While picture postcards of German prisoners of war in Canada are not particularly uncommon, examples from certain camps can prove more difficult to find (for more on PoW picture postcards, see my earlier post here). In my experience, images from Camp 100 at Neys, Ontario are among those harder to find. I was therefore quite happy to obtain this image recently. Depicting ten prisoners and their dog on a sandy beach with Lake Superior in the background, this postcard was sent by Enemy Merchant Seaman (EMS) Karl Hannover to his family in Germany in 1942.
Karl Hannover arrived in Canada in late June or early July 1940 and was likely first interned At Camp R in Red Rock, Ontario. However, he was soon transferred to Camp Q at Monteith, Ontario and, on November 25, 1941, he was transferred to Camp 100 (Neys) where he would remain for two years.
Located on the shore of Lake Superior, Camp 100 at Neys, Ontario, was arguably one of the most scenic locations for an internment camp. One of two purpose-built internment camps in Northern Ontario (the other being Camp X, later Camp 101, at Angler), Camp W (later renamed Camp 100) opened in January 1941 and initially held about 450 German officers and other ranks sent to Canada from the United Kingdom. By the end of the year, these men were transferred to other camps and replaced by about 650 civilian internees and enemy merchant seamen (EMS). The camp temporarily closed from December 1943 to August 1944 and re-opened as a “Black” camp – a higher-security camp primarily intended for pro-Nazis and troublemakers. The Neys Internment Camp finally closed at the end of April 1946.
An artist, Hannover submitted a design for consideration as the 1943 Christmas cards printed and distributed by the War Prisoners’ Aid of the YMCA but it does not appear his design was chose for, in November 1943, he and the rest of the EMS at Neys were relocated to Camp 23 (Monteith). In March 1946, Hannover was transferred to the United Kingdom, likely returning to Germany the following year.
Camp 100 was abandoned and dismantled in the late 1940s and the site was eventually re-forested. In 1964, the former camp location and the surrounding location became part of Neys Provincial Park. Few traces of the camp remain today although one can still find pieces of scrap metal scattered throughout the site and you can still make out the outlines of some of the building foundations. Park staff also run regular tours of the site throughout the summer months.
This is a bit of a longshot, but does anyone happen to recognize the individual second from the left? He looks extremely familiar but I have been unable to place him. The picture was taken at Camp 44 at Grande Ligne, Quebec, likely in the Summer of 1943. Apart from the fact that he is a Leutnant and a recipient of the Iron Cross, First Class and a Flying Clasp, I don’t have any more information about him.
The sender of the photograph, Oberzahlmeister Gustav Schneider, is third from the left.
Last week I posted about “Real Photo” picture postcards sent home by PoWs interned in Canada. Today, I’d like to focus on one of those postcards and share a little more about one of the men featured in it.
In the seventy years that have passed since these postcards were mailed, the provenance of many of the postcards in my collection has been lost. While the bonus of postcards is that usually the sender’s name is on the reverse, they didn’t usually need to point out to their friends and family who they were, leaving me to try and determine who they are by their uniforms and ranks. Sometimes this works, othertimes, like in this case, it doesn’t. While I may never identify “Malte Sacolowsky” in the photograph below, the digital age in which we live in has provided me with a bit of his life history.
The folks at the U-Boat Archive have made many of the British interrogation reports of captured U-Boats available online. It was in one of these reports that I found Sacolowksy.
German U-boat U-501 left Norway on August 7, 1941, en route to its first war, and subsequently last, war patrol. On September 5, 1941, U-501 sunk a Norwegian merchant ship but its success was short-lived. On September 10, 1941, south of Greenland, the Canadian corvette HMCS Chambly picked up U-501 with sonar and attached the u-boat with depth charges. The sub was damaged and the captain decided to scuttle. HCMS Moose Jaw then unsuccessfully attempted to ram her as she surfaced. A Canadian crew attempted to board the submarine but was unsuccessful in its attempt to seize any documents from the sub before she sunk. Thirty-seven German crewman were captured in what was the Royal Canadian Navy’s first U-Boat “kill” during the Battle of the Atlantic.
The interrogation report of U-501 describes the crew:
Among the thirty-seven prisoners was nineteen year-old Malte Sacolowsky. The interrogation report, while not mentioning him specifically by name, was one of the “young midshipmen” described below:
Sacolowksy eventually ended up in Camp 30 in Bowmanville, Ontario but what happened to him after that, I’m not sure. Regardless, I find postcards – these seemingly insignificant artifacts – to be fantastic sources for research. Placing the men pictured in the photograph into context provides us with a better sense of just who these men were. Now to find out what they thought about internment in Canada…
The rest of the interrogation report can be found here.
More information about U-501 is available here at uboat.net.
Continuing with the topic of Prisoner of War mail, today’s post deals with the picture postcard, a popular form of communication between PoWs and their friends and family back home.
Picture postcards are exactly what they sound like: postcards with a picture on them. As I’ve mentioned before, these photos not only allowed PoWs to show their families they were alive and well but they also served as a form of propaganda in that they demonstrated that Canada was able to treat their PoWs well within the terms of the 1929 Geneva Convention.
Prisoner of War picture postcards had to meet fairly strict regulations. First, only photographers authorized by the Department of Defence were allowed to take these photographs and they subsequently had to be censored and approved for production (to prevent any unwanted information to be sent to Germany). Once approved, these pictures were generally made available for purchase. Each of the photographs were numbered, presumably allowing the PoWs to keep track of which image they were in.
While the subjects of the pictures were the PoWs themselves, there were a fairly wide range of photographs taken. For example, see the next three photographs. While the above picture shows a group of PoWs in their uniforms, they were also seen in a more “relaxed style” – I don’t think that shirt is regulation!
Sports teams and bands were also featured in photographs, such as the one seen below.
Officers, kept in separate camps from their enlisted counterparts, were also offered the opportunity to send picture postcards. However, unlike their comrades, them seem to have been afforded the privilege of having their pictures taken in smaller groups and in more scenic settings.
While the pictures were produced as postcards, some PoWs never sent their pictures home, instead preferring to keep them as souvenirs of their time in Canada. It also seems that some of these photographs, primarily those depicting funerals, camp life, or general views of the camp, were not intended to be mailed and were strictly sold or distributed as souvenirs. The photo below is one of these, kept as a souvenir and brought back to Germany after the war.
That’s it for this post – hope you enjoyed it!
Picture postcards were quite popular with PoWs as it offered them a chance to show their families how they were doing as they waited out the end of the war in Canada. As these photographs were taken by photographers approved by the Canadian military, they also served an important propaganda by demonstrating that the prisoners were being properly fed, clothed, and housed.
This particular photograph was taken at Camp 132 in Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1943. Both Heer (Army) and Luftwaffe (Air Force) are present and the tropical (light-coloured) uniforms worn by a number of the PoWs suggest that some, if not most, of these men were captured in North Africa.
The sender, Heinz Gummert, is not identified in the photo but was a young Luftwaffe Obergefreiter (Lance Corporal) believed to have been captured in North Africa. The postcard, addressed to his father in Germany, simply states “Greetings to you from your son, Heinz!” Coincidentally, the PoW in the back row, third from the left, was a PoW at Riding Mountain but he too remains unidentified.
I know little about Gummert but, a few months after this photograph was mailed, he was working at a lumber camp near Hemlo, Ontario. In mid-April, he and two comrades attempted to escape from the camp. The Winnipeg Free Press of April 15, 1944 briefly described their capture:
“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police here revealed today that three German prisoners of war who escaped Friday from a prison camp, at Hemlo in northern Ontario were recaptured in the same general vicinity late yesterday. The prisoners were Robert Traut, 31, Heinz Gummert, 21, and Kurt Senmholz, 35. The three were former members of the Nazi air force.”
Hopefully some further research will uncover Gümmert’s identity and his fate following the failed escape.
As some of you know, I collect almost anything related to PoWs in Canada and among the most numerous objects in my collection are PoW postcards and pictures. For most of the war, PoWs were authorized to write up to four postcards and two letters a month and were allowed to receive unlimited quantities of mail and parcels. As this was the only method to keep in touch with friends and family in Germany, letter-writing took up a prominent portion of a PoWs’ recreation time and many eagerly awaited news from home.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of PoW mail was the picture postcard. Taken by pre-approved photographers, these photos not only allowed PoWs to show their families they were alive and well but they also served as a form of propaganda in that they demonstrated that Canada was able to treat their PoWs well within the terms of the 1929 Geneva Convention.
Today, I’m going to show a postcards that I added to my collection this summer. This particular postcard was sent by Maschin Obergefrieter. Helmut Schöttler, who was a member of the Kreigsmarine (Navy). The reverse of the photographs provide some, but very limited, identification information. This includes their name, PoW number, rank, branch of service, and the camp they were interned in.
The above photograph was taken at Camp 21 at Espanola, Ontario. Camp 21 opened in 1940 and was located on the site of the former Abitibi Power and Paper Co. Mill. Of the ten PoWs in the photo, at least six are Navy while it appears there are at least two Army personnel and one Paratrooper. The sender of the photo, Helmut Schöttler, is the somewhat unhappy individual in the white Navy uniform.
As I’m very interested in the stories of individual PoWs and how they experienced internment in Canada, I’m always looking for more information on these PoWs. Unfortunately for me, the vast majority of personnel files of PoWs were destroyed after the war which usually means that I can’t really find out a whole lot about these men.
This time, however, was an exception! Thanks to the hard work of some very dedicated individuals, the history of German U-Boats is among the best documented aspects of the German military online and a quick search revealed that Helmut Schöttler served on U-93. Launched in June 1940, U-93 completed seven patrols and sunk a total of eight ships. Her luck, however, ended in January 1942, when she was discovered by a British destroyer and sunk (thanks to the dedicated volunteers at uboat.net, I can even see Schöttler’s final voyage aboard U-93!).
Forty of the forty-six crewman were picked up by British ships, including Schöttler. Following their interrogation in Britain (see report here), many, if not all, of the new prisoners were sent to Canada for the duration of the war. Coincidentally, this is my second picture postcard of a U-93 crewman; the first was sent by Hans Alsleben and can be seen here.