October is German-American Heritage Month and one of the topics I'm contacted about frequently is the history of German World War II POW camps in Maryland. I studied German and History at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where I researched and have subsequently written several articles and papers on this topic. This article series has been shared over the course of four weeks, ending this week with the "Conclusion" and "Bibliography." Variations of this article series have appeared in Frederick Magazine, German-American Journal, and on the German Pulse website. I look forward to resharing it now, with revisions, and keeping this dialogue, research, and these stories alive:
Through the summer of 1945 to the spring of 1946, most of the German POWs in Maryland were sent back to Fort Meade, and eventually, home. Almost all of the 32,800 prisoners in the tri-state area were gone by August of 1946, except those who had violated military law or were in the hospital. An article from the Frederick News-Post from November 29, 1945, suggests that the camp may have had plans to shut down earlier, but had decided to remain open at least until January 1, 1945, after “work contracts for the use of some 200 Germans had been renewed for 30 days.”
|Photo by former camp guard Charles P. Wales of Frederick P.W. Camp #6, |
also known as Camp Frederick. Read more here.
Already on November 14, 1946, former POW Peter Siegfried Muetzel wrote to Quynn Orchard in Frederick, “requesting a copy of a picture of him and three friends taken November 1945 in Frederick.” At the time the letter was written, Muetzel was serving as a POW in an English camp, but wrote of wanting to return to the United States someday, where he had seen the Ringling Brothers Circus with his parents prior to the war.
Ironically, some of the prisoners had visited the United States before the war and even had relatives or friends who had settled in the area in previous generations. Frederick itself was settled by Germans more than 250 years ago, and now these young men who had ties of various kinds to the area or this country were being held there as prisoners. On the other side, enemy soldiers—who had fought for a government responsible for some of the most horrible atrocities in history—seemed to be inundating Frederick. Personal accounts from both sides paint a picture that, while distrust and fear were present on both sides, these soon gave way to curiosity, friendship, and mutual benefits of various kinds.
As stated before, this may not have been true of all POW camps across the United States during World War II and certainly does not reflect the horrific treatment of Japanese Americans incarcerated at internment camps around the same time. For the purposes of this article and research, it appears that the life of a German POW at Camp Frederick may have been marked by some degree of ethnic and racial privilege. Ultimately, under the circumstances, it seems the contact between German POWs and American soldiers and civilians in the small city of Frederick, Maryland, demonstrated to both sides the importance of viewing their “enemies” as people like themselves.
Brooks, Nelson. “POW Camp Revisited 20 Years Later,” The Post (February 17, 1967): 21.
Burdette, Dolly M. “Remembers local WW II POW camp and its prisoners,” Frederick News-Post Online, http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/display.htm?StoryID=32630; accessed 16 February 2004.
Conn, Elizabeth. “Local Responses: Excerpts from the Richard Lebherz World War II Letters Collection,” The Journal of the Historical Society of Frederick, Maryland (Spring 2007): 44-49.
“County Residents Recall Camp For POWs Here,” Frederick County Historical Society (February 16, 1967): 1, 5.
Doxzen, Duane. “A Brief History of Frederick’s Prisoner of War Camp,” The Journal of the Historical Society of Frederick, Maryland (Spring 2007): 34-43.
“50 years ago: January 4, 1945,” Frederick News-Post (January 4, 1995).
“50 years ago: November 29, 1945,” Frederick News-Post (November 29, 1995).
“50 years ago: May 23, 1946,” Frederick News-Post (May 23, 1996).
“50 years ago: November 14, 1946,” Frederick News-Post (November 14, 1996).
Fortney, Sarah. “Frederick’s POWs,” Frederick News-Post (January 15, 2007): A1, A12.
Gillis, Christopher C. “A German P.O.W. Remembers Camp Frederick,” Frederick Magazine (November 1992): 8-9.
Grosvenor, Sara. “Former POW returns for visit,” Frederick News-Post, Frederick (July 30, 1980): A-3.
Hammond, Helen. “Remembering World War II: The year the Nazis came to Frederick,” Frederick Magazine (June 1996): 28-31.
Hershberger, Mayetta. Letter to Richard Lebherz, Frederick County Historical Society (October 4, 1944).
Holl, Richard E. “Axis Prisoners of War in the Free State, 1943-1946,” Maryland Historical Magazine 83, no. 2 (Summer 1988): 142-156.
Lebherz, Richard, Letter to his parents, Frederick County Historical Society (December 11, 1944).
“‘Lost’ Prisoner Camp Was Located Near City,” Frederick County Historical Society (February 16, 1967).
Maryland in WWII, Volume I: Military Participation. Baltimore, Maryland: War Records Division, Maryland Historical Society, 1950.
May, George. “Where, Oh Where, Was That German POW Camp?” The News (February 15, 1967).
“POW Camp Near City Part Of Fort Meade,” Frederick County Historical Society (February 18, 1967).
Pugh, Caroline Tatum. “Remembering the ‘Frederick Hilton,’” Frederick Magazine (June 1996).
Spaur, Michael L. “What’s in the Name? Old Camp Road,” The Post (August 30, 1979): B-10.
Thomas, Mrs. B.O., Sr. Letter to Richard Lebherz, Frederick County Historical Society (September 26, 1944).
Thomas, Mrs. B.O., Sr. Letter to Richard Lebherz, Frederick County Historical Society (November 9, 1944).
Wales, Charles P. “P.W. Branch Camp #6: A Photo Essay,” The Journal of the Historical Society of Frederick, Maryland (Spring 2007): 4-33.
“War Prisoners Wouldn’t Work: Those Here Put on Bread, Water Diet,” Frederick County Historical Society (September 10, 1944).
Waters, Ed, Jr. “A POW camp near U.S. 40A,” Frederick News-Post (February 2, 2004): 12, 16.
"Stories from Camp Frederick: German World War II POWs in Frederick, Maryland," copyright 2023 Amelia Cotter (variations of this article series first appeared in Frederick Magazine and German Pulse in 2012, and in German-American Journal in 2009)