POW camp (Oflag) VI B Doessel
 
Allied air photo of the camp of 1942
Air Photo Library, Keele University, England
 
South-west of the village in 1939 the Wehrmacht intended to build a military airfield. The already erected quarters for the workers were converted into a POW camp for commissioned officers (Oflag) VI B. First French later British prisoners were put into the camp.
 
 
General view of the camp to the east
 

Between 1942 and the liberation by American troups on April 1st 1945 the camp was exclusively occupied with polish prisoners. At times up to 2296 commissioned officers and 287 non-commissioned officers and ranks who serving as orderlies were living in the camp. Outside the POW camp there was a second camp for russian forced labour convicts.

According to the Geneva convention it was not allowed to force commissioned officers to work,. so they had much free time to pass. By the engagement of some university teachers among the prisoners an outstanding cultural life developed including a camp university, symphonic and chamber orchestras, choir and theatre. Sports, artistic and religious activities were cultivated, national and regiment holidays were celebrated.

Despite all these possibilities the POW camp was no paradise: long-standing captivity in a pure men’s company resulted inevitably in problems. The worry about families and friends was a heavy mental burden. Above all the initially sufficient supply got drastically worse towards the end of the war.

 
 

above: sports fields on the camp area
 
below: relief of the german soldiers on guard
 

The 20th of September 1943 47 prisoners escaped through a tunnel. 37 among them were caught again and executed in Buchenwald KZ. The 27th of September 1944 a british air bomb hit the camp that was mistaken for Noerde railway junction. 90 prisoners lost their lives. The victims were buried on the village cemetery of Doessel. There the graves of 141 polish prisoners who died during their captivity remind to the camp.
 

Lining up of the prisoners on the parade ground
 

After the liberation former forced labour convicts of several nations moved into the camp. The village population was called on to services by the British military government. Later the barracks were pulled down for the most part.

The buildings of the camp administration and the nearby barracks however remained until today. First they served as a transit camp for fugitives from East Germany, later the camp became a garrison of the Belgian and the German army. In 1948 the villagers built their community hall from the bricks of the the actual POW camp barracks.

After the war in Poland the memory of the POW camp Oflag VI B is kept alive by former prisoners through the „Club of the Doesselers“ (Klub Doesselczykow). On their return several officers became outstanding persons of political life in Poland. Their most outstanding Adam Rapacki was polish foreign secretary between 1956 and 1968.

In 1980 on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of their liberation former prisoners had for the first time returned to the site of the POW camp and the cemetary in Doessel. As a present they brought along a copy of the Black Madonna of Tchenstochaw which carried a dedication of Cardinal Wyszynski, Primas of Poland.

 

Commemoration of the former inmates
on the Doessel cemetary

At their second visit on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the fatal bomb attack a concrete block from a former camp watch tower was erected as a monument at the site where once had been the eastern entrance to the camp. This block contains the inscription „Reconciliation - Peace - Freedom 1944 - 1984“.
 
 

 

 
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