JF Ptak Science Books Post 2693
I found this unexpected leaflet this morning, the title of which is enough to stop anyone: A Grand Concert by the Massed Bands & Choirs of Stalag VIII B. 80 Bandsmen, 80 Choristers. PRISON CAMP MUSIC and the Part Played by the Red Cross & St. John. It was printed in London in 1944, and printed by by the Red Cross and St. John War Organization and is a leaflet (20x13cm, 4pp, single sheet folded vertically) which I reproduce in full below. (Provenance: Library of Congress, received by them September 1944, with their rubber stamp on the front cover.)
There are no listings for this item in the WorldCat/OCLC, and a google search has one hit, finding the leaflet at the National Army Museum in London--outside of this, I cannot find it. This is a little surprising given that it was sued to raise awareness and funds; that said, it was also highly ephemeral, meaning it was probably thrown away very easily and often.
I am not an expert in this field, though one thing that can be said for sure was that overall British and U.S. held as POWs by the Germans were treated much more humanely than other nationalities of soldiers (particularly the Russians), and so it was possible for some POWs to enjoy receiving Red Cross packages while interned. I did not know about an orchestra with 80 instruments and a choir of 80 voices. At first blush this seems like a work of home front propaganda, an attempt to establish hope for normalcy for the families of soldiers taken prisoner, though it seems as though these accommodations were made by the Nazis in deference to the British and Americans. (Again, this is a broad generalization and no doubt those enjoying POW music at Stalag VIII B were in the distinct minority. At Stalag VIII B it looks as though the main group of POWs were British, and then segregated in different parts of the camp were Indians, and then another section for Greeks, Cypriots, and Palestinians, and then in an entirely different section of the camp under lights and interior barbed wire was a camp for the RAF. British airmen were treated "differently" than the rest given at that time the terrific damage being inflicted upon Germany from endless nighttime British bombing raids.
On the reception of Red Cross packages at Staalg VIII B and other Stalags in general, from "MEDICAL SERVICES IN NEW ZEALAND AND THE PACIFIC: CONDITIONS AT STALAG VIIIB, LAMSDORF", from New Zealand Electronic Text Collection:
"Owing to a Red Cross parcel bottleneck at Lisbon there was a complete parcel failure from January 1942 until May 1942...Regarding Red Cross parcel shipments: “The year 1943 was relatively full, except for three months following the German occupation of Italy...During early 1944 Red Cross supplies were adequate, and, in fact, most camps, both large and small, endeavoured to build up a three months' reserve of their Red Cross food. Unfortunately, on ...17 September 1944)...most Wehrkreise (war districts) came an order from the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht: ‘All prisoner of war tinned food must be destroyed forthwith.’ This order was ruthlessly enforced, particularly on the many (over 600) working parties of Stalag 344 [part of Stalag VIII B], with the result that, whilst there was a week's feasting on salmon, sardines and meat roll, lean and hungry months followed. Even in the Lazarett at Lamsdorf, where the patients and staff enjoyed community messing, much of their tinned food was destroyed, with the resulting onset of semi-starvation, which did not abate till the end of the war.”
"The Russian prisoners had no Red Cross food and they were starved on bread and turnip soup. In vain did the British medical officers at Cosel plead with the German medical authorities for food, rather than drugs, to treat their Russian patients. Only after a change of senior German medical officers and the start of the Russian offensive towards the Reich in March 1943 did the German attitude change and the health of those miserable Russians improve.”--
Also this story at the end of the war should be shared (although it has nothing to do with this leaflet): "In January 1945, as the Soviet armies resumed their offensive and advanced into Germany, many of the prisoners were marched westward in groups of 200 to 300 in the so-called Long March. Many of them died from the bitter cold and exhaustion. The lucky ones got far enough to the west to be liberated by the American or British armies. The unlucky ones were 'liberated' by the Soviets, who instead of turning them over quickly to the western allies, held them as virtual hostages for several more months, until the British agreed to release to the Soviet Union POWs of Soviet origin who had been fighting on the German side, which left the British Government with little choice on the matter, even though they were understandable reluctant to hand these men over to the Soviet Union for their inevitable execution. These soldiers from states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for example, had fought with the Germans in an effort, as they saw it, to release their own homelands from Soviet occupation and oppression."--lamsdorf dot com