Work Camp 194 GW
Location: Leitendorf (near Leoben)
Type of work: Brickworks/Magnesite Works
Man of Confidence: Cpl N Lay
Date of visit: 13th November 1942
The British Prisoners of war live in one room where they eat and sleep. Some
of them have to sit on their beds when eating. The Accompanying Officer saw the
Chief Engineer of the factory about this. He insisted that the men should be
given an extra room to eat in. There are only two taps for washing. However,
this is a minor complaint as the men can have hot showers every day.
The food provided by the works is good and clean. Private food can be prepared.
There is no trained medical orderly in this camp and the sick are attended by the Man of Confidence. If there is any need, patients can be sent to a civil doctor. In case of emergency the civil doctor can be called for. Dental treatment is relatively satisfactory here, as the prisoners are allowed to go to a civil dentist in Leoben.
There is no canteen, but the Man of Confidence can go to town for errands.
Football can be played every Sunday morning.
Mail comes in very irregularly. The Accompanying Officer promised to look into this.
On the whole except for overcrowding due to the fact that the factory contains no spare rooms, this camp can be called good.
Date of visit: 21st January 1943
This is part of a general report on six Work Camps visited on the same day. The camps were:
A 956 GW: Building operations, 37 men (5 Australian, 12 NZ)
A 980 GW: Magnesium mine, 117 men (20 Australian, 25 NZ)
A 924 GW: Building operations, 270 men (12 Australian, 40 NZ)
A 47 GW: Building operations, 20 men (all British)
A 959 GW: Saw Mills, 23 men (7 Australian, 3 NZ)
A 194 GW: Brick works, 28men (1 Australian)
The camps visited in particular were 956 GW and 924 GW.
The men of the Labour Detachments were captured in Greece
in April 1941 and arrived three months later at Stalag XVIIID. Certain Labour
Detachments date from this period, others were formed later.
The prisoners of war are lodged in barrack huts of the usual kind, well built. Generally these are provided with two tier bunks having palliasses and two blankets issued by the company for which they are working. These blankets are often both small and thin, but most of the men have a third one which is their own personal property. At night they cover themselves with their greatcoats. Both the daylight and the electric light are adequate. The heating is satisfactory.
In certain Labour Detachments the prisoners of war lock up their personal effects in cupboards, but, for the most part they have none and their place is taken by suitcases made of compressed fibre.
All the POWs in these Detachments possess one complete uniform. This is in more or less good condition depending upon the date of their last stay at the Stalag where it is possible to exchange worn clothes for some in better condition. Certain men still have some articles of French, Belgian or Yugoslav uniform which they were given at some time or other at Stalag XVIIID.
In regard to footgear, the state of this varies according to the nature of the work done by the men. In some cases shoes, as well as trousers, are taken away from the men at night and put outside the cantonments where at the present time everything freezes. In the morning the prisoners are obliged to put their shoes near the stove in order to get them soft again and the leather obviously suffers from this treatment.
Except in rare cases the prisoners get no working clothes issued to them and, as the exchange of uniforms is made only on a very reduced scale since their captivity, the condition of clothing is relatively bad for British prisoners. The officer of the battalion of the guard attached to these detachments has, however, assured the delegates that each POW will receive a complete new outfit which will come from the stocks in the old Camps XVIIIB (annexe) (ex XVIIID) and XVIIIB, which are about to be closed down. If the prisoners are able to keep these outfits strictly for working purposes everything will be all right. This matter still remains unsettled, however.
On the other hand, in regard to underclothing, prisoners have all that they need.
The laundry is done by such POWs as can heat the necessary water. In the winter the clothing has to be dried in the prisoners’ room.
The food is prepared by the prisoners on suitable stoves or in the communal kitchen of the Company for which they are working. This arrangement has given rise to no serious complaints.
The food rations correspond to those of the civilian population.
In most of the Detachments the prisoners have adapted the stoves in their rooms so that they can cook upon them the food supplies coming from their personal and collective parcels. As a general rule the food given to prisoners is satisfactory from all points of view.
The installations available to prisoners for personal washing vary a lot from one Detachment to another. Thus some are primitive while others are modern and convenient.
On the other hand, the latrines are everywhere very primitive; among other things the five seats available for 270 men in the Detachment A 924 GW are clearly insufficient.
This last mentioned Detachment has an Infirmary comprising 12 bunks. This is under the direction of an English doctor, Captain William Gunther, No. 4940. Six bunks were occupied on the day of our delegates’ visit by prisoners suffering from influenza, dysentery and some complaint suspected to be tuberculosis.
The general state of health is excellent. In case of need prisoners can go alone to consult civilian doctors. Sick prisoners and victims of accidents while at work are sent to the neighbouring town where they are well cared for.
Dental attention given to the prisoners varies much from one attachment to another. In certain of them prisoners can, without difficulty obtain all the attention they need, against payment, artificial dentures included. For this purpose they go to a local dentist. In other detachments prisoners can have nothing save extractions done. For instance, 7 men in the Detachment 924 GW were able to go to a nearby town during the last 9 months in order to get their dentures repaired or to have new ones made. Some few men have even been able to be seconded from their Detachments for a week or two in order to have their teeth attended to.
Leisure, Intellectual and Religious needs
The Detachments have been visited once or twice by an Anglican pastor and a Catholic priest. The Catholic prisoners are not allowed to attend the celebration of Mass in the local churches.
Each Detachment is in possession of books coming from individual parcels or from the Stalag Circulating Library where books can be changed two or three times a year.
No study courses have been organised but in the large Detachments prisoners give lectures and a certain number of men have obtained books from Geneva or direct from England.
A jazz orchestra plays in the largest of the Labour Detachments. The others have some guitars, Mandolins and small accordions which they have been able to obtain on the spot.
The prisoners have no indoor games.
Sports are not indulged in much, as the work is generally speaking very arduous. Moreover, besides having not much leisure time the prisoners have neither sports equipment nor a suitable ground on which to play outdoor games. Nevertheless the prisoners’ physical state is satisfactory.
There is no canteen. It is extremely difficult to procure even articles of essential necessity in this district. Prisoners are without such things as razor blades, toothbrushes, tooth powder, toilet paper, paper, pencils, black boot polish, cigarette papers, etc.
Since September 1941 it has been possible to distribute each week one parcel weighing 5 kg, or its equivalent in ‘bulk food’; each Detachment has a small reserve stock which the Camp Leader has complete authority in allotting. The only complaint is that tinned foods are opened at the time they are distributed; they are supposed to be emptied into containers which the prisoners cannot always obtain. All but 1 or 2 per cent of the men received a Xmas parcel. It has now been announced that the old system of distributing one 5 kg parcel will be reverted to in future. This news was received with great satisfaction by the prisoners.
In regard to clothing parcels, these are practically non-existent.
Work and Pay
The number of working days is not very large: 8 hours a day, 5 on Saturday and Sunday free. With regard to the nature of the work done, this varies according to the Detachment. It is usually concerned with transport or mining, in the construction of roads, embankments, buildings, and in quarries or sawmills. The prisoners with the exception of those in A 980 GW do not complain of the work.
The basic pay is 0.70 RM per day; certain prisoners who are employed on piece-work rates earn up to 2 RM per day. It is to be observed that the prisoners have no opportunity to spend their money.
The delegates received complaints from all quarters on the subject of correspondence. This together with the subject of clothing is the principal concern of the prisoners in these Detachments. A very considerable slowing-up in the distribution of mails has taken place since the summer. While at that time letters between England and the Camps took two or three weeks to come and go, it now takes as many months for them to make the journey. Moreover, one letter out of three, either outgoing or incoming, never arrives. The letters modt recently received in the Detachments date from last October. Prisoners who have worked in the central Camp Administrative Department aver that many weeks elapse between the arrival of the mail at the central Camp and its distribution to the Labour Detachments.
Interview with the Camp Leaders (without witnesses)
The interview with the Camp Leaders touched on all the points mentioned above.
Interview with the German authorities
These were conciliatory. Our delegates were assured that they would give full attention to the solution of the difficulties referred to, as far as lay in their power.
The living conditions of the prisoners are fairly satisfactory as a general rule and the civilian population is well disposed to them. The country is pleasant and the climate is healthy. The New Zealanders and the Australians have now become perfectly acclimatized to it. The collective parcels service functions to the satisfaction of everyone. It is the matter of correspondence and of the clothing situation which causes concern at the moment. Our delegates, however, have been informed that a solution of the clothing problem will soon be arrived at.
Date of visit: 26th May 1943
No serious complaint was put forward regarding this camp. However it appears
that the working hours are rather long, but as the prisoners are doing transport
work (unloading of wagons) and the civilians work the same hours, the men
themselves realise there is not much chance of any complaint being successful.
The Man of Confidence says that sports facilities are poor and that just at present they have no football and would be grateful to the YMCA if it could let them have one.
Date of visit: 2nd December 1943
23 British Prisoners of war. Bad accommodation and unhealthy working conditions. The delegate proposed the dissolution of the Kommando which was granted.