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Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf was a large, German prisoner of war camp, later renumbered Stalag 344. It was located near the small town of Lamsdorf (now called Lambinowice, in Poland) in what was then known as Upper Silesia. Today on the site of the camp is the Polish Central Prisoner of War Museum. The camp initially comprised barracks built to house British and French prisoners in the First World War (see this link) but there had also been a prison camp during there during the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71.
In 1939 the camp housed Polish prisoners from the German September 1939 offensive. Later more than 100,000 prisoners from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Greece, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the United States passed through this camp. In 1941 a separate camp, Stalag VIIIF was set up close by to house the Soviet and Polish prisoners.
In 1943, the Lamsdorf camp was split up, and many of the prisoners (and Working Parties/Arbeitskommandos) were transferred to two new base camps: Stalag VIIIC Sagan and Stalag VIIID Teschen, which became VIIIB. The camps at Lamsdorf, VIIIB and VIIIF were re-numbered Stalag 344.
The Soviet Army reached the camp on the 17th March 1945.
Later the Lamsdorf camp was used by the Soviets to house Germans, both prisoners of war and civilians. Polish army personnel being repatriated from POW camps were also processed through Lamsdorf and sometimes held here as prisoners for several months. Some were later released, others sent to Gulags in Siberia.
By 1943, the famous camp for Allied flight personnel in Sagan - Stalag Luft III - had become so overcrowded that about 1,000, mostly non-commissioned aircrew, were transferred to Lamsdorf. A part of Stalag VIIIB was separated by building new barbed-wire fences. Thus a camp within a camp was created. However all food was provided from kitchens operated by army personnel in the camp proper.
The hospital facilities at Stalag VIIIB were among the best in all Stalags. The Lazarett (hospital) was set up on a separate site with eleven concrete buildings. Six of them were self-contained wards, each with space for about 100 patients. The others served as treatment blocks with operating theatres, X-ray and laboratory facilities, as well as kitchens, a morgue, as well as accommodation for the medical staff.
The lazarett was headed by a German officer with the title Oberst Arzt (Colonel Doctor), but the staff was made up entirely of prisoners. They included general physicians and surgeons, even a neuro-surgeon, psychiatrist, anesthesiologist and radiologist.
The 500 or so prisoners who died at Lamsdorf whilst in captivity were first buried locally, but after the war their bodies were moved to Krakow where they were re-buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery, which is contained within the boundary of the main city cemetery. The graves are laid out traditionally as in all war cemeteries, with names and other details of those buried on the headstones. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission can give details of all who are buried there - or indeed in any of their cemeteries.
THE LONG MARCH (OR DEATH MARCH)
In January 1945, as the Soviet armies resumed their offensive and advanced into Germany, many of the prisoners were marched westward in groups of 200 to 300 in the so-called Long March. Many of them died from the bitter cold and exhaustion. The lucky ones got far enough to the west to be liberated by the American or British armies. The unlucky ones were 'liberated' by the Soviets, who instead of turning them over quickly to the western allies, held them as virtual hostages for several more months, until the British agreed to release to the Soviet Union POWs of Soviet origin who had been fighting on the German side, which left the British Government with little choice on the matter, even though they were understandable reluctant to hand these men over to the Soviet Union for their inevitable execution. These soldiers from states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for example, had fought with the Germans in an effort, as they saw it, to release their own homelands from Soviet occupation and oppression.
Many of the allied POWs held by the Soviets were finally repatriated towards the end of 1945 though the port of Odessa on the Black Sea.
Please click HERE for more on the Long March.
HAND-TYING AND HANDCUFFING OF PRISONERS
On 19th August 1942, during the raid on Dieppe, Canadian Brigadier William Wallace Southam took a copy of the operational order ashore against explicit orders. The order was subsequently discovered on the beach by the Germans and found its way to Hitler. Among the dozens of pages of orders was an instruction to 'bind prisoners'. The orders were for the Canadian forces participating in the raid, and not the Commandos. The Germans claimed that bodies of shot German prisoners with their hands tied were found by German forces after the battle.
On the night of 3rd-4th October 1942, ten men of the British Small Scale Raiding Force and No. 12 Commando made an offensive raid on the Channel Island of Sark, called Operation Basalt, to reconnoitre, and take some prisoners. The Channel Islands were the only British territory to be occupied by the Germans.
During the raid, five prisoners were taken. To minimize the task of the guard left with the captives, the commandos tied the prisoners' hands. According to the British personnel, one prisoner allegedly started shouting to alert those in a hotel, and was shot dead. The remaining four prisoners were silenced by stuffing their mouths with grass. On the way to the beach, three prisoners made a break. Whether or not some had freed their hands during the firefight has never been established, nor is it known whether all three broke at the same time. Two are believed to have been shot and one stabbed. The fourth was conveyed safely back to England. Officially-sanctioned German military accounts of the time assert unequivocally that the dead German soldiers were found with their hands bound, and later German military publications make many references to captured Commando instructions ordering the tying of captives' hands behind them, and the use of a particularly painful method of knotting around the thumbs to enable efficient, coercive, single-handed control of the captive.
An account of the raid will be found here:
A few days after the Sark raid, the Germans issued a propaganda communiqué implying that at least one prisoner had escaped and two were shot while resisting having their hands tied. They also claimed this 'hand-tying' practice was used at Dieppe. Subsequently, on 8th October, Berlin announced that 1,376 Allied prisoners (mainly Canadians from Dieppe) would henceforth be shackled. (The actual number varies in different accounts, and it is said that initially 1,500 POWs at Lamsdorf alone, without counting those at other camps, were shacked at this time). The Canadians responded with a like shackling of German prisoners in Canada.
[This tit-for-tat shackling continued until the Swiss achieved agreement with the Canadians to desist on December 12, and with the Germans much later after they received further assurances from the British. At any rate, by this time many German camps had abandoned the pointless practice or reduced it to merely leaving a pile of shackles in a prison billet as a token.]
At the roll-call on 8 October 1942 at Oflag IIIC Hoenfels (Parsberg), Oflag VIIB Eichstaett, Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf and at Stalag IXC Bad Sulza, many prisoner of war who had been taken prisoner at Dieppe, and others too, were fallen out and their hands were tied with cord and remained so for twelve hours daily. In Stalag VIIIB at Lamsdorf, it is said that some 1,500 British and Canadians had their hands tied with pieces of Red Cross string 18 inches in length—apparently a misinterpretation of an order specifying 18 inches of play between the hands. This was bad enough for those concerned, but it seemed as if the German camp authorities seized the opportunity to work off old scores. The issue of Red Cross food parcels, cigarettes, and regular mail was discontinued, and shortly afterwards all sports, concerts, and educational classes were forbidden until further notice. With only the poor German rations to exist on, an acute shortage of blankets and no allowance of fuel to combat the increasing cold, conditions in the stalag became as hard as they had ever been. At some camps German camp staff were now disclaiming any obligations under the Geneva or any other convention, and openly talking of the continuance of collective punishments, no matter what appeals were made. There was some kicking and bayonet prodding of bound men by one or two sadistic guards, and those found with loosened bonds or smoking inside the barracks were subjected to rather brutal punishments (Several hours with wrists shackled and held up tightly behind the back, nose and toes touching a wall.)
Three days after the first announcement came a second that, as German prisoners in England (or Canada) were now being bound, the reprisal would now apply to three times the present numbers and at Lamsdorf another 800 POWs were bound. These were by no means just Canadians, nor just POWs captured at Dieppe, nor even just army POWs.
As time went on conditions were considerably relaxed for the shackled prisoners. After six weeks the original tight handcuffs were replaced by police fetters with a fairly comfortable length of chain between them; and representations through neutral agencies had most of the collective restrictions removed. Prisoners found that the handcuffs could be opened with a nail, or the key taken from the corned beef tins in Red Cross parcels, and a good many began taking them off while not under observation by guards. The guards themselves had begun the practice of simply leaving the right number of manacles in each room, instead of seeing that they were put on.
The New Zealand Electronic Text Collection gives a very full account of this episode. This starts with an account of what happened at Oflag VIIB, but continues to give the complete picture at all affected camps:
Jim Holliday, a member of the Royal Australian Air Force who was a POW at Lamsdorf, did extensive research on this subject and his account was published in the book he edited with Dave Radke, ‘The RAAF POWs of Lamsdorf’. To see the relevant pages click HERE
THE HISTORY OF THE CHANGES IN THE NUMBERING OF STALAG VIIIB AND STALAG 344
(from the work by Frantisek Mainus)
The history of the numbering of Stalag VIIIB can cause confusion for anyone seeking information on Second World War prisoners held in “Stalag VIIIB”. The camp at Lamsdorf was numbered Stalag VIIIB from early in the war. Many thousands of prisoners passed through this camp. In 1941 a separate camp, Stalag VIIIF was set up close by to house the Soviet and Polish prisoners. In May 1941 a camp numbered Stalag VIIID was set up at Teschen (Cesky Tesin), on the Polish/Czech border. (On this site there were old buildings which were used in World War I as a hospital. The Czechoslovakian army later used the buildings and in 1938 the Polish army used them. In September 1939 the German army occupied Cesky Tesin and used the site as garages for military vehicles). This Stalag, together with its Arbeitskommandos, was responsible for housing about 7000 prisoners, mainly French, but also Belgian and Yuogslavian with a few British. It was joined to Stalag VIIIB (Lamsdorf) in September 1942 as a kind of "branch" camp and was then called VIIIB Zweilager Teschen. By 1943 this "enlarged" Stalag VIIIB handled some 120,000 prisoners in the camps and its many associated Arbeitskommandos.
This situation existed until towards the end of December 1943. The camps at Teschen and Lamsdorf (with associated Arbeitskommandos) were then "separated" and the number Stalag VIIIB was applied to the Teschen camp and Lamsdorf, that is, the former VIIIB and VIIIF, became Stalag 344. The Teschen camp was where many of the prisoners from the invasion of Normandy and later captures were sent, and was responsible for handling about 70,000 POWs, most of whom were out at Arbeitskommandos. It is important to bear in mind that many early prisoners, e.g. men from Dunkirk, North Africa etc. were sent to Lamsdorf when it was VIIIB. Post 1943 references to Stalag VIIIB may relate to Teschen. Unfortunately, not everyone realised that there had been a change, or, if they did, they didn't worry too much about it and continued to refer to Lamsdorf as VIIIB. In your search for information it is easy to be confused if you get information about the "wrong" VIIIB. In practice, many (most?) prisoners were not physically at the Lamsdorf or Teschen camps but were out at Arbeitskommandos administered from these camps. These Arbeitskommandos were numbered, usually with a letter as a prefix, e.g. E902, which was a coal mine at Hindenburg (now Zabrze) in Poland administered from VIIIB Teschen. Most of the Arbeitskommandos administered from VIIIB Teschen were in the industrial areas of Silesia, Poland and near Teschen, as well as Katowice, Bytom and other industrial areas of Poland
Timetable of name changes:
Early in War: Stalag VIIIB established at Lamsdorf, near Opole.
1941: Stalag VIIIF was established at Lamsdorf and Stalag VIIID was established at Teschen.
September 1942: Stalag VIIIB and Stalag VIIID combined; VIIID was called Stalag VIIIB Zweilager Teschen and Lamsdorf remained VIIIB.
End December 1943: Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf and VIIIB Zweilager Teschen separated. The stalag at Teschen became Stalag VIIIB, and VIIIB & VIIIF at Lamsdorf became Stalag 344.
January 1945: Camps evacuated on the “death march” to the west, through the winter of 1945, ahead of the Russian advance. (Camps and their many associated Arbeitskommandos were evacuated).
With thanks to many sources, including Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This plan has been kindly supplied by John McSorley, son of David McSorley (see the 'Names' page).
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