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Prisonner of war

by involvedgwynnie

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Mr Norman parsons
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23 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Thomas David Lancashire Evans of Age Concern Ceredigion on behalf of Mr. Norman Parsons and has been added to the site with his/her permission. The author fully understands the site’s Terms and Condition’s.

One man’s story in a Russian camp

I wish to relate that I was moved to a new camp at a place called Volstein the camp was empty and the camp had been lived in by the French prisoners of war that had to be moved and we were told that we were going there to be farm workers. The camp was totally different to the type of camp we were normally in as it was a small village surrounded by wire. We were there for a few days’ then we were put on parade and being sorted out for different types of work. I had already learnt a bit of German when an officer arrived I heard him say that he needed three gardener’s I jumped forward and told my two pals who were with me that we were experienced. The German officer said
“ Do you understand German” And he took us out of the camp to a big house which had been a nunnery it was full of German soldiers and S.S. he took us round the house and told us that we had to cut the front lawn. He then gave us scythes and soon realised that we weren’t gardeners. So he took us into the house again and gave us all types of new jobs. This turned out to be a daily job with no guard. We would be picked up daily and were given all sorts of jobs to do on our own. This lasted for a few months then we were all called on parade and told that the camp was going to be evacuated. But the staff of which I was one would stay behind. After the campo was emptied we were told the Russians were coming to take over and that we would prepare loves and cooking for thousands of Russians. And then a day or so before they called us back in to a house and into a room to show us a film which was all about the Russians who were coming but u could not believe the film depicted absolute horror of what we saw. They were like skeletons, had wounds and we just wouldn’t believe the Germans who were shouting out propaganda. They then told us that they were going to issue us with broomstick handles to control them and not to touch them by hand. That night at a bout four o’clock in the morning the Germans were calling us on parade to go to the station which was a few miles away the train had arrived. When we got there the smell was unbelievable, the dead bodies were thrown out onto the banks so we had to get horses and trucks to clear the dead before we could get anybody out of the wagons. The Russians were in such bad state they couldn’t walk so we had to go back to the camp to get whatever transport we could find to bring them back to the camp but the Germans refused that and said that they would have to walk. They told us that when they were leaving they said they’d be about an hour but it was more like four hours because they couldn’t walk so they made them crawl. We had wire fences round a football pitch so that we could control them one at a time, we had already got soup made for them and also hot water for showers when we managed to get them through to the feeding area twenty at a time we were standing there waiting to feed them but we had no bowls to put the soup in. Little did we know that the barley soup that we made was so hot that as soon as they eat it they started dying. We had to get cold water to cool the soup down we over came that but the next thing was as each one was fed and taken to another area were they could shower. There again the water was too hot and they started dying again, the next thing we ran into as the Russians died or dead the fit ones would take their clothes, so when we got them into the shower they were like sticks. There was more clothes stacked outside the shower we couldn’t move them all. We had to put the dying ones on the path because there were not enough beds. There was a Polish doctor that would stamp them and inject them. This went on for quite a while because there were literally thousands of them. Another thing we learnt was that if we left them in a group we found that as they moved there was naked white bodies on the floor the fitter ones had been taking there clothes of and leaving them bare, the ones that were slightly alive would crawl to a wall where there were hundreds already dead as you can imagine we were working day and night to feed and look after them we couldn’t sleep because we would have nightmares. In other instance in the camp was a barrel of tar and after a few days the barrel was empty they had eaten it all. After a while we started to get the fitter ones into some big barns which had wooden beds four high and every morning we had to go to clear the dead ones out that had died over night. And we would get the fitter Russians to load them onto trucks then they were taken to a field outside which was terrible because they would only allow digging about two spades deep and throwing the dead Russians in then covering them with lime. This was going on doing jobs each day making soup cutting loves keeping them fit but over half were dead. On one occasion we were having a brake and a very small young Russian came walking across the field to us against the wire and kept putting his hand out we thought it would be food or a cigarette but it wasn’t that at all he wanted salt out of all this carnage we couldn’t believe it. The officer called us on parade and told us that the ambulances would be sent from Switzerland because we weren’t allowed in the camp with the Russians. He gave us a letter thanking us for all the work we had done and if we would present it to another camp commandant. Eventually we arrived in the ambulances at Gratz there we were put in hospital and had every type of examination. In was released after three and a half years of being in a prisoner of war camp. I reached home in May 1945 and returned home.

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