Monday 28 March 2016

Dreadful Conditions in a Prisoner-of-War Camp

Wittenberg market square by Leon Petrosyan 

Tuesday 28th March 1916: Biggleswade’s Private Albert Freeman of the 1st Bedfords is languishing in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany at a place called Wittenberg. A recent report has made it clear that this may be the worst camp in Germany. The report tells of 15,000 prisoners being herded together in a 10½ acres confine(1). There were English, French and Russian. The latter had the seeds of typhus in them, but the ‘Germhuns’ ordered that the prisoners be mixed together and a terrible epidemic was the result.

The report in The Times states that washing facilities were very basic, one cupful of soft soap being allocated to every 120 men. When the typhus epidemic broke out all the German medical staff fled the camp. A British doctor ordered to the camp by the Germans in February says that there were no mattresses, sick men being carried on tables the men ate from which could not be washed as there was no soap. Even healthier men lost limbs to gangrene due to lack of socks.

We understand that the German Chief Medical Officer in charge of the camp, Dr. Aschenbach, routinely spoke of “English swine” and that when the dead were carried out the cultured people of Wittenberg were allowed to jeer at the coffins.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 21st April 1916

(1) Roughly six football pitches giving a density of 2,500 men per pitch.

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