Camp Carson, El Paso County, Colorado, U.S.A., August 14, 1943 – November 25, 1944.
4°. 68 issues xerographed magazines: Nos. 1-67 (of 78 published) (bound together from the last to the first issue), plus 1 unnumbered special issue (Sonderdruck), most issues 6 – 20 pp., each with inserted illustration (verso blank), first two issues with hand-coloured illustrations, all issues illustrated; most leaves monochrome, but most issues with leaves with accents of original printed colour, bound in an original wood mock-Native-American style, with stitched margins and hand-drawn cover, bound together with an old army shoe-lace.
Most issues in a very good condition, just light even toning, slightly age-toned on the edges, no. 1 with missing pp. 11-12, as most of the magazines are not paginated and difficult to collate possibly some other pages are missing, missing map of Italy; overall an amazingly well preserved set.
This collection represents a remarkable find! Present here are 68 issues of Die PW-Woche: Stimmen aus Lager u. Heimat [The POW Week: Voices from the Camp and Homeland], a weekly newsletter xerographed by German POWs held at Camp Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The issues were made between August 1943 and August 1945, and the collection is extraordinary, not only for its large size, but also in that most issues are in nearly pristine condition, which is rare for such ephemeral works. The upper piece of contemporary card which protects the collection features the inscription “San[itätsdienst]. Gefr[eiter]. Fritz Banach / 7WG – 5212”, referring to the magazines’ original owner, a Lance Corporal in the Medical Corps of the German Army (with his serial number) and a POW at Camp Carson, who supposedly brought the collection home to Germany after the war.
Die PW-Woche is, compared to most other magazines made in POW camps, remarkably rich in content and profusely illustrated. The extensive nature of the present collection provides a highly valuable and wide-ranging insight into the daily lives, views, values, passions and humour of captured Wehrmacht soldiers who found themselves on a U.S. Army Base at the foot of the Rockies, 8,000 kms from home. The subjects covered are remarkably diverse, ranging from ‘Pin Up Girls’ to rather hardcore Third Reich patriotic tracts. All the text throughout is in the German language.
The mission statement of Die PW-Woche can be found in the trial issue, which states that the magazine (translated): “Should serve as a spokesman for home and camp for everyone at Camp Carson. It is an organ that promotes the community, encourages the exchange of ideas, brings our experiences and observations, and conveys wishes and announcements. Even humor should come to its right. With the ‘PW-Woche’ we want to hold on to our days in Carson for later times, maintaining a tight social bond.” (‘Probeausgabe’, August 14, 1943).
While each issue of Die PW-Woche is unique, almost all the present numbers follow a template for the order of their content. On the title, which always incudes an illustrated header (almost always accented with printed blue colour), is the ‘Wochenspruch’ [Quote of the Week], a simple quotation, often by a famous historical figure (ex. Goethe), followed by a poem. Next comes the ‘Aus den Zeitgeschehen’ [Current Events], which gives news reports from around the world, usually on the progress of the war; curiously, there is no attempt to ‘sugar-coat’ the fact that Germany is losing the war, most of the information comes directly from authoritative sources such as the New York Times. Of great interest is the page ‘1 Steht Fest’ [1 is Certain] that appears in most issues, being a ‘Pin Up Girl’! Also featured is the section ‘Unsere Kurzgeschichte’ [Our Short Stories], which are usually serious works about 2 pages long. ‘Unser Sport’ [Our Sports] was clearly a popular section detailing the scores of the camp’s frequent intramural football and handball games. ‘Hier Wird Gelacht’ [Here is Laughing] is a humour section featuring funny poems and verses, illustrated with amusing cartoons and vignettes. ‘Köpfchen- Köpfchen’ [Brains – Brains] features crossword puzzles and skill-testing games. The final page features the ‘Bekanntmachungen’ [Announcements], which details the dates and times for the week’s upcoming sports games, concerts, parties, and various other gatherings.
Interspersed throughout the regular sections are short stories (both serious and humorous), poems, songs, as well as articles on historical subjects, Colorado, as well as different places in Germany (written by POWs native to those places). There are also programmes for the theatre and music performances put on by the inmates (including operettas). Notably, throughout the articles are profusely illustrated with vignettes, cartoons and even full-page illustrations, some being of high artistic quality and originality. Some articles are singed by specific authors, while many are anonymous.
When taken in aggregate, the issues present are a curiously diverse collage of human experience, ranging from very serious tracts on German patriotism (some with strong Third Reich content), mixed with candid sentiments about family, and even slightly risqué discourse concerning relations with women.
The issues feature so many intriguing and entertaining elements that they are impossible to comprehensively list here. However, some highlight include, in addition to the numerous ‘Pin Up Girls’: A lovely map of the Allied Invasion of Italy, beautifully coloured in orange (Issue no. 5); ‘Die Führerrede’, the text of an intense speech by Hitler (Issue no. 5);
an amusing article entitled the ‘Nazi Radio Rocket Bomb’ (Issue no. 6); the programme of an Operetta performed at Camp Carson (Issue no. 11); a patriotic tract, ‘Sei stolz, dass du ein Deutschen Bist’ [Be Proud that you are German] (Issue no. 15); a handmade Christmas card inserted within a festive issue, “Froh Kriegs-Weihnacht 1943 / Gefanlager, Camp Carson, Col.” (Issue no. 19); the inserted programme of the POWs’ Easter Concert, ‘Konzert um Osten 1944’ (Issue no. 21); a special Memorial Day issue, ‘Heldengedenktag’ (Issue no. 30); for Hitler’s Birthday, in place of the ‘Pin Up Girl’, is a montage in honour of the Führer (Issue no. 35); a Labour Day Issue, ‘Arbeit Tag’ (Issue no. 37); and a Mothers’ Day issue, ‘Mutterdag’ (Issue no. 40); amongst many other curiosities.
At the end of each issue of Die PW-Woche, it is noted that Ofw. [Oberfeldwebel / Staff Sergeant] Albrecht, 8 Kompanie, is ‘Verantwortlich fuer Gesamtenhalt’ [Responsible for All Content], meaning that he was the principal editor. Also included here are the number of copies of each issue that was printed, figures which range from as low as 1,050 per issue for early numbers to as many as 2,700 for the latter editions. Each issue is (perhaps rhetorically) marked as being ‘Nachdruck verboten / Copyright’. The issues were not handed out gratis; a subscription to the early issues costed 10 cents per month, while from October 1943 onwards, the price was raised to 15 cents; the issues were likely shared by multiple POWs.
Die PW-Woche was first published as trial issue a week before the appearance of the first of the 78 regular numbered weekly issues that was published on August 21, 1943, with the final issue was printed on February 10, 1945. Additionally, an unknown, but small quantity, of special unnumbered issues was also produced.
It is not known why Die PW-Woche ceased publication in February 1945. However, the likely explanation is that the paper’s principals, including Oberfeldwebel Albrecht, were likely transferred out of the camp at that time. While many POWs would have participated in creating the various issues in some way, the heavy lifting on such projects tended to be carried out by only three or four people; once they had left the scene these papers were usually discontinued. It seems that Die PW-Woche was replaced by a totally different, far more basic, weekly newsletter (shorter, fewer illustrations), the Lager-Rundschau, which was printed to serve the rapidly dwindling German POW community at Camp Carson until some point in 1946, when the POW facility closed.
Most of the POW camps in the United States during World War II produced their own inmate-made newsletters, although only a miniscule percentage of this production survives to the present day. The American authorities would have encouraged this, as the time-consuming process of writing, editing and printing kept the POWs constructively engaged and raised their morale, lessening the chances that they would become rowdy or scheming. This assumption had been successfully vetted by experience during WWI. Usually, the camp wardens were more than happy to supply the presses, inks and paper needed, as this was a small price to pay to preserve order and good spirits.
The camp authorities would have had their intelligence teams rigorously read and, if necessary, censor every issue of each POW paper. While not evident on the present set, some surviving issues of POW papers feature the censors’ approval stamps, although it is notable that at the very end of each issue of Die PW-Woche it is printed ‘Gesamtinhalt ist durch die Zensur genehmigt’ [All of the Content is Approved by the Censors]. Curiously, the American censors did not seem interested in banning or regulating pro-Third Reich statements. The German inmates were, as evident on multiple occasions in issues of Die PW-Woche, free to express their patriotic fervour for their homeland and its government, as well as to wish Germany victory in the war. The Americans assumed that these sentiments, written in a foreign language by men incarcerated thousands of miles from the war front, was of no threat to the Allied war effort or morale, and if it made the POWs feel better, that was just fine. What the censors would have been looking to ban would be any statements that encouraged rebelliousness; a lack of respect towards the camps guards or the local civilian community; as well as any blatant anti-American statements. They would also be looking for any coded messages encouraging espionage activities, escape, or any other kind of maleficence. Fortunately, it seems that the censors only very rarely found anything that they needed to black out; the editors of the POW papers tended to treasure their freedom to print, and so did not wish to risk it by including missives that might offend their wardens.
A Note on Rarity
Like most such ephemeral works published in POW camps, all issues of Die PW-Woche are extremely rare, which makes the present large collection, with issues in stellar condition, a very special find. We can only trace three caches of Die PW-Woche in institutional holdings. The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Leipzig holds issues nos. 18 to 78 inclusive, while the Staatliche Bibliotek Regensburg holds issues 28 to 52 inclusive. The only example we could trace in the US is housed by the University of Colorado Boulder (Die PW Woche: Stimmen aus Lager U. Heimat (colorado.edu)), with issues 1-45, 47-50, 52, 2 unnumbered special edition and a special Christmas edition (the set was described in our catalogue for the 2018 New York Antiquarian Book Fair).
It is worth noting that the citations at the New York Public Library and the State Library of Pennsylvania (OCLC: 15155447) are apparently only microfilm copies.
Camp Carson, Colorado: WWII German POWs Far from Home
During World War II approximately 425,000 Axis POWs were held in the United States, housed in 175 main camps and 511 satellite facilities. The POW Camp system was administered by the U.S. Army Provost Marshal General’s Office, which sensibly elected to place most of the camps in largely rural interior states, to lessen the chance of successful escape. Moreover, the absence of many American men of fighting age from the scene resulted in these largely agrarian states suffering severe labour shortages; it was hoped that the POWs could ameliorate this problem.
Naturally, Colorado was one of the key host states, home to 43 main POW camps. Most of the Colorado camps were scattered along the foot of the Front Range, near both major transport routes and agricultural areas.
Camp Carson, in El Paso County, just outside of Colorado Springs, was opened as a U.S. Army Base on January 31, 1942, just over six weeks after America entered the war. It was named after the legendary army scout General Christopher “Kit” Carson. It was built up with amazing speed and some months hosted around 35,000 troops and 11,500 support staff.
It was decided that Camp Carson would serve as major POW camp. It had virtually endless grounds and was near farms and infrastructure projects in dire need of labour. The presence of a large armed force on base also greatly reduced the chance of escape or maleficence.
Through 1943, Axis POWs began arriving at Camp Carson in large numbers. Most of the arrivals were Germans, although there were some Italians. Many of the Germans were former members of Erwin Rommel’s legendary Afrika Korps, while smaller numbers where captured submariners and sailors. From the middle of 1943 until the spring of 1945, Camp Carson hosted at least 9,000 POWs at any given time, although that number occasionally spiked to as high as 12,000.
Life for the POWs at Camp Carson was hard work, but the conditions were not unpleasant. Following Geneva Convention rules, solders were permitted to wear their uniforms in the camp and were paid for any labour they performed ($20 to $30 per month for officers), in coupons redeemable at the camp canteen or shop. Many of the inmates worked on farms, in the local tomato cannery, in logging on the slopes of the Rockies, or on the Denver & Rio Grande Railway. For the most part, the POWs had friendly relations with their guards as well as the local civilians.
A wide array of recreational activities was organized at Camp Carson for the POWs, including sports, musical performances and movie nights. The University of Colorado even allowed the inmates to take correspondence sources. The base commander also provided the Germans POWs with the use of a xerography machine, to print Die PW-Woche.
In the winter of 1944-45, once it was clear that the Allies would win the war, some of Camp Carson’s POWs were moved away to forward facilities in preparation for their eventual return home to Europe. The POW camp was progressively wound down, although some of the harder-to-place inmates remained on site until well into 1946. The vast majority of the POWs returned to Germany; however, a small number married local women and were given clearance to build new lives in America.
Camp Carson remained a U.S. Army base after the war and in 1954 was upgraded and renamed Fort Carson. Today Fort Carson is home to 13,000 residents, consisting of troops, their families and support staff, and is major fixture of the greater Colorado Springs community.
References: Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Leipzig: (holding Issues nos. 18 to 78); ZA 52532; Staatliche Bibliotek Regensburg: (holding Issues nos. 28 to 52): 999/ZZ 994 / OCLC (Re: DNB-Leipzig and Regensburg examples): 714738218. Cf. Arnold Krammer, Prisoners of War: A Reference Handbook (2008), p. 47.