Liberation on the Fulda addendum

Green, “The March East – the final days of Oflag IX A/H and A/Z”, History Press  2012.

 
Chapter 2 – Liberation on the Fulda addendum

Before the camps could leave, the sick from both camp hospitals were moved to Spangenberg to travel by train to Stalag IX C/Z at Mühlhausen. There were 49 men from Spangenberg and 10 from Rotenburg who were considered too ill to walk. The Rotenburg men were driven to Spangenberg.

The combined party left by train at 19.00 hrs[1] from Spangenberg station. The relative numbers are further evidence that Rotenburg’s prisoners were younger and fitter of the two camps. Although Rotenburg’s hospital was considered the better one of the two camps and Spangenberg men were normally transferred to it as appropriate. Two men, who were too ill to be moved were left at the Spangenberg hospital.

The party was led by Hauptmann Knabe[2], with Colonel E F Ledward[3], Royal Tank Regiment as the Senior British Officer. Major Clout records them arriving in Mülhausen at 20.15 the following day, presumably the train did not travel by day, because of the threat of Allied air attacks. The men were accommodated in two bare rooms in the camp. Stalag IX C/Z was a sub camp of Stalag IX C which was 80 miles to the east at Bad Sulza.

Major Clout describes this as an old brewery, whilst Corporal Robert Prouse, Canadian Provest Corps, called it an old castle. The camp managed prisoner of war hospitals at Obermaßfeld and Meiningen, and working parties in the southern edge of the Harz mountains north of the town and potassium mines to the south. Corporal Prouse recalls meeting two officers from a party evacuated from Rotenburg in March.

On the morning of 2 April, Easter Monday, with the 4th US Armored Division only 20 miles away, the camp was evacuated. For Prouse and his comrades this was the start of an eight day march to Bad Sulza. There would be no move for the sick from Oflag IX A. Having been already identified as being unable to march with their camps, Colonel Ledward refused to move and his party remained. With the camp almost empty the commander of the remaining guard surrendered to Ledward. Fearing the arrival of SS troops, Ledward insisted that the guard remained armed and under his command.

Liberation came on 4 April as 6th US Armored encircled the Town, but they were last men from Oflag IX A to be repatriated. The party left from Langensalza airfield on 19 April: six days after Oflag IX A/Z were flown home and 11 days after Oflag IX A/H had been flown out of Eschwege.

 

Notes
[1] Colonel Holland’s diary has 19.00. Major Clout’s diary has 21.40.
[2] Hauptmann Knabe is not included in Colonel Holland’s list of German staff
[3] Colonel Ledward had been Education Officer at Lower Camp

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