I started part one by looking up Priest Lake, ID. A quick look at Maps.Google.com shows that it’s in the upper part of Idaho, about 30 miles from the Canadian border. The closest big towns are Coeur d’Alene (ID) and Spokane (WA).
Next, where were the POW camps in the US during WWII?
[ POW camps United States WWII ]
I used “WWII” as the most common way to write the abbreviation for “World War Two.” (But I was prepared to use other versions of the concept if this didn’t work. It did.)
There’s a great Wikipedia page on this topic (as I guess there would be—it’s the kind of thing that Wikipedia is good at), and it lists two camps (Camp Algoma and Camp Rupert) as located in Idaho.
Once you know about camps Rupert and Algoma, it’s easy to see that Camp Rupert (which I found using Google Maps) is some 600 miles away, not exactly a nearby camp. I doubt that they’d send POWs to work on trails that far away.
But finding Camp Algoma is a little harder.
[ “Camp Algoma” Idaho ]
This led me (as it did for Ramon) to a page put up by Idaho.gov about German POWs in Idaho. (It’s part of their Grade 8 state history lessons!) This page told me that the Wikipedia page is incomplete! There’s another POW camp: Camp Farragut. This page ALSO had a link to a page in Germany (with a .DE domain name) that told me a new word—Kriegsgefangene—this is German for POW. “This,” I thought, “will come in handy later.”
In any case, we still have to find Camps Algoma and Farragut.
Problem is, the only Algoma I was able to find in Idaho is in the town of Sagle, about 60 miles from Priest Lake. (A LOT closer than Camp Rupert. Plausibly close enough.) Was it a camp? Don't know.
When I searched for
[ “Camp Farragut” Idaho ]
I found a lot of information on the camp. In particular, I found that in February 1945, a POW camp was attached to Farragut Naval Training Station on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille (near Athol, ID) received 750 German and Austrian POWs. They were given light work as gardeners and groundskeepers and forestry related tasks.
This Camp was about 80 miles from Priest Lake, and as I found in document (which is a transcribed short memoir of Joachim Oertel, a German POW at Camp Farragut), the internees did a lot of manual labor of the kind seen in the above photo, but that life in the camp was pretty pleasant.
The answer: Well, it’s either Camp Algoma or Farragut. But the documentation on Algoma is really thin. I just haven’t been able to find much. (I did, though, find many references to Camp Algona in Iowa which even has a museum web site h, so I wonder if there hasn’t been a transcription error somewhere on the way.)
|Camp Farragut today (Google Maps image). Now it's a State Park.|
(Note the white square in the middle of Farragut State Park? That’s the old brig for the camp. The ovals seem to be left over from the days when the camp had 6 major housing/training sites.)
Part 2: What did the Germans think about US POW Camps?
As commentor Andreas said, “it’s difficult to quantify” this kind of question. There were propaganda issues on both sides (German and American), so this question requires getting beyond the official pronouncements. And then there’s the difficulty of discriminating between POWs held on American soil and POWs held in Europe. Andreas is right—this is a big, difficult, complex topic. Luckily, we don’t need to write a thesis on this, but try to figure out HOW we could find this information.
I wanted to start by searching German resources—books, newspapers, magazines—for accounts about POWs (or, using the term of art we discovered above, “Kriegsgefangene”).
The obvious query:
[ site:.de Kriegsgefangene ]
quickly points out the difficulty here—there were MANY POWs (German, Austrian, US, English, Soviet, etc.) and the results are large and complex.
Adding in the term “America” changed my results to be ALL from a single site: Acor.de which is a site dedicated to German POWs from WWII.
This is a great find, but I want to get more than just one site (which clearly has an advocacy position on this topic). It does bring up a twist that I hadn’t known about beforehand. American treatment of German POWs in Europe was apparently VERY different than German POWs in the US mainland.
Doing the obvious Wikipedia search:
[ Wikipedia Kriegsgefangene ]
Gets you to their page on POWs in WWII, with a breakdown by country of internment and origina of soliders. (See the German Wikipedia article on this: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriegsgefangene_des_Zweiten_Weltkrieges - "POWs of the Second World War")
I have to admit I had no idea that over 3 million German soldiers were interned in the US during the war. (There were a LOT of POW camps.)
But from a SearchResearch perspective, the Wikipedia article also has links to writings by German authors. One of those links looked promising: Hans-Erich Volkmann (eds.): End of the Third Reich - the end of the Second World War. A perspective review . Published on behalf of the Military History Research Institute, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-492-12056-3 , page 278. Interesting: This book is hard to find until I realized that the title would be in German. “Ende des Dritten Reiches - Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges : eine perspektivische Rückschau.” Once I realized this, I thought I’d try to find a scanned version of the book…. But no luck. It doesn’t seem to be scanned!
So I had to back up and try another strategy. This time around I thought I’d try a direct approach—that is, search for German content in German magazines. My new query was:
[ Kriegsgefangene in a... ]
Note: This isn’t my whole query, and I didn't type the ... I just got this far when typing and the moment I typed the a of what-I-thought-would-be “America” I stopped. This is what I saw. (BEFORE I finished typing anything else.)
Notice that the completion that looks like correct German to me is [Kriegsgefangene in amerika ] (that is, America with a “K”). I WAS going to spell it as I would in the US—America with a C.
But once that suggestion was shown to me, I took it (by clicking on it)… completing my query as
[Kriegsgefangene in amerika ]
Looking through the results I was able to easily find magazine articles (e.g., from Der Speigel) and books written in Germany (e.g., Kramer, Arnold: German POWs in America 1942-1946. Tübingen 1995; or Reiss, Matthias: The blacks were our friends. German POWs in American society from 1942 to 1946. Paderborn 2002) about the experiences of Germany POWs.
Answer.... I don’t want to write a thesis about what Germans thought about internment in the US, but the summary seems to be that by and large, opinion of people who knew what internment conditions were regarded the POWs as being fairly lucky to escape the madness and deprivations of Europe.
Search lessons: The first challenge was reasonably straightforward, except for the false lead of Camp Algoma. (If anyone figures out what actually happened there, let me know!)
On the other hand the second challenge really was tough. In this case, you HAVE to look for content in the language of choice (in this case, German). Another lesson was to use the term of art IN the target language (in this case, Kriegsgefangene). Once I found that term, and started searching in German, it became a relatively straightforward problem. (Actually doing the complete analysis will take some time, but now you know how to do it.)
(And many thanks to CarolynM!)