Pursuit of an 'Unparalleled Opportunity'
Allied Repatriation to Western Europe
image For Allied prisoners working in the Etappensgebiet and assigned to the prison camps on the west bank of the Rhine, the Germans simply opened the prison gates and ordered the POWs to march west. image At the border, the Germans gave the prisoners a piece of bread and released them. The American YMCA heard about the arrival of Allied prisoners and rushed supplies to them. Walter S. Schutz and James E. Perry were in charge of American YMCA relief plans in anticipation of the arrival of American POWs from Germany, and they arranged for Red Triangle relief trucks from every Association center on the American front to wait at relief points along the now quiet battle lines. image At Baccarat, Red Triangle workers assisted 1,400 British prisoners with hot chocolate, food, and clothing. YMCA secretaries also met seven hundred British and Italian POWs at Nancy, and seven hundred British prisoners at Luneville (many of these men were stragglers who the Germans had not yet transported into the empire for incarceration
These were the basic soldiers' camps, made up of wooden barrack huts 10m wide and 50m long, covered with tar on the outside. Each hut held around 250 prisoners. A central corridor provided access on each side to bunk beds, with straw- or sawdust-filled palliasses. Furniture was kept to a minimum, and generally limited to a table, chairs or benches and a stove. The camps also included barracks for guards, a Kantine (cafeteria) where prisoners could sometimes buy small luxuries and supplementary food, a parcels office, a guardhouse, and kitchens. Some camps had additional amenities, including sanitary facilities, or cultural facilities such as a library, a theatre/concert hall, or a space for worship.
“All around the camp, there was barbed wire three metres high; the wires were spaced fifteen centimetres apart, a wooden post every three metres, and across other barbed wires every fifty centimetres, forming a mesh.”
Prisoners on work details often spent longer or shorter periods of time away from their parent camp: those engaged in agriculture, for example, might be housed in village assembly halls.
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