Camp Reports – Muencheberg

Transcript from copy held at US National Archives.

Source Document: US National Archives Washington (NARA) ; RG 84 Records of Foreign Service Posts ; Diplomatic Posts – Great Britain – Volume 0763

Report of Visit made by Surgeon Karl Ohnesorg U.S. Navy and Drs. Taylor and McCarthy to the Internment camp at Muencheberg on April 24th 1916.

This camp was visited and inspected by us on Monday, April 24th, 1916. Large brick warehouses situated in the village itself were used for the purpose of housing the prisoners of war. Our visit was unannounced.

Location and description.

The camp is located in the town of Müncheberg and is surrounded on three sides by the houses of the village and on the north it abuts on neighbouring farm land. The total camp area is approximately four acres, quadrilateral in shape. Three sides of this square area are occupied by these large brick buildings. One of these buildings has been remodeled and an extra storey added and equipped for comfortably housing one thousand prisoners. At the time of our visit it had not yet been occupied. At the north end of the square a brick building is used for a kitchen and the bathing and disinfection plant. An adjoining brick building is used as a cantine, assembly room and theatre. A separate enclosure at the eastern end of the compound contains four wooden barracks for hospital purposes.

Three separate latrines were distributed in the southern half of the enclosure. The enclosure was divided into three separate areas by wire barriers. One of these areas was used for exercises, sports, etc. A total of 3027 prisoners of war are attached to this camp, of whom £213 were detailed for various working camps. The British

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numbered 105 of whom 48 were in working camp. At the time of our visit a total of 813 prisoners were confined in the camp.

Housing. The prisoners wore housed according to nationalities. Those long brick buildings were divided into rooms, approximately 30 by 30 feet, with a very high

placed ceiling, two small windows on either side of the door at the entrance, three small skylights in the roof. The walls wore whitewashed and the rooms heated by steam. The bunks were in three tiers. They occupied almost the free entire floor area, thus leaving a very small space.

The bedding consisted of the usual straw sacking, with blankets. The room was not overcrowded, the ventilation was good, provided the skylights could remain open.

The triple tier system gave a rather disorderly appearance to the barracks, and the general impression was one of lack of order and cleanliness. There were no vermin and the men said they had no complaints to make in reference to their quarters.

Clothing. All the men had sufficient clothes and shoes.

Food. We were present at the midday meal, which consisted of bread and a soup containing blood sausage, potatoes, Sauer-kraut and Kohlrüben. The soup was well seasoned and palatable. The men on questioning stated that less than thirty of the British, ”fetched the food” at all, and these relied on the camp food only in part. The majority of men subsisted almost entirely on supplies received from England were

except that potatoes nearly always taken when served boiled, apart from the soup ration. The men who subsisted on the camp ration, stated the food was satisfactory.

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General sanitation, The general sanitation was good. The three latrines were of concrete sinks, draining into sub-cisterns. These were emptied daily by a portable excavating apparatus. They were free from odor, clean, and apparently well cared for. The camp water was that of the Tillage, frequent taps were placed about the camp and the use of the water was unrestricted. Three housed equipped with wash tubs and facilities for heating water were available for laundry purposes. The bathing facilities were very good. The bath house was a large room, provided with showers and adjoining rooms for dressing. Adjoining this was a steam disinfection plant for clothing etc., Weekly baths were obligatory, but more frequent use of the bath was permitted. The health and general condition of the prisoners were very good. There were none in the hospital. The camp hospital consisting of three barracks above noted, was well equipped, airy and clean. The German sanitary corps assisted by orderlies selected from the prisoners of war personnel comprised was

the nursing staff. A Gorman surgeon was in charge and assisted by a Russian surgeon. Extra diet was ordered when necessary.

The senior British N.C.O. Sergeant H.Mitchell, Grenadier Guards, stated that there was often a delay in receipt of incoming mail. When this matter was discussed with the adjutant of the camp, he informed us that all mail was censored at the neighbouring camp at Zossen. The reason that this was not done in the camp, was due to the fact that there were not enough translators to warrant placing a censoring office in this camp.

The packages are sent direct to the camp, where they are examined and distributed. The majority of the packages

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Are sent by organisations rather than by the families of the men concerned. They contain a more or less uniform set of supplies, and in general supply & sufficient amount of bread and butter to entirely cover the needs of the individual receiving them.

A shoe shop and tailor shop was part of the equipment of the camp.

The space available for exercise is insufficient, new barracks have been installed, which when filled will add 1000 prisoners to the present number, and under such circumstances the limitation of space for exercise will be all the more serious. Upon representations to this effect to the adjutant of the camp, accompanied by a questioning as to the enlargement of the grounds, he replied that there was no available additional ground. A lack of proper facilities for exercise, games, etc. is one of the most serious faults of this camp. In this sense of the camp is overcrowded. The men were questioned without the hearing of the German officers and there were no serious complaints registered. The men desired some means for cooking the supplies sent from home. They previously had had spirit lamps, but recently the supply of spirit was curtailed. Upon representation to the authorities an arrangement was promised for the cooking of their own food.

Of the 48 British here confined ten of them had recently returned to the camp from a working camp in Tegel.

A report of this working camp was recently made by Surgeon K.Ohnesorg. They were shortly to be detailed for a working camp in Russian Poland, the work to consist in operating the motor plows which they had assisted in constructing

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at Vagal. The representative of the Commandant stated that the 15 British mentioned In the report of Surgeon K. Ohnesorg who were employed in a coal yard in the Pauletrasse in Berlin were to be withdrawn from this work and returned to the camp and in the future prisoners of war would not he detailed for work with this coal company.

Müncheberg is not considered as a permanent camp. It is more of a clearing house for working camps. The fact that it is not a camp built for the specific purpose of confining prisoners of war, is to a certain extent responsible for the general impression of overcrowding, etc.

Mccarthy, Taylor, Ohnesborg


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