From: firstname.lastname@example.org (HCALTMANN)
Subject: Re: Heart of the matter
Date: 04 Feb 1999
Now, folks, don't let's get all excited. Let me make myself really, really
1- German prisoners in the US had a good life. They were sent back to Europe
after war's end. Some, if not many, of them were then turned over to the
French. That ended their good life.
2- I had a real shitty time from the time I was captured until I reached work
camp. That was from 23 April 1945 to May 25, 1945. I went through at least
four PW camps during that time (Winnenden, Heilbronn, Ludwigshafen, Epinal).
There was no shelter in any of them, except Epinal. There was very little
food, none for days at first. We were already undernourished when we were
captured. There was not enough water to drink, none at all to keep clean.
Everybody had lice. Sanitary facilities were very inadequate. I saw nobody
die from starvation during that time. I saws some dead PWs who had committed
suicide or been buried in their holes by rain. Some may have died from
disease, neglect opr exposure. How many did I see? Perhaps two dozen, in a
camp of probably ten thousand, in two weeks at Ludwigshafen (April 26 - May 8).
3- Once at work camp, things got better. We had shelter from the start, but
slept on the floor. After some weeks, we got materials to make ourselves
bunks. Food was still in short supply, and we were always hungry. In part,
that was due to the fact that we were used to a lot of roughage (fiber), and
the American food stuffs were so highly concentrated that, though the caloric
content may have been adequate, the quantity was not. This situation prevailed
until, I would say, the end of 1946.
4- After that, everything improved. The period of hate had passed, and most
GIs were friendly. I was in the office and was treated just like another
office clerk, PW or GI. While we did not live in clover, we were much better
off than we would have been at home.
5- At no time have I claimed, or will I claim, that any of the Western Allies
had a policy to cause death by starvation of any Germans, PWs included. That
does not mean that there were not policies, military and political, that made
life extremely difficult for the Germans, perhaps more difficult than they
should or might have been.
6- I got acquainted with Americans when I was a PW, liked them a lot, even
better than the Germans as time went on. What I liked about them was that they
were themselves, were individuals, were not cookies stamped from the same dough
with the same cutter, as were so many Germans. I grabbed the chance to go to
America when it came, and I have never been sorry that I did.
7- Arthur and I have had different experiences. I cannot comment on his. I
do not know how many German PWs he met, worked with or knew. I do not know
what the circumstances of their camp were. He does not mention when his
experiences with PWs happened. All I know is what I wrote above. I believe my
fate between April 1945 and January 1947 was quite typical of the fate of
thousands, tens of thousands if not more Germans. In that sense, I claim that
what happened to me was typical.
I hope this sets the record straight. No sense arguing about it any longer, so
this is my last post on the subject. -- Heinz
HCAltmann@aol.com (Heinz Altmann)
"As hard as I try to be sensitive and politically correct, I can't avoid
bumping my way into boorish opinions, thus offending those who are truly
enlightened." - Mike Royko