it was understandable considering the bad living conditions and
the very trying period of waiting for repatriation.
At this point I should explain something of the negotiations
which had occurred concerning the transfer of Allied personnel
from Stalag III A to the new camp. Shortly after our liberation
we were visited by a Russian General who insisted that we should
move to the new camp so that we should enjoy better living conditions
during our enforced stay with the Russians. This was the Adolf
Hitler Youth Camp near Juterbog, reputedly a show place of Nazi
Germany but the SBO demurred on the grounds that (1) it was not
a recognised POW camp and therefore liable to attack by the Germans
and (2) that a move might further delay our repatriation and
(3) that a whole new administration would have to be set up.
There the matter rested for a few days until it seemed clear
that there was no sign of repatriation for some time and SBO
decided to make the move.
On our arrival at the camp it was obvious that its reputation
as a show place was well merited as it was situated in a beautiful
pinewood setting and the so-called barracks looked more like
country mansions. We were directed to HQ building where a billeting
party showed us a house where we were to live; the South African
billeting Officer calmly told us just to look around and find
beds in adjoining buildings which had been allotted to the British
and Americans. These had been occupied already by civilian refugees
and they resented being turned out and deprived of the beds but
eventually we succeeded in obtaining real beds - what a sight
these were to POW who had seen only wooden bunks without mattresses
for years. Each room was for two and fitted out as well as a
West End Hotel but what a shambles met our eyes as much wanton
damage had been done, many fittings were smashed, equipment had
been stolen, no water or electricity was available and the only
food in the kitchen was potatoes.
By 7pm with civilians pouring in constantly it was obvious that
to move many thousands of POW into the camp was impossible and
in addition it would have taken weeks to make the once beautiful
camp inhabitable again. Accordingly the Works Dept unit, to which
I belonged, was ordered to return to Stalag III A by lorry so
once again we had to pack all our heavy Kit and load it. The
small number of Russian troops in the camp were unable or unwilling
to deal with the horde of refugees who became increasingly menacing
towards the few British and Americans left to guard valuable
equipment. After we left, serious trouble developed during which
it became clear that many civilians were armed and determined
to loot and damage as much as possible; their attitude was 'Germany
has destroyed our country, now it is our turn'. They were mostly
French, Dutch, Belgians and Italians.
May 2 1945.
The following day the remaining POW were withdrawn to Luckenwalde
and the Hitler camp left to the refugees who were last seen removing
tear gas bombs to their quarters. Our journey back by lorry was
more interesting than by foot earlier in the day as it took us
along the main road where we saw more signs of the war than in
the woods and on the railway line. A large number of tanks, troops
and equipment were seen and we realised that operations were
still in progress but the troops were all German; probably the
main battle had passed them by and they would shortly be rounded
up by the Russians.