Stalag X-B was a World War II German Prisoner-of-war camp located near Sandbostel in north-western Germany. Sandbostel lies 9 km south of Bremervörde, 43 km northeast of Bremen. Placed on swampy ground,with a damp, cold climate, it is one of the most notorious prisoner-of-war camps. Between 1939 and 1945 1 million POWs of 46 nations passed through. Nearly 50,000 died there of hunger, disease, or were just simply murdered.
Among the Italian prisoners, who were mostly soldiers who did not surrender to the German army after the Cassibile armistice, was journalist and writer Giovannino Guareschi, who wrote here La favola di Natale (A Christmas Fable) on Christmas, 1944. Also the Canadian Neurologist Charles Miller Fisher, who served as a Lieutenant Commader in the Canadian navy, was interned in this camp after being torpedoed and rescued by a German ship 
Marlag und Milag Nord, the camps for captured Navy personnel and civilian sailors respectively, were originally in two separate enclosures at the Sandbostel camp. They were moved to a different location closer to Cuxhaven, to Westertimke, in 1942.
Liberation[edit | edit source]
The camp was liberated on 29 April 1945 by a Canadian unit of the British forces. The camp was divided into three sections when liberated. The first contained allied prisoners in unsatisfactory conditions, but generally in compliance with the International Red Cross Convention. Soviet prisoners, without the Convention's protection, were in substantially worse conditions. In the third section were 8,000 civilian prisoners in appalling conditions, described in the Army medical history as "utterly horrifying"; "everywhere the dead and dying sprawled amid the slime of human excrement."
The British forces advancing through this area had been aware of the POW camp but, until two escaped British Secret Service men reached them they were unaware of several thousand political prisoners in a separate compound. These were in desperate conditions and it was decided to liberate the camp immediately. The local German forces refused free access to the camp, so an assault into the area was made by the Guards Armoured Division and the camp was liberated on April 29, 1945. Army medical units were detached to deliver medical attention.
The military authorities decided to conscript local German civilian women to assist with the rescue and clean up work. Inmates were cleaned and transferred to an improvised hospital outside the camp and thence to convalescence camps. The camp was burned between May 16 and May 25 and the last 350 patients left the hospital on June 3.
Timeline[edit | edit source]
- In 1932 in the Great Depression the Lutheran Church of the State of Hanover opened a camp for out of work singles and employed them in public works (roadworks, amelioration)
- In 1933 the Nazi trade union Reichsarbeitsdienst usurped the camp and used it later as a Nazi internment camp for undesirables.
- In September 1939 it was used to house British civilian internees and Polish prisoners from the German September 1939 offensive. For lack of huts they were mostly housed in tents.
- June 1940 - ca 26,251 French and ca 17,793 Belgian soldiers taken prisoner during the Battle of France arrive.
- May 1941 more prisoners arrived from the Balkans Campaign, mostly British and Serbians.
- In July 1941 they were followed by Soviet prisoners from Operation Barbarossa housed in the open in a separate enclosure.
- On December 1, 1941 the prisoner count was: 1664 Poles, 18,210 French, 2,871 Belgian, 2,459 British, 5,361 Serbians, 9,271 Soviets.
- September 1943 - Italians interned after the allied Armistice with Italy arrived. Like the Soviets they were not accorded the protection of the Third Geneva Convention and were housed next to them.
- October 1944 soldiers from the Polish Warsaw Rising came, including over 1,000 women soldiers and officers.
- On November 1, 1944 the prisoner count was: 4,895 Poles, 11,337 French, 1,732 Belgian, 3,040 Serbians, 20,169 Soviets, 9,453 Italians.
- March and April 1945 - about 8,000 Concentration camp prisoners are brought here from the Neuengamme concentration camp and placed in the enclosure that had been Marlag
- The camp was liberated by British troops of XXX Corps on 29 April 1945 and subsequently care of inmates was handed over to the Friends' Ambulance Unit
- Camp destroyed on May 26
References[edit | edit source]
Sources[edit | edit source]
- Documentation and Memorial Site Sandbostel
- Google Maps of Sandbostel Stalag X-B
- The Last Escape - John Nichol, Tony Rennell - 2002 Penguin UK
See also[edit | edit source]
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