Stalag IX-B

Stalag IX-B

Stalag IX-B also known as Bad Orb was a World War II German Army POW camp at Wegscheide close to Bad Orb in the province of Hesse, Germany. It had the reputation of being one of the worst Stalags, especially when it was overcrowded in 1945. The camp was also the site of a segregation and removal of Jewish American troops, who once identified, were taken to the Labor camp Berga located in eastern Thuringia 12 km south of Gera


* The camp was established in December 1939 and initially housed Polish prisoners sent to work in the area, especially the salt mines.
* June 1940 many French taken prisoner during the Battle of France arrived.
* In 1941 Yugoslavian prisoners arrived from the Balkans Campaign, mainly Serbs.
* 1942 and 1943 Soviet prisoners arrived and later Italians after the Armistice with Italy.
* Finally in late December 1944 Americans arrived that were captured in the Battle of the Bulge, approximately American 4,700 infantrymen were located here, far exceeding the capacity of the camp resulting in very severe conditions, even though officers and NCOs were later transferred to other camps.
* In January 1945 the commandant ordered all Jewish prisoners to step forward out of the daily line-up. At first none did. But after standing several hours 130 came forward. However the commandant had been requested to provide 350 for the transport. Troublemakers, including Pfc J.C.F Kasten, the elected camp leader (born in Hawaii of German-American parents), were then selected including anyone who "looked Jewish". The group were taken by train to the Berga labor camp.
* Early April the camp was liberated by the US 44th Infantry Division.

Labor camp Berga

The 350 men traveled in locked box cars, without food or water, for four days. The camp was under command of Lt. Hack and was a slave labor camp, totally contrary to the rules of the Third Geneva Convention. The POWs were put to work together with inmates of the Buchenwald concentration camp digging 17 tunnels for an underground ammunitions factory, some of them 150 feet below ground. As a result of the inhumane conditions, malnutrition and cold, as well as beatings, 47 prisoners died. The US military authorities never acknowledged the incident.

On 4 April the 300 surviving American prisoners were marched out of the camp ahead of the approaching American troops. After a 2½ week forced march they were finally liberated. During this march another 36 Americans died.

Prisoner escape

During an air-raid, while the camp lights were extinguished, Hans Kasten, Joe Littel and Ernst Sinner, wriggled under the wire and escaped from the Berga labor camp. Their freedom lasted only a few days. Trying to get food at the inn of a small town, they were arrested and taken to Gestapo headquaarters. After identification as POWs they were taken to Buchenwald and placed in detention cells. Most likely they would have been killed like many other escaped prisoners (see Stalag Luft III and Oflag VI-B). Fortunately for them the Buchenwald Camp was liberated by the US Army three days later.


* "Forgotten Victims" ISBN 0-8133-3064-5 - by Mitchell G. Bard
* [ account of Pfc. Kasten]

ee also

* List of POW camps in Germany
* Stalag

External links

* [ PBS Overview of Stalag IX-B]
* [ 44th Infantry Division's Liberation]
* [ The Lost Soldiers of Stalag IX-B in The New York Times Magazine]
* [ The Soldiers of Berga in the Jewish Virtual Library]
* [ Stalag IX-B Photos]
* [ memories of Stalag IX-B]

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