Germans.  It was a rare occasion when he didn't pull his gun when screaming at some helpless prisoner.

From Not As Briefed by C. Ross Greening

"Turkey Neck" Was the official German interpreter.  He was tall, slope-shouldered, skinny and bald-headed.  He characteristically listened to what the POWs wanted interpreted to the German officers, and then he'd relate a totally different message to them in German.

From Not As Briefed by C. Ross Greening

"Alphie" A buck-toothed interpreter who was always trying to gain favor from both sides. He tried to earn approval from the POWs when he was around them, but acted quite differently, and loyally, when amongst his German comrades. He made the mistake of visiting his home near the Baltic when the Russians were advancing and was cut off.  He never returned.

From Not As Briefed by C. Ross Greening

"Alf, an ex-artist, does sculpting, painting, etc. & should be able to spit through his teeth."

From Charles Early's Wartime Log

"Tish" "Tish is in charge of supplies to the barracks, and is a pretty good guy.  He is very short, speaks good English, comes from Bavaria, and used to work in a restaurant in the States."

From Charles Early's Wartime Log


"Tisch was a gnarled gnome of about forty with a cocky, bustling manner.  He spoke excellent English. He was always willing to  smuggle matches and other scarce items into camp for the prisoners.  He made no secret of the fact his job was a sinecure and delighted in telling us how lucky he was not to be sent to the front because of his age, children and value in a prisoner of war camp,

Tisch like to brag of his prowess with the opposite sex and of his frequent extra-marital exploits in the town of Barth - fine stories for frustrated Kriegies.  Some of the men liked Tisch, but the majority resented his cockiness and were cautious in talking to him, knowing that whatever they said would be reported to higher authorities.  In 1945 the "goons", short of manpower on the weakening Eastern front, scraped the bottom of the barrel and among the fish was Tisch.  Accompanied by derisive boos and jeers from the POWs, he marched off as additional cannon fodder.

 From "Time Out" by John Vietor

"Eddie" "Eddie is an ______.  He tries to promote arguments on politics, & rather draws one out."

From Charles Early's Wartime Log

Heinrich Zufall  "Grumpy" -

North 2 Compound
"Oberfeldwebel (tech sergeant) Heinrich Zufall, was 54 years old.  He had the typically rosy cheeks of a north German, and we called him “Grumpy,” but not to his face.  

“Grumpy” was, in fact, a good man.  He never broke the rule of not trading with us, and we certainly did not try to get him to. We always left a package of cigarettes from a Red Cross parcel lying on the table, open with a few cigarettes poking out to be taken.  He would arrive unannounced in the small room, plunk himself down on a bench, and say, “Guten Morgen.”  I spent a lot of time with Willie ( Lt. William Gambrell - the barracks translator)  and his roommates, and got to know Grumpy to an extent, too. Without asking permission in any way, Grumpy would help himself to a smoke or two or three, and engage Willie in a conversation that might go on for an hour.  Grumpy’s son had been killed while flying as the rear gunner in a Ju-87B Stuka dive bomber.  Grumpy’s brother, 56 years old, was killed in the infantry on the eastern front.  Grumpy was no fan of Hitler or the Nazis, that was clear.  But he was a good soldier. 

One day Willie pulled a prank that was a classic.  Here’s the way the conversation went: 

Willie: “Warum sprechen Sie kein Englisch?”  (“Why don’t you speak some English?”)


Grumpy: “Ja.  Es ist zu compliziert.”  (“It is too complicated.)


Willie: “Es ist einfach.  Sie könnten sagen, ‘Guten Morgen’ auf Englisch.  (“It is simple.  You could at least say ‘good morning’ in English.”)


Grumpy: “Ja.  Wie sagt mann ‘Guten Morgen’ auf Englisch?”  (“OK, how does one say ‘Guten Morgen’ in English?”)


Then, without warning us in any way, Willie came back with: 

Mann sagt ‘How’s your pecker hanging?‘” 

I thought I would explode laughing, but I dared not so much as snicker, and the other three guys in the room contained themselves with considerable difficulty, just as I did. 

So thereafter when Grumpy came into the little room, we insisted that he say “Guten Morgen” in English, and he would manfully do his best.  We never even grinned.  But it was great fun. "     

William F. Miller
Stalag Luft I POW- North 2 Compound

"Junior" "In the summer, the guard we called “Junior” let us take a swim in the sea which much to my surprise was very warm. One day our guard told us that he was going home on leave and that he lived in Berlin. During that time the “Mighty Eight” had heavily bombed Berlin causing a lot of destruction and when our guard returned to the POW camp, we asked him how it was to be back home. He threw up his hands and grunted in disgust. Our guard was all of nineteen and about six feet tall and was to be shipped out to the Eastern Front to fight the Russians who were crossing the Elbe River. We never saw Junior’ again. The younger guards were being replaced by men who were to old for combat."

Charles Reed Holden
South Compound - Stalag Luft I POW

Uffz. Kurt Gneuss Possibly North II guard
Obergefr. Roland Lammerich Possibly North II guard
Uffz. Hermann Volkmann Possibly North II guard
Uffz. Kurt Hampert Possibly North II guard
Uffz. Friedrich Haenschke Possibly North II guard


German Orders :

German Kommandant Memo to Senior American Officer  - June 1, 1944

German Kommandant Orders - April 27, 1944

German Kommandant Orders  - June 24, 1944

Oberst Willibald Scherer - Commandant of Stalag Luft I

Oberst Willibald Scherer - Commandant
Stalag Luft I  - Sept. 43 to Jan. 45

Read Stephen Scherer's speech about his father, along with a letter from Oberst Scherer to his wife written from Stalag Luft I,  which follows on this page.



Visit from the Protecting Power

German administration with Swiss visitors

Stalag Luft I - Barth, Germany - August 1943 - The Protecting Powers visit.
L to R - Hauptmann v.Miller, Secretary Burchand, Attaché Auckenthaler (
both from Switzerland), Oberst Willibald Scherer, Dr. Thams and Hauptmann Eillers.


Camp Administration

Stalag Luft I administration and intelligence officers group photo in front of barracks

Identified as follows:

1 - Oberst Scherer - Camp Commandant until January 1945
2 - Major Von Miller - Head of Intelligence in the Camp
3 -
Edith Hückstedt - Secretary in the camp - lives near Barth today
4 - Heinrich Haslob - "Henry the butcher"
5 -
6 - Dobbert
7 - Jäckel
8 - Rattmann
9 - Nimkow

Oberst Scherer and Dr. Bottiger, the Director of the Ministry

Oberst Scherer (on right), together with the Director of the Ministry, Dr. Bottiger of the German Air Force

The above photos are from the personal collection of Stephan Scherer - son of Oberst Scherer.

Ross Greening and four German officers

The grand boxing tournament of 18 April 1945.
 Kommandant Oberst von Warnstedt is leaning forward (second from right), his second in command, Oberst Jager is on his left. 

Barth Kommandant and guards at Stalag Luft I in World WarII

Commandant von Warnstedt and administration at Stalag Luft I


Guards at Stalag Luft I

Some of the guards at Stalag Luft I - Henry the butcher is 2nd from the left, the others are not known. 

German guards at Stalag Luft I

Can you identify any of these guards?  The man facing to the left in the picture may have been known as the "Green Hornet" can any of you confirm or deny this?

Is he the same Green Hornet that had been at Stalag Luft IV?   Please email me if you know-


Guard at gate to North 1

Unknown Luftwaffe guard in front of gate leading to North 1 Compound at Stalag Luft I



Stephan Scherer (Germany): "My Father was the Commandant of Stalag Luft 1”

Speech given at the Stalag Luft I Conference on September 8, 2001

    My father, Willibald Karl Scherer, was born in Passau on July 13, 1892.  He was born into a middle class family of conservative lawyers.  His Protestant father moved from Passau to Munich to further his career.  He graduated from the Wilhelmsgymnasium.  

     He joined the cavalry and later was an lookout for enemy planes during World War 1.  Between the two world wars, he became involved with Freichor Epp,  which was supposed to help with the emancipation of Munich from the communist revolutionary intellectuals and their followers.  In WWII worked for the Air Force at an air base and at the end of 1942, was named Commander of the prison system for POWs at Stalag Luft 1.  He, along with other officials, was relieved of this position at the end of 1944.  A fellow Gestapo employee named Oppermann overheard comments made by my father about the current regime and collected that information along with things he observed and passed them on to higher officials.  This led to my father’s dismissal.  One blames my father for Anglophilismus and pro-Jewish behavior.  I can’t furnish details, but that was the tone of the complaint.  The process was to take place in Stettin (name of a town, I think), but then dragged out for weeks, until the jurisdiction for processing the complaint was passed on to Berlin.  The war ended before the process could be completed.  So my father survived.  In February 1946, he emerged from a British POW camp and as he entered our home he threw an old vase to the floor.  That was not a good omen.  As a former officer he could not find work immediately after the war.  During this time, my mother, well-known in the region as a portrait and landscape artist, supported our family.  This was a bitter pill for my father to swallow and his pride was hurt.  During the time that my parents were separated by the war, they wrote each other loving letters, sometimes 3 letters a day, and sometimes they even spoke to each other on the telephone.  As I  sorted through the thousands of letters, I often wondered how, with all of his daily activities and responsibilities, my father found the time to write so many letters.  When my father returned from the war, the relationship between my parents deteriorated.  There were loud fights every day.  A terrible memory. 

     My father was married twice.  After the war, my father’s son, Hermann, from his first marriage moved with his mother to America.  Hermann later returned to Germany as an American Occupation soldier and met his future wife in Berlin.  After his military career, he worked for a computer company in Florida, that developed test simulators for the U.S. army.  Hermann Scherer, my half brother died at the young age of 49.  He was survived by a daughter and a son who served during the Gulf War.  In the meantime, there is a large group of Scherers who have all become American citizens.  

     In his second marriage, my father married his second cousin, Marie Luise, who had the same last name as my father.  That made the formalities of a civil marriage much easier.  Marie Luise Scherer studied art in Dresden and Leipzig.  An exchange of letters with people from this region continued long after the conclusion of the war with those who survived the war. 

     I was born in 1942, a few months before my father took over as head of the prison camp in Barth.  I have virtually no memories of my father from WWII, since I was too young.  Today, if I recall memories of my father from after the war, I see him buried behind a mountain of books:  mostly history books, but also fiction and art books.  I also remember that he liked to take long walks along the Donau River or hikes through the mountains of Tirol.  His greatest love was music and if he had been a civilian, he would have wanted to be a conductor.  He played the violin, viola, cello, piano.  He had a great ear for music and could play sheet music without prior practice.  After the war, my father was 54, so a musical career was no longer possible.  Later, as my father was able to find work again, he was happy to become the administrator for Lotto (a national lottery).  Later he became responsible for all lottery outlets in the region of Straubing.  Even during the war, he was able to answer his musical yearnings.  For example, in Barth he, other acquaintances and Pastor Just formed a small chamber music group.  Even after the war, back in Straubing and Lower Bavariy, he continued with his chamber music and played everything from Hayden to Mozart to Bartok.  His remaining group of friends was very middle class.  My mother was more outgoing and she had an incredibly large circle of friends and acquaintances. 

     From the letters my father wrote to my mother while he was Commander of Stalag Luft 1, it was clear that he tried hard to run a correct and humane camp and that he was concerned for the fate of the prisoners.  I also have this impression from letters written by ex-POW’s, for which I am very grateful.  However, I also gathered from these letters that the generally good treatment of the prisoners in Stalag Luft 1 was the wish of those higher in command.  One should keep the prisoners of war in a good mood, because one would hope that ultimately they would be allies in the war against the much-hated Bolsheviks. 

     The letters from my father while he was in Barth were all written in the same manner.

     The weather had direct consequences on the well-being of my father and the situation in the camp.  There was also the mention of specific occasions, for example, visits to the camp by police or trips to visit friends in Barth. 

     The suggestions and instructions to my mother, encompassed all areas of life.  Always a loving closure rule.  This was how just about every letter was structured. 

     As an example, here follows a typical letter from my father to my mother:

3/2/44 in the evening  (On the average, my father and mother wrote up to three letters to each other every day)

Dearest Ise!

About the weather; yes, that was a terrible disaster.

The first spring temperatures, tempting you to go outside and work in the garden, and now, after two days, this abrupt weather change!  For 24 hours the storm direction has changed from south to west and now a blizzard shaking and howling through the area, and so we are aghast and disgusted about it.  Under such circumstances, watching the POWs, in fact, is not possible any longer!  Good weather for an escape;  will the headcount be correct tomorrow?  Within the next two days 300 American officers will arrive simultaneously!  This will be a hard job, especially for the assistant to v.Miller,  who has to take charge (of the newly arriving prisoners).  Yesterday evening a tunnel was discovered,  which was already complete to the fence.  The guys had poured the scooped out sand into the toilets and sinks and then strongly complained that the new sewage system did not work properly!  Now those gentlemen have to do the cleaning up themselves under the supervision of the German workers.

Today you can hardly remain in the rooms facing the west.  The whole day long I sat in my office wearing the coat to my raingear.  My feet feel like icicles, and I will be glad to get in my bed.  The curtains are dancing in the room, as if the windows were open!

But now my dearest, I want to thank you for two dear letters of the 26th and 27th,  (and the nice van Gogh postcard) and the letter with the brown wool mending material.  Today Else (a helper at Stalag Luft I ?) showed me a blue uniform shirt, that cannot be repaired.  I will send it to you, if I get a chance, by post; pieces of it may be useful for making summer shirts for (son) Stephan; recently I had to present a shirt of the same quality in Straubing.

How are things with you? Again you report about being worn out, as you have done recently! So the symptoms of your illness have not yet been expelled from your body.  Maybe you should try a mineral water cure at home? I wonder what doctor can give you the best advice and where you can get x- rayed?  Hopefully you will get over this.  Will Agnes (her older sister, resident of the city of Bremen, now there in Straubing visiting my mother) be leaving soon?

Now about (her brother) Stephan: Hopefully you will receive official documents concerning him. Actually, he could be useful to me as a civilian translator. I'm trying hard to locate translators. Presently I have put in a request for 9 people such as he from the translator's school in Bonn-H (....?), where their school is located.

That Straubing, and the surrounding area, is fed up with the refugee situation, I can understand; even so it may be unlikely that people from Vienna will be evacuated that far.

We don't have any fears here and are living as if in the deepest peace. Our foot soldier have no idea how nice they have it here. What will our comrades in the east have to suffer right now! -

Very soon now I shall retreat from this day and therefore close (this letter) with a heartfelt good night for you and (son) Stephan.

With deep love,

Your's Willi

PS. - Say "Hello" to Agnes as well



Questions for former POWs:

What guards came with the Stalag Luft IV POWs to Luft I?  Can you supply us with any names or nicknames of these guards?  Did they stay at Luft I until the end of the war?

I recently read that Big Stoop and the Green Hornet of Luft IV were seen at Stalag Luft I on April 30, 1945.  Had they been there since the Luft IV POWs arrived in early 1945?   Can any of you confirm having seen them at Luft I?

Please email your answers to me at  If you don't hear back from me, please email me again.


 Top of this page              Next Page - The Russians


This site created and maintained by Mary Smith and Barbara Freer, daughters of Dick Williams, Jr.