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 on a visit of inspection of Surgeon Karl Ohnesorg and Dr. D.J. McCarthy to working camps for Prisoners of War at Heidemühl, Alt Welzow, Neu Welzow, Maria I, and Marga III at Senftenberg.
All of the above mentioned camps are situated within a radius of forty kilometres of Senftenberg, which is the centre of the so called Braun coal or lignite industry of this district. Extensive deposits of this soft type of coal are found throughout this district. The coal exists in layers of varying degrees of depth and surface acreage, and situated as a rule about thirty or forty feet below the surface. The deposits are covered by sand layers. The type of mining is the open type, i.e. the sand is removed from the surface and transported in cars to some distance away from the pits. The lignite is then dug out and transported to large factory-buildings where it is pressed into Brickettes. The British prisoners in all the plants visited were employed at the same type of work. They were never employed in the factories, nor were any of them employed in the actual handling of the coal. They were all employed in the “tipping” of upsetting of the sand cars in the excavating process.
A few of the men were employed as engineers or train men on the sand trains.
While the type of work is the same in all of the plants visited, and while the conditions of housing, food etc. were practically the same in all the camps, the different coal pits were under different owners and different management.
In the different mines there were some 3200 prisoners employed, 200 of whom were British, the rest French and Russians. British prisoners of war are employed in the following
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Marge III 20 British
Marla I 15 ”
Heidemühl 108 “
Alt Weltzow 60 “
Neu Welzow 48 “
Zeissholz 15 “
Emanual I 28 “
Paley (Henriette) 20 “
In one of the camps Marga III – we had a conference with two of the directors. They expressed a sympathetic attitude towards the men and were disposed to make the conditions of work, housing, etc.as comfortable as possible. They stated that the hours of work were the same as those of the German workmen.
Marga III (Senftenberg). In this camp there were 103 prisoners of whom 18 were British. They were quartered in a compound about 2 miles away from the pits to which they rode back and forth each day on a train provided for this purpose. The British were quartered together in the barrack of a simple gable type 21 x 42 feet with a wall height of 10 feet, apex 15 feet. There were three large double windows. Army cots of double tier type, with the usual straw mattresses and blankets were provided. The place was heated by a furnace stove which was also used by the men for cooking purposes. The kitchen was attached to a good canteen on the grounds. We sampled the midday meal and found it to consist of bread, and a meat and vegetable soup. The men at work in the pits
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do not return for the midday meal at the camp. The same food is served to them near their work, where a place is provided for preparing it. The food is prepared by women cooks and the condition of the kitchen was satisfactory. The men largely relied on their packages.
The hours of work were
6 – 8.30
for this they were paid 75 pfgs per day. Some of the men worked every third Sunday from 6 a.m.to 11 or 12, for this they are paid a full days wages of 75 pigs.
They are permitted to go out on Sundays for two hours.
The latrines were of the trench type and well cared for.
Shower baths were provided. The men might bathe every night if they so desired.
Camp at Mine Maria I (Senftenberg).
There were 12 British at this camp. They were housed together in a brick building in a room 15 feet 3 30 and x 15 feet. There was 2 large windows and good ventilation. A range stove was used for heating and could also be used for cooking purposes. The beds were of the army cot type, supplied with straw mattresses and blankets. The men were all supplied with sufficient clothing and shoes. There were no bathing facilities at this place; the guard however promised that bathing facilities would be provided at the factory where shower baths were available.
The food was cooked in the compound, in a clean kitchen by women cooks.
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The latrines were of the trench type and satisfactory.
The hours of work as follows:
Up at 5 a. m. Breakfast of bread, coffee, cheese and fish Start work 6 a.m. to 8.30
8.30 to 9 rest and second breakfast from packages work 9 to 12
Dinner 12 to 1 meat soup and bread
work 1 to 7 every day except Saturday, when work stops at 6.
Supper meal Soup, Potatoes, fish, bread.
They are required to work occasionally on Sundays. They are paid 75 pfgs per day, paid at the end of the week. 75 pfgs are paid for a short days work on Sunday. They are only required to work on Sundays in the event of an emergency.
For the extra work from 6-7 p.m. they are paid an extra 80 pfgs.
The matter of the extra hour of work from 6 to 7 p.m. was taken up with the authorities at this camp. We were assured that this would be attended to, as work beyond 6 p.m. was only permitted in the event of some emergency or unfinished work.
The men complained of a delay not only of letters but more particularly of their packages; that the packages had not been delivered for four weeks, until the day previous to our visit, and that these packages postmarked March 27th were not received until May 2nd. The bread comlng through from Switzerland came regularly.
Camp at Neu Weltzow.
Two hundred and thirty prisoners of war were found at this camp of who, 48 ware British. The 48 British were housed in three rooms in the barracks. There were 16 men
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In a room 18 x 84 foot, 12 foot wall 15 foot apex height. The large doorway and two large windows provided sufficient ventilation. A range stove was provided for heating and cooking purposes. The beds were double tier bunks, built in. The lower bunk was 1 foot from the floor, the upper bunk 4 feet above this. The mattresses were of the straw type and the men had sufficient bed coverings, clothes and shoes.
The food was cooked in a clean kitchen by women cooks. We saw the evening meal prepared. The food supplied was bread, coffee, fish for breakfast, for dinner a meat soup and bread five days in the week and a fish chowder the other 2 days, for supper a potato puree or boiled potatoes (5 to 7 potatoes per man) salt herring or cheese, margarine and bread.
Packages and mail arrived regularly.
Practically all of the men in this camp reported at the kitchen for the evening meal while we were there. Bathing is permitted twice a week, hot and cold showers are provided.
The hours of work are as follows:
6 – 8.30
4.15 – 6
Per this they are paid 75 pfgs per day, paid at the end of each week.
Sunday work is not as a rule required. Two men acting as engineers of the trains occasionally work on Sundays, for which they are paid a full day’s wage for a part of
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a day’s work. The latrines were of the trench type,
In a new brick building clean, and altogether satisfactory.
Wm. Cannon was found at this camp suffering from a recurrent abscess of the lower jaw as a result of an old gunshot wound. We suggested that he be sent to the hospital in Berlin for detailed care and treatment. We were assured that this would be done.
Camp at Alt-Weltzow.
Sixty British were found at this Camp. Thirty men were housed in wood barracks 30 feet x 22 feet by 9 feet wall 12 feet apex. Three windows on either side, and & large door way gave ample ventilation. The beds here were built in bunks occupying the centre of the barrack with a free area next to the windows in either side where tables were placed and where the men took their food. The bunks were in double tiers, with straw mattresses, sufficient blanket coverings etc. The men were all well applied with clothing, underclothing and shoes.
The food was prepared in a clean kitchen, by women cooks, where the food was also prepared for a large number of Russian civil interned, quartered in a neighbouring building. The latrines were of the trench type, of good construction, clean, and altogether satisfactory. A large tiled wash room for laundry and washing purposes, is supplied with plenty of hot water. The laundry of the men is however done at the expense of the company. This is also true of the other camps visited. In addition to these bathing and washing faci-
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lities, the men are permitted to take shower baths once a week.
The working hours are the following:
6 – 8.30 a.m.
Night shift 6 to 8.50 p.m.
9 – 12 p.m.
Sunday work is not required except in emergencies, which do not happen oftener than once in every month or two, when a few of the men may be required to work. For this they are paid extra. They receive 75 pfgs for the day’s work payable at the week end. The men are permitted to go outside the compound for walks, football etc. on Sunday, under guard.
Corporal John Cullen, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, was found here and he reported that the men had no cause for complaint, that they were well treated both by the employer and the guard. Packages and mail were however much delayed. Packages came in a month late and then rather irregularly. Packages postmarked March 20 said March 30th arrived May 2nd. Corporal Cullen reported to us that one of the British prisoners of war, a Corporal Minchell had a short time previously been placed under arrest and transferred to Spandau on the charge of assaulting two members of the German guard. He is to be tried by court martial upon this charge. Corporal Cullen Informed us that Minchell is a man of irascible temperament, hasty in action and was under the influence of alcohol when assault occurred.
Camp at Heidemühl.
At this camp 110 British were found. They. were all housed together in wooden said brick barracks. In one barrack
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30 ft x 60ft x 10 ft wall, 15 ft apex height, 45 men were quartered. The beds were of the iron army barrack type, in double tiers, with straw mattresses. They were arranged in the centre of the barrack with tables along either wall near the windows.
In another barrack 17 men were lodged. The latrines were of the trench type in good order. The food was prepared by women cooks. The kitchen was clean.
The hours of work were as follows:
Day Shift Night Shift
6 a.m.to 8.30 6 to 8.30 p.m.
9 to 12 9 to 12
1 to 6 p.m. 1 to 6 a.m.
For this they were paid 75 pfgs per day, paid at the end of the week.
They were expected to work on Sundays, when emergencies required, but this happens only very occasionally. For a part or whole day on Sunday they are paid 75 pfgs extra.
The men are permitted to use hot and cold shower baths once a week.
Corporal Charles Harden, Royal West Kent Regt., was found at this camp and he reported that the men had no reasonable complaint to make as to their treatment by the present guard or their food. This camp was the only one of the five visited where the relations between the prisoners of war and the civilian manager of the works was not harmonious. He was overbearing and his attitude towards his prisoner of war employers was not what it should be. Representation of this was made to the Feldwebel in charge of the guard. He recognized this and said he would do his best towards adjusting matters and also informed us that he had
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Already cautioned the manager.
A better water supply should be installed and mention of this was also made.
In all of the above camps a canteen containing cigars, cigarettes. tin food stuffs, etc. was provided for the men. They were also permitted to buy beer.
Forty-three British found here had only been in this camp since the past three weeks. They had been transferred from the city of Berlin gas plant mentioned in the report submitted by Dr. Ohnesorg April 4, 1916.