Camp Reports – Oranienburg and Gransee

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 a visit of inspection of Surgeon Karl Ohnesorg and Dr. A.E. Taylor to working camps for British prisoners of war at Oranienburg and Gransee on May 5, 1916.

Seventy-six British prisoners from Doeberitz were found employed in a smelting works at Oranienburg. This plant is occupied with recovering the last traces of copper and lead from tailings and residues, of other smelting operations.

The copper is recovered electrolytically; the lead is recovered by straight smelting. In the copper house and around the yard, men are employed in 12 hour shifts. In the lead house, the work is done in 8 hour shifts, seven men being employed at one time in the lead house, Each man works one Sunday in three when engaged in yard work, one Sunday in seven when occupied in the copper house, while the men who work in the lead house are off duty 48 day hours each 3 weeks and work every third Sunday. German workers (men and women) labour side by side with the prisoners in all departments of the plant. Wages for work in yard are M 5.25 weekly and in copper and lead departments M 5.75 weekly. The men stated that they had no complaint to make against the work.

In the lead plant, the hands, feet and faces of the men who pour the molten lead into moulds, were properly protested. Careful questioning failed to elicit any evidence of the occurrence of lead poisoning and the men stated that they understood the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning, and that no such cases had developed during the twelve months they had been is the plant. A total shift is made every seven weeks, so that one group of men work in the lead plant seven weeks at a time.

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The prisoner in the barracks are in charge of Sergeant Abraham of the Cold Stream Guards. He and the men stated that they had no complaints to make against the guards, foremen or employers, who treated them kindly. The employers stated, through one of the directors of the plant, that the men did satisfactory work and observed good discipline.

The men are housed in three different rooms, which are well lighted and ventilated. The bedding was sufficient, the bunks and the barracks in general were clean and the men stated that they had no complaints to make against the barracks. Facilities for shower baths were available whenever the men desired the use of them, Particular cleanliness was enjoined upon the men working in the lead house. Breakfast was served at 5am. and consisted of cocoa and bread; at 8 o’clock bread and Jam was served; dinner was eaten at noon; coffee served at 4 and tea with bread at 6.

The diet follows the menu of the War Department, except that during the past three weeks the supply of meat has been below the allotted amount. 500 grams of black bread were issued to each prisoner, though the diet of the working prisoner is stated to contain 400 grams. The men complained that they do not like the food cooked together into a thick soup and served for the noon day meal. They especially disliked the bread. The men receive mail and food packages regularly, each man receiving one or two packages of food weekly. The men protested that the food supplied by the authorities was not sufficient to support the work, thus compelling them to rely in part upon the food supplied from abroad. During the past few weeks cooked meat had been served but one day in six – (16 pounds for 76 men). On two other days some corned beef was pieced in the soup; on the two fish days of each week the

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men have been served salted fish Instead of fresh fish, and most of the man refused the salted fish.

The men had good and sufficient clothing. On Sunday. the men not at work were taken to an adjacent field to play football. The water closets were found in satisfactory condition. The man complained that the most convenient toilet was closed at night. The director agreed to have this toilet kept open at night in the future.

The men looked in good health, they had good colour, they stated that they were in good weight and had no complaints to make on the score of health.

At Gransee 98 British prisoners of war were found quartered in a Schützenhaus and engaged in excavation to secure earth to make a fill. These men have worked here over one year The work consists in loading earth on cars which are then drawn over a construction railway to a fill about a mile distant, where the earth is dumped. The pay is based on a number of cubic meters handled. the average has M 1.80 per day. The man stated that they had no complaints to make against the work itself. The men were quartered in one large room about 100 x 60 x 20 feet, and two adjoining small rooms, the men stated that the quarters were warm in winter, well ventilated at all times, and the beds comfortable. The latrines provided ware satisfactory and kept in good condition.

Breakfast consisted of coffee and bread. The noon meal consisted of a thick soup of mead, potato and vegetable; the

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evening meal of tea and bread. The men stated that they had no complaint to make against the amount of bread and other food, but they have not learned to like the food. Most of the men receive packages of food regularly from home. Mall was stated to be usually delayed in delivery, because of being held up at Döberitz. On Sundays the men were permitted considerable freedom, and they usually played football. The men stated that they felt themselves In good health and recognised the advantage of out-of-door occupation.

The men complained that when first sent to Gransee they had been told that they would be kept there but a short time, whereas in fact the detail there adorned to them to be permanent. They complained that lights wore not allowed in the barracks after 9; this regulation, the guard stated, had been made because of fear of fire in the barracks filled with inflammable materials. The contractor was urged to provide the men with a greater variety in the diet, and he agreed to do this with the advent of spring vegetables tables.

These visits were made without previous notification of intention of visit and conversations with the prisoners were held outside the hearing of the guards.

Karl Ohnesorg


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