Birthday Behind Barbed Wire

Having recently celebrated my 26th birthday, I can’t help think how differently this PoW celebrated his. Unfortunately, I do not know his name (might be Hans), but this individual celebrated his birthday in 1943 as a PoW in Canada, likely in in Medicine Hat or Lethbridge.

This card was made by one (Fredl) or more of his friends and demonstrates the creativity and talent of PoWs living behind barbed wire. I’m not sure what the significance of the “SS” is, possibly initials?



With text and images cut from newspapers and magazines, the left shows an ensemble of “What I wish you” (“Was ich dir Wünsche”) and “What I do not” (“und was nicht”). The start contrast between girls, money, music, and “longer hair” (not sure about that one!) and war, the army, gray hair, and false teeth (just can’t make this up!) gives a sense of what PoWs were thinking as they idled the hours in internment camps.


The card also included a poem (I’m still working on a translation) and photos of what I’m assuming are his friends.



The portraits have been cut from PoW group photographs intended as postcards. The names on the back include (?), Hans Lehmann, Franz Schell, Alfred Glatz, Gerhard Schmales (?) ,and Alfred Gottinger.


Published by Michael O'Hagan

Historian studying German Prisoners of War in Canada during the Second World War

3 thoughts on “Birthday Behind Barbed Wire

    1. I had considered that but I don’t believe S.S. in this case refers to the SS. With the styling of the letters, the small number of SS PoWs in Canada, and none of those pictured are wearing SS uniforms, I still am leaning toward the likelihood of S.S. being initials, possibly those of the first name on the back of the photos.

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