Stalag XXIA Schildberg
Ostrzeszow (pronounced "Oss-TRAY-shoof") is a small town in southwestern Poland. It was one of the first places to be attacked when Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. An internment camp for Polish citizens and soldiers was established soon after, and the town's formerly German name, Schildberg, was restored. A trickle of Allied prisoners of war turned into a flood after the fall of France in June 1940; by the end of the year most of the 1,500 prisoners were British. The role of the camp changed in 1941 from a simple Stalag to a "Heilag" housing disabled prisoners slated for repatriation; the town had four hospitals and a medical staff made up of Polish, German and Allied doctors, dentists and support staff. Nearly 900 British POWs awaiting repatriation were moved from Stalag XXIA in March 1943. About 300 other able-bodied POWs in labour detachments were transferred to Stalag XXID in Poznan. Stalag XXIA ceased to exist and in its place, Oflag XXIC was created to house Norwegian officers. Over the course of the war, 125,000 POWs and civilian internees lived in Schildberg, a town of about 6,000 population. One in five were Allied prisoners of war.

Among the earliest internees was a group of Franciscan monks, including Fr. Maximilian Kolbe. They were eventually released, but Friar Kolbe was re-arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz, where he died in 1941. In 1982 Kolbe was canonized by Pope John Paul II.

By late 1943 most of the POWS were moved elsewhere and the camp was reorganized as an "Oflag" XXIC -- for Norwegian officers.

Stalag XXIA consisted of existing buildings in the town instead of purpose-built barracks. Schools, hospitals, a monastery and synagogue were requisitioned for POW barracks & other facilities.

From 1940 to 1943, the camp had two primary functions: it was a "Heilag" for POWs selected for repatriation, and a "Dulag," or transit camp, for prisoners on their way to other POW camps. As such its population was highly diverse: British, French, Russians, Serbs, Dutch and Poles all spent time there. Medical facilities were extensive (there were four separate hospital buildings), and many POWs were disabled, amputees, etc.

Able-bodied enlisted men and NCO's were subject to manual labour according to the terms of the 1929 Geneva Convention. Tens of thousands of Allied POWs toiled in mines, factories and farmers' fields for the Third Reich.

In March 1943, most of the prisoners were moved to other camps, and Stalag XXIA became Oflag XXIC, a camp for Norwegian military officers deported from Norway for engaging in resistance activity.

Several buildings used for Stalag XXIA/Oflag XXIC are still in use today. Since 1996, a museum exhibit depicting life in the Norwegian POW camp has been on display in the town hall. Photos of the exhibit and of Ostrzeszow were taken in summer 2009 just before the town commemorated the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War. Other photos of former Stalag XXIA buildings captured via Google Maps street view.

Black & White map of Ostrzeszow and photos scanned from a book by Stanislaw Rusak JENCY ALLIANCY W OKUPOWANYM OSTRZESZOWIE 1929-1945 (Kalisz 2002).

"Where the Nazis Hold Our Men" map borrowed from

Esrom May postcard courtesy Lyman Keeping, Garnish, Newfoundland.

Fred Rowcroft postcard found on the web.

Father Gérard Boulanger material courtesy Father André Dubois, curator, Archives Deschâtelets, Ottawa.
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