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MURNAU Oflag VII A ~

I received this email "Oflag VII A (Officer Camp 7A) was in Murnau in the very south of Germany (about 35 km SW of Munchen (Munich). I know nothing about this camp. The nearby camp of  Stalag VII A (Enlisted Man's Camp 7A) in Moosburg was a very large and famous camp. The officers were separated from the enlisted men into separate camps. "Gepruft" simply means "checked over" (censored). The number next to (or above) the word Gepruft is the Censor number, hence "Gepruft 9" means 'Censored by #9.""

Translated by Michael McMorrow

My deepest thanks …john

In some camps (II C Woldenberg, II D Gross-Born, II E Neubrandenburg and VII A Murnau) prisoners made stamps and postcards for use inside the camp, using them  like local postage.  These stamps were made using tools and materials that were available.  The stamps were often printed using dies carved of wood or linoleum.  The limited availability of paper forced the prisoners to be creative.  Some stamps were even made using cigarette paper.  Stamps were usually issued to commemorate persons or events.

Camp Stamp - "Barbed wire and spiders web"

Ref - SOLII01
In Camp

NOTE:  I think the above photo was taken just before the breakout of WWII.
The Polish reserve forces were called to active duty in May of 1939 and many
went through additional training.  The men here seem happy and relaxed.  The
uniforms are very similar/identical to the uniform my father's group is wearing in Murnau.
Note by Anna
 

MURNAU - The Camp Oflag VII A

BELOW - Found this at <http://encyklopedia.pwn.pl/353636_1.html>

Oficerowie polscy w Murnau, miasto w Niemczech (Bawaria); w czasie II wojny swiat. 1939–45 niemiecki obóz dla
polskich jenców wojennych (Oflag VII A); 1940–45 ok. 5, 5 tys. jenców; oficerowie polscy, wrzesien 1941.

Murnau - memories & stories......................................

British Soldier Edward Ward describes his release from a German prison camp "Oflag 12B" by arriving American tanks.

From "Eartstations1.com">>>>>  Click on "open file from current location"

I received these emails

From: JASluka@aol.com
To: buczek@mediaone.net
Subject: Murnau
Date: Friday, December 15, 2000 8:42 PM

"Murnau had a POW camp for Polish officers during WWII.  My father was  imprisoned there - he had been a lieutenant.  Your letter starts "Moj drogi i Kochany Bracieszko" or "My dear the  Beloved Brother".  (I've had a lot of experience with murky Polish and  Russian handwriting in the last few months, transcribing and translating church records from the 1800s.)

During incarceration, prisoners were allowed letters and packages.  My grandmother and aunt used to bake bread for my father, and then dry it well over the stove to evaporate the moisture.  That way, the bread would weigh less.  There was a weight restriction on packages.

I don't know if you are aware of the details surrounding the liberation of that camp at the end of the war.  If you are interested, I can tell you my father's story."

- Anna

Date: Wednesday, December 27, 2000 7:46 PM

John,

Sorry I've been busy with holidays.

Anyway, in the letter I translated, Franciszek mentions a Stanislaw, who also got a package from Alexander.  However, Stanislaw and Franciszek are communicating by mail, so they were probably held in different camps?

     Olek and Olesiek and Oles are all Polish nicknames for Alexander.  Marychna and Marysia are nicknames for Maryanna or Maria (Mary).  Wladek is short for Wladyslaw (the l's are really l's with a slash through them, and are pronounced almost like the English w)  Wanda is just Wanda, and it is a very old (pre-Christian) Polish name.  There is a legend of a princess Wanda saving Krakow back in the early, early middle ages.

     Murnau was liberated by the Americans.  The version I've heard, is that the Germans were aware of the coming liberation, and wired the camp for detonation.  The prisoners also knew what was going on, and when allied planes were heard overhead, overpowered the German guards and opened the gates for the Americans.  My father, and many other Polish officers, eventually served in Italy under British command.  The British may have record of Franciszek if he followed a similar path.

     Following the war, the Soviet government offered "amnesty" to all Poles beyond the borders due to war-time movements (this included refugees as well as military.)  However, a condition of return to Poland was to accept the new regime (communist.)  My father, and many, many other Poles refused the conditions and settled in England, where the Polish government in exile had spent the war.  There is a large and active Polish community in England - my uncles are quite active in it.

((My father received a pension from the British government, the equiv. of Soc. Security, for the time he worked in England.  His military record also allowed him access to US Veteran's Adman services and a military honor guard at his funeral.  The British are extremely polite and prompt in answering queries - I encourage you to write to them.))

     Immediately following the war, and the "dropping of the iron curtain", the Soviet regime in Poland began persecuting veterans of Polish armed forces.  Many were arrested, and many, many were executed.  This continued into the 1950s.  There are several memorials to these victims, one large one at a front alter inside the Mariacki church in Gdansk.  I have photos of that memorial, if you'd like it.  At any rate, the refusal of my father (and apparently your uncle) to return to Poland may have saved their lives.

     Do you have any documentation of Franciszek's stay at Murnau?  There is apparently a German fund set up to reimburse prisoners.  My uncle has been paid - he was a foot soldier in the Polish army and spent most of the war in a German POW camp.  My aunt has encouraged me to write on my father's behalf. Supposedly there is no time limit, and no limit due to death of the "injured party".  I have hesitated, because the address I have is in Poland, and the entire letter would have to be composed in Polish.  I read and understand very well, but my formal, polite letter writing skills are lacking, to say the least.

     My mother's family comes from the area of Poland near Opole, Katowice, Kielce and Krakow.  I don't know if you were aware, that area of Poland was under German partition until the WWI.  There are parish records kept from that era, and if you know the village of Alexander's birth, or the parish, you have a chance of finding the original birth, marriage, and death deeds.  Many of these records were microfilmed by the LDS (Mormon) church and are available for borrowing through local Family History Centers.  Most major US metro areas have one.  Just be warned, that records before WWI will most likely be in handwritten German - a challenge to decipher unless you are pretty fluent in the language.  Also, some of the records (most?) were not indexed, so if you do get the right parish, you may have to read every single entry!  But there's NOTHING as exciting as finding the "right" people this way. Have fun digging! - A.

Anna

Date: Thursday, December 28, 2000 4:42 PM

John,

     It's very important for you to understand that Murnau WAS NOT a concentration camp.  It was a POW (prisoner of war) camp.  Some/most of the "laws of war" were adhered to (as evidenced by the fact that prisoners were allowed mail and packages.)  The men incarcerated here fared at least as well, and because they were officers, usually better than most German prisoners during the war.  It was, of course, a very different story for the poor souls in the concentration and labor camps.

     My uncles are unlikely to know your uncle, because they lived only in the area of Leeds/York.  My parents lived in London, but of course, have both passed away, so there is no one to ask.  Actually, if your uncle and my father were together at Murnau, they MUST have known each other.  My father used to write regularly to another friend in London, a Mr. Solinski, but he passed away in the early 1990s.  Sorry, all dead ends.  I will try to get the address for a Polish organization from my uncle. I would think there is some sort of "friend's society" address book....

Is your letter from Stalinograd in Polish or Russian?  I could translate either for more info.

     I will try to dig out some photos for you in the next few days.  To tell the truth, I am wary of having you use the liberation story on your web site. It is my recollection of a story told to me many, many years ago, and I would hate to have my mixed up version attributed to my father.  If you like, you could say that "There are some stories that the camp was....."  That way, if anyone has some documentable info, "my" version could either be verified or passed off as hearsay.

     I will try to dig up some British addresses as well.  I know I have the British Social Security equivalent.  If your uncle worked in England (and he must have!) they might have some info.  I would have to dig more for a military contact.  This may be a good question for the list-server.....Would anyone know the names of Polish divisions or battalions that served under the British as occupation forces in Italy.  That should cover all the men liberated from Murnau.

Date: Saturday, December 30, 2000 10:01 AM

John,

     I don't know if you are aware of all the Soviet actions following WWII.  One universal policy was to confiscate all land or properly holdings over a certain size and convert those holdings to collectives.  Only small village farmers retained their land.  This may have happened to your family.  Also, the bread-lines, etc you heard about in the Soviet Union were doubly true in the satellite countries.  The national production of all the satellite nations was funneled to support the vast population of the Soviet Union.  That was one the things that eventually sparked the Solidarity movement.  The ship yards in Gdansk built ships for the Soviets, and there were no profits for Poland, since they were paid "cost" only.

     I visited Poland briefly in 1998, and again this summer for the entire month of June.  We were lucky enough to see some "great houses" that had been converted/conviscated.  One was being used as a library.  The circle drive and the original gates were still in place.  Another had continued as a farming holding, though as a collective.  The ranks upon ranks of original horse barns, stalls, granaries, etc were still in place, as were the wrought iron gates.  The great house had an absolutely magnificent foyer with parquet floors, and a winding staircase to the second floor.  The house was in serious disrepair, and used as an apartment - each room belonged to a different family.

     Poland has been free for only 9 years, and they are struggling mightily with the conversion to a free market economy.  The main problem is that there is no infrastructure whatsoever - the Soviets did not spend money on roads, rails, schools, etc in the satellite countries. Poland's second problem is lack of capital.  There has been a great deal of privatization - companies and factories that had been state-owned under the Soviets are being sold into private hands.  This money is then used for road building etc.  However, many of the buyers are foreign, primarily German and American.  Many in Poland fear they are selling their birthright.  There is currently a law on the books preventing sale of land greater than a private building lot to foreign nationals.  This is one way the Poles hope to keep their own country.

     It is very difficult for Americans to understand how devastating 50 years of communist control was to those satellite nations.  Even my brother, who knows the story, but hasn't visited Poland, doesn't fully understand.  As an example, East Germany, in spite of all the capital available from West Germany, has not recovered.  And Poland has no one to hand her money....

     I've been looking through my photos and papers, and have found several photos of my father in uniform in Italy.  Still searching for the Murnau photos. I did come across a memoir written by my mother's cousin. She had lived primarily in Krakow during the war, and had been a member of the underground movement as a student.  I have an excerpt where she describes her arrest by the NKVD at a friend's home, and the ensuing interrogation.  This took place in March of 1945, just after the Germans had pulled out of Poland. It is quite poignant to read first of her hope for a normal life, and then her realization that the horror brought by Hitler was simply being replaced by a different horror visited by the Soviets.

    To change topic - you mentioned packages sent from the US.  My parents were in similar position. Borderline poor by US standards, they were considered wealthy by their Polish family.  There is a book by Czeslaw Milosz (a Nobel prize winning Polish poet) titled The Captive Mind; in one passage he touches on these different perspectives:  "Yet a girl working in a [US] factory, who buys cheap mass-production models of a dress worn by a movie star, rides in an old but nevertheless private automobile, looks at cowboy films, and has a refrigerator at home, lives on a certain level of civilization that she has in common with others.  Whereas a woman on a collective farm near Leningrad cannot foresee the day when even her great-granddaughter will live on a level that approaches such an average."

     Even as late as the 1990s, my cousins did not have phones in their homes (lack of infrastructure), many did not own cars (lack of a banking system and mortgages or lines of credit), could not build a new home when the old one burned (no available building materials), could not get razor blades!   They simply could not purchase certain items because they were not offered for sale in Poland.  The primary problem was not lack of money, but lack of access.  The packages sent from the US were wonderful because you simply could not get those things in Poland, regardless of wealth, power, position.....

     This is changing rapidly, of course.  As the US and other nations see a marketing opportunity, the void is being filled.  This year, even the shelves of the tiny village store were filled with US brands of toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

Sorry for the rambling! Anna

Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 10:12 PM

 John,

I've been doing some digging, and here's an outline of what I've found:

My father was called up for service in March (not May, as I had said before) of 1939, participated in the defense of Poland, and was taken into custody 11-11-1939 in full officer's uniform, his other uniform having been destroyed during battle.  An apparently German issue POW card reads:

Kommandantum
Kriegsgefangen = Gtammlager II D
Stargard i. Bom.
15420

Only the 15420 is handwritten, and appears in later records as his POW number.  I believe Stargard was a temporary holding camp, though I have no proof of this.  My father was interred in Murnau for the remainder of the war.  The camp was liberated in May of 1945.  My father was issued a "Former Prisoner of War" identification card, in English, giving his name, rank, place of birth, etc.  He remained at Murnau until Jul 11, 1945, when he joined the 2nd Polish Corps in Italy.

I spoke to my brother about any discussions he may have had with my father about Murnau.  I thought that maybe since he was so much older and a boy, my father would have told him more about war time.  He said that my father generally did not want to discuss Murnau, but did say that he would not have survived if not for a few very good friends.

My father continued to serve in the Polish Resettlement Corps in England after the war and was discharged in Sept of 1948.  He then connected with the Committee for Education of Poles in Great Britain, where he took some refresher courses and began teaching in the schools in England.

  Murnau was liberated by the Americans.  The version I've heard, is that  the Germans were aware of the coming liberation, and wired the camp for detonation.  The prisoners also knew what was going on, and when allied planes were heard overhead, overpowered the German guards and opened the gates for the Americans.  My father, and many other Polish officers,  eventually served in Italy under British command.  The British may have record of Franciszek if he followed a similar path.

     Following the war, the Soviet government offered "amnesty" to all Poles beyond the borders due to war-time movements (this included refugees as well as military.)  However, a condition of return to Poland was to accept the new regime (communist.)  My father, and many, many other Poles refused the conditions and settled in England, where the Polish government in exile had spent the war.  There is a large and active Polish community in England - my uncles are quite active in it.

    Immediately following the war, and the "dropping of the iron curtain", the Soviet regime in Poland began persecuting veterans of Polish armed forces.  Many were arrested, and many, many were executed.  This continued into the 1950s.  There are several memorials to these victims, one large one at a front alter inside the Mariacki church in Gdansk.  I have photos of that memorial, if you'd like it.  At any rate, the refusal of my father (and apparently your uncle) to return to Poland may have saved their lives.

- Anna

From: "Michael Ollier (MCQ)" <ollierm@olap.org>
To: <buczek@mediaone.net>
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2001 4:14 PM
Subject: Murnau - Oflag VII

From: "Michael Ollier (MCQ)" <ollierm@olap.org>
Subject: Murnau - Oflag VII

Hi John:

My Father-in-Law, Aloysius (Albert) Schwark,  was in Murnau following the retreat to Warsaw in 1939.  He survived and moved to Canada shortly after the war.  He met his wife here, settled down and had three children.  I  married his daughter and now he has 4 grand children.  He was born on June 19, 1913. He is in declining health but, typically, in good spirits. He tells me every day is a bonus - a gift from God.

He rarely talks about Murnau but one day he described the liberation and was so moved he had to get up and leave the room.

He told us that the prisoners could hear the Americans in the town of Murnau driving through with their vehicles.  The Camp Officers told the prisoners that they were going to surrender to the Americans as soon as someone drove up from the town.

All the German personnel and the prisoners arrayed in ranks at the main gate.  The Germans were lined up outside with their officers.  Two unmarked cars pulled up in front of the gate and some men got out to speak with the Camp's commander.  Apparently, the men identified themselves as Gestapo and ordered the Commandant to march the prisoners away from the camp and the Americans in Murnau.  There was an argument but the camp commander refused to give the order.

The Gestapo began shooting at the Germans lined up.  In the process, several prisoners were hit as well.  At that moment, U.S. armoured cars appeared and opened fire on the Gestapo vehicles.  My Father-in-Law told me one round practically split one of the cars in two.  The Gestapo were killed.  The camp was liberated but in tragic circumstances.

Take Care, Mike Ollier

*********************************************************

OFLAG VIIA PRISONER IDENTIFICATION CARD

This card was issued to a female member of the "AK" (Home Army; Polish resistance), with the rank of "Szereg" (Sergeant), and is dated August 1945. Further entries indicate the P.W. Number, "Wehrkreis" (military area), VII, which, if this is in reference to Germany, is southern Bavaria, and the P.W. Camp, "Oflag VIIA, Murnau," inexplicably, a camp for officer rank prisoners of war (Offizierslager).

This item was found at <http://www.germanmilitaria.com/directsales/canadian_other/allies.html> and is for sale.

**************************************

Oflag VIIA (Murnau)
Tom Wodzinski
tomwodz@pcug.org.au
3/27/01 5:20:53 AM

Looking for anyone who would like to share information (and pictures) on Oflag VIIA in the southern Bavarian town of Murnau (during WW2). It was liberated on 29 April 1945, by the 116th Cavalry Recon Squadron, Combat Command A of the 12th Armored Division, XXI Corps of the American 7th Army. It housed approx. 5000 Polish officers captured in the September 1939 campaign, and later, POWs from the Warsaw uprising
 
 

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