Friday, 3 January 2020

Christmas as a POW

This letter from a British POW in Germany provides a fascinating insight into the life of prisoners.

It makes life as a POW sound not quite so bad.
Beer and Lemonade from Nazis

"Quite a nice Christmas, but of course not anywhere near a Christmas at home," was the verdict of a British prisoner in Stalag XXI D when he wrote to his mother.

In his letter — one of the first descriptions of Christmas and the New Year received by the Red Cross and St John — he states:—

"We had from Wednesday to Monday off, and received half a Red Cross parcel extra, some bulk issue from the International Red Cross  the German Government gave us five R.M. (Reichsmarks), four bottles of beer, and lemonade.

"The cookhouse made special efforts for dinner, and most of us had saved jellies, fruits, &c., from parcels, and the table looked like a schoolgirls' treat — tree and everything. Ken and I decided to have fish cakes for dinner, Ken frying . On frying the last one, he discovered he had gone to the treacle tin for the dripping! Toffied salmon cakes — try them — they are lovely!""
The Scotsman - Friday 30 January 1942, page 7.

There are some significant differences with the life of POWs as portrayed in multiple British films. A revealing phrase being: "We had from Wednesday to Monday off". Because, while films just show POWs hanging around getting bored, that wasn't the experience of most prisoners. Only the officers got to live a life of leisure. Enlisted men had to work.

Just like in WW I. When my uncle Tom was a POW and had to work. It wasn't a happy time for him.

Not sure I'd want to try treacle-soaked fish cakes.

I doubt very much the Germans gave POWs beer in later years. There was precious little for German troops, let alone prisoners.


Anonymous said...

Ron Pattinson said...

Welcome back anonymous. Obviously your life hasn't improved over the last couple of years.

I suggest you check out the acknowledgements in the latest BJCP guidelines: