POW Camp

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas and Frank we’re always opening new
sites around the state because there’s so much great history to interpret.
And one of the ones I’m really excited about is the POW Camp Museum at
Concordia. And you know the folks got excited about this in 1995 when they
were celebrating or marking the 50th anniversary of the closing of that
POW Camp, of course after World War II. And some of the POW’s came back.
You know we had POW camps all over the state. (Frank) Yea. We did. (Deb)
And folks hired them to work on their farms. And I know I have a lot of
friends, Rob Beamer being one, who grew up out near Abilene, who remembers
his father going to pick up labor from the POW camps and of course, our
young men were all fighting the Germans and we’re housing the Germans
here. And some of those Germans moved back to America. (Frank) Yea, there
are a lot of of letters home from the POW’s, the German POW’s and they
talked about how well they were treated in Kansas. (Deb) Much better I
think than their counterparts in the German POW camps in Europe. (Frank)
Yea, let’s take a look. The story of our state’s participation in World
War II is rich and varied, but no story is more compelling than that of
Camp Concordia. Hastily built 1943, this facility in Cloud County was a
model internment camp for German POWS. The more than 300 buildings
included a hospital, barracks, restaurants, fire department, and guard
towers, all deemed temporary. at its height, it housed 4,000 prisoners of
war. Troubles quickly arose with the dozens of Nazi officers among the
first group of prisoners. After a number of violent episodes, the Army
transferred 44 Nazi leaders away from Concordia. As measures of restoring
order to the camp, the library removed Nazi reading material and
instituted college coursework for prisoners under the jurisdiction of the
University of Kansas. Susan Sutton, board member, said that many of the
men put together four-year degrees through KU’s outreach program. In
addition, prisoners were made available as farm labor. Though some local
citizens were against prisoners being awarded freedom beyond the confines
of the camp, many farmers were thankful to have additional help,
especially with so many young locals away in service to their country.
With the passage of time, warm bonds formed between farm families and
prisoners. Camp Concordia is now a museum, with Paul Rimovsky spearheading
the effort and giving tours when possible. It is open by appointment. Call
785-243-4303 to arrange a visit. Give them at least a day’s notice.
(Frank) We’ll be back next week, I hope, if I don’t fall down the stairs.
So, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere…
(Both) Around Kansas.
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