May 31, 1945
German prisoner for three months
Corporal Richard Aho is happy to again be in Two Harbors with his wife and parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Aho, after having been a prisoner of war in Germany for three months. He was serving in a tank corps with the 12th armored division when captured by the Germans Jan. 17 along the Rhine River.
He is in good health although the diet of turnip soup reduced his weight 75 pounds. Dick said that when his group was captured they were carefully searched for weapons, and valuables were taken from them, never to be returned. Then they were taken to a transient camp at Stalag VA where they were again searched and whatever of their clothing the Germans felt they could use was taken. If you become short of any article of wearing apparel or it wore out after that you were just out of luck. During the three months of Dick’s imprisonment, he was only once able to wash his clothing and then it was in cold water without soap.
This first camp was an old horse stable and 500 men had a room of about 70X30 feet. Two slept together in the bunks but some had to sleep on the cement floor. Part of them had old filthy blankets but a good many had no covering and the straw was so full of lice, they preferred sleeping on the bar boards of their bunks. During his internment Dick said he couldn’t say which was his chief discomfort, lice or hunger. The food was “Kraut juice” or turnip soup, made from turnips boiled in water. This with one loaf of bread for six men was served six days a week for the entire three months. On the seventh day they received their “iron rations,” a small piece of cheese with burnt barley-water coffee.
Each day they received food only twice, once the turnip soup, the next the barley-water coffee and bread. The soup was served in dirty old utility pails.
A week later about 120 were moved in crowded box cars to 11 B camp. They were in the sealed cars for four days. The incessant clamoring of the prisoners finally moved their guards to let them out twice during the four day trip. They could not all lie down at one time so took turns. As a result of their confinement and ration of one fourth of a loaf of bread for the trip, they suffered from dysentery, a constant ailment of prisoners in all German camps.
Dick said that if it had not been for the few Red Cross packages which were divided equally among them their agony would have been greater.
Their hopes of finding a better camp at 11 B were doomed; it was filthier and much larger. Many were sick with dysentery and suffering from wounds.
Moving to Hanover, Dick was assigned to a working commando group, 120 men, eight of whom were his buddies who somehow managed to stick together and they cleaned bricks. Here they had a little thicker soup and it was slightly cleaner as the group being smaller they were able to take better care of the premises and themselves.