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Please Mr. Soldier - returning 6 1/2 million slave workers back to their countries
In September 1945, as a U.S. Army enlisted soldier -- at the time serving with the Third Infantry Division, and stationed in Hersfeld, Germany -- I was assigned to a small escort detail to accompany a trainload of Polish DPs being returned to Poland from Kassel, Germany after having long been used as laborers in Germany proper to bolster Germany's war-time production efforts. Those unwilling passengers, knowing they were being sent to Russian-occupied Poland, were generally older males and females, accompanied by young children, crowded into dilapidated boxcars with all their belongings, and most dressed in many layers of clothing because they had insufficient luggage or other carrying containers.
As a result of lasting impressions that remained with me about that entire trip, years ago I wrote a detailed personal experience account of a particular incident (of many that took place during the assignment) that occurred at the end of the escort mission, an incident that later became meaningful to me and to others.
The following excerpt from that account sets the scene as to the "why" of
the protracted arduous train trip. The account tells some of the experiences
of the escort unit personnel (five enlisted soldiers and one officer),
the DPs of all ages, and a worrisome confrontation with heavily armed
Russian soldiers when entering Russian-occupied Czechoslovakia, with
still a long distance to travel to reach a designated delivery point
a short distance past the Czech-Polish border. The introduction to the
account follows: "Please, Mister Soldier . .
by Jim Bates
Author's Introduction: The following is a personal experience. Names of individuals have been fictionalized because I long ago forgot specific names. But everything else is real and is basically as it happened. The event was an extraordinary experience for me and has always remained vivid in my memory. However, like many 'things' that happen, the majority of people don't know they happened because little information was made public. No secrecy was intended; it's just that the thing was considered ordinary, just one more happening in the course of many ordinary occurrences. Thus, before I get into my own tale I ask you to read the following 'background information' that sets the scene for a thing that became one of my memorable life experiences.
Source: Come as a Conqueror / The United States Army's Occupation of Germany - 1945-1949; Franklin M. Davis, Jr. [Brigadier General, U.S. Army]; New York: The Macmillan Company, © 1967, Franklin M. Davis, Jr.
The management of displaced persons was a much greater problem and plagued the Army until well into 1950. The displaced persons, or DPs as everyone called them, were a pathetic and long-suffering group, a special category of human flotsam flung into the occupation by the war. The Joint Chiefs of Staff instructions to Eisenhower said, "Subject to military security and the interests of the individuals concerned, you will release all persons found within your zone who have been detained or placed in custody on grounds of race, nationality, creed or political opinions and treat them as displaced persons." The task, so simply stated, was enormous.
The DPs were primarily the forced labor the Germans had recruited wherever their armies went, those unfortunates snatched from their homes and communities the length and breadth of Europe to be slave workers in the factories, farms, and cities of Germany, manpower dredged up under the sword to replace the German manpower drained off by the war. Letts, Balts, Danes, Poles, Dutch, French, Ukrainians, Jews - they represented every state and segment of Europe. Because they were so plainly surviving victims of Nazi inhumanity, the DPs were a moral charge of the Allies, the subject of every possible effort to restore them to a useful role in postwar society.
The Allied armies advancing into Germany in early 1945 had released almost six and a half million DPs from slavery and close to four million had been repatriated by a magnificent rail, highway, and air movement managed by the Army during the summer of 1945. There remained close to two million in Germany, and these were being augmented by a stream of refugees from areas of Soviet control in East Germany, Poland, and the Balkans. Added to the German prisoners of war already on hand, the Army was dealing with massive numbers of people who were primarily public charges of the United States. The handling of displaced persons involved in some manner nearly every element of the occupation forces.
The number of DPs in American care was reduced to just under a half million by November 1945, as a result of the heavy summer repatriation,... My hope would be to make use of the web site to perhaps locate information. e-mail: Jim Bates / USA
Windsor Locks, Connecticut 06096