Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Private J. D. Caves: The Long Journey Home

Excerpt from Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War

Excerpt from Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War

This passage describes Stalag 344 (formerly VIIIB) at Lamsdorf and Stalag VIIIB at Teschen. Denis spent considerable time in both stalags in 1944.

Besides the trainloads of men who went direct to Stalag VIIIB there were others who were moved from Stalag VIIIA. This huge camp, which had started to show improvement since the appointment of a new German commandant, now became still larger through the sudden influx from Italy and numbered well over 30,000, 10,000 of them in the stalag itself, with men sleeping on tables, on forms, or simply on the floor, and with other camp services similarly overcrowded. Our men from Italian camps met in the stalag many old comrades from the campaigns in Greece and Crete. Those who had come from Italy, more especially those from Campo PG 57, wondered at the comparative lack of discipline in this camp and at the activities that could go on inside it unknown to the enemy. They saw shackling in its last rather farcical stage when the handcuffs were issued but not put on; they met men living in the camp of whom the German office had no record or only a false one. Less easy to contemplate with detachment were the activities of a gang whose members tried for a while to improve their lot at the expense of their fellow prisoners by intimidating them with blade-razors. Sooner or later the newcomers, who had all been graded by German doctors according to the page 104type of labour they were medically fit for, left for coal mines or other places of work in Silesia.

Letter sent to Denis' mother from Mrs Ada Rush in Taranaki. It reads: "Dear Mrs Caves. In case you didn't hear or receive word of a Radio Broadcast tonight from Berlin, Germany, I am writing to let you know that the name of J.D. Caves came over as a POW now in Germany. There was also a message which I got as near as possible. Message - Well folks, a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. Love to Jean and all. Take care of yourselves."

By December the German authorities, to cope with the over-crowding at Lamsdorf and at the same time divide the work of administering its numerous Arbeitskommandos, transferred administrative staff to form new base camps at Teschen and Sagan. These page 105became known stalag VIIIB and Stalag VIIIC respectively, the original campat Lamsdorf being renumbered Stalag 344. The Silesian working camps were now conveniently divided between Stalag 344 and Stalags VIIIA, B, and C, all coalmining Arbeitskommandos coming under Stalag VIIIB at Teschen. The latter very soon had a strength of 11,000 British Commonwealth prisoners (including nearly 1000 New Zealanders); became known as Stalag VIIIB and Stalag VIIIC respectively, the original camp at Lamsdorf being renumbered Stalag 344. The Silesian working but only a little over 200 of these were at the base camp, the remainder being spread over fifty or more Arbeitskommandos.