Stalag IV-B

Stalag IV-B (or Stalag IV B) was one of the largest prisoner of war camps in Germany during World War II. Stalag meens the german noun "Stammlager". The main camp was located 8km NE of the town Mühlberg in Brandenburg, just east of the Elbe river and about 30 miles (50 km) north of Dresden. A branch camp, sometimes identified as Stalag-IVB/Z, was located at Zeithain, 10 km to the south in Saxony.

Stalag IV-B Mühlberg

This camp covering about 30ha (75 acres) was built in September 1939.

Timeline

* The first inmates arrived in September 1939. They were about 17,000 Polish soldiers captured in the German September 1939 offensive. For the first two months they dwelt under the open sky or in tents. Most of them were transferred further to other camps.
* May 1940 the first French soldiers arrived, taken prisoner in the Battle of France.
* In 1941 British, Australian and South African soldiers arrived after the fall of Tobruk, then the Soviets.
* In October 1944 several thousand Poles arrived in October 1944 from the Warsaw Uprising, including several hundred women soldiers.
* November 1944 the Polish women were transferred to other camps, mainly Stalag IV-E (Altenburg) and Oflag IX-C(Molsdorf).
* At the end of December 1944 about 7,500 Americans arrived from the Battle of the Bulge. At least 3,000 of them were transferred to other camps, mostly to Stalag VIII-A.
* 23 April 1945 the Red Army liberated the camp. Altogether soldiers from 33 nations passed through this camp.

Other information

The British prisoners published two periodicals: the wall newspapers "The New Times" and a richly illustrated "Flywheel".

The publication "Flywheel" was founded by Tom Swallow, and comprised pages from school exercise-books that carried hand-written articles with colour illustrations from whatever inks the editorial team could produce from stolen materials, like quinine from the medical room; these were stuck into place with fermented millet soup, kept from the meagre camp rations. One copy per issue was produced, to be circulated among members throughout the camp. When extracts were published in hardback format in 1987, the book ran to two reprints [ [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/tom-swallow-founder-of-flywheel-magazine-781058.html Tom Swallow's obituary] ] .

An additional periodical, "The Observer" was published between December 1943 and May 1944.

When the Soviet Army arrived at the camp in April 1945, there were about 30 000 crowded into the facilities, of these 7,250 were British. About 3,000 died, mainly from tuberculosis and typhus. They were buried in the cemetery in neighboring Neuburxdorf, 8km NE of Mühlberg. Today a memorial and a museum commemorate them.

It is not widely known, but the Soviet liberators were in no hurry to repatriate the British and American prisoners to their homelands. In fact they were held in the camp for over a month. Individual soldiers "escaped" from the camp and made their way on foot to the American lines [ [http://www.diggerhistory2.info/post-war/1950/chapter11.htm Came the Cossacks] ] .

Stalag IV-B Zeithain

This branch camp, originally named Stalag-304, was built in April 1941 next to the military depot, training ground and Jacobsthal railway station, to accommodate Soviet prisoners.

Timeline

* In July about 11,000 Soviet soldiers, and some officers, arrived.
* By April 1942 only 3,279 remained. The rest had died from malnutrition and a typhus epidemic caused by the deplorable sanitary conditions. The bodies were buried in mass graves.
* After April 1942 more Soviet prisoners arrived and died just as rapidly. At the end of 1942 10,000 reasonably healthy Soviet prisoners were transferred to Belgium to work in the coal mines.
* In February 1943 Zeithain was transformed into a hospital camp designated Stalag IV-B/H. The main part still housed Soviet prisoners suffering from tuberculosis, who continued to die at the rate 10-20 per day (according to German sources).
* The section closer to the rail-station was now used to house sick prisoners of other nationalities. These included several hundred Poles and Yugoslavs brought from other camps.
* In September 1943. a section was set aside for sick Italian soldiers imprisoned after Marshal Badoglio surrendered to the Allies. About 900 died but, in contrast to the Soviet prisoners, they were buried in individual graves in a military cemetery in Jacobsthal: for merit of the job of the militar chaplain Luca Ajroldi.
* In October 1944, The most amazing transformation occurred. About 25 huts of the Italian section were separated into a special enclosure to house about 1100 wounded survivors, men and women, of the Polish Home Army that had fought in the Warsaw Uprising for 63 days; as well as the medical personnel - 55 doctors and 168 nurses - to care for them.
* A train also brought hospital equipment and supplies salvaged from the ruins of Warsaw and the families of the doctors. The Camp Commandant, Colonel Doctor Stachel observed the families with children, and even pets, descending from the train, and walked away in disgust [ "Thirteen is My Lucky Number", ISBN 1-57087-204-X. by B.C.Biega - Chapter 7] . German sources quote that "..the nurses and other staff went to work with great dedication, and achieved a standard of hygiene that had never been seen before in Zeithain." This was probably the only P.O.W. camp in the world housing both men and women, and in which 11 babies were born and assigned P.O.W. registration numbers!
* April 23, 1945 the Red Army liberated the camp.

Aftermath

The local community has built a memorial to the victims of Stalag IV-B Zeithain in a Memorial Grove ("Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain") near the station, with a museum.

External links

* [http://www.wartimememories.co.uk/pow/stalag4b.html Collection of personal stories of British inmates of Stalag IV-B]
* [http://www.brandenburg.de/cms/detail.php?id=47047&_siteid=47 Stalag IVB Mühlberg Memorial] in German
* [http://www.stsg.de/main/zeithain/geschichte/einrichtung/index_en.php Stalag IVB/H Zeithain history]
* [http://www.diggerhistory2.info/post-war/1950/chapter11.htm Held hostage by the Soviets] - conditions in Stalag IV-B Mühlberg after liberation.

Other References


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