Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wednesday search challenge (4/17/13): POWs in the US?

Photo from U. Idaho Priest Lake images collection. German internees at a camp near Priest Lake, ID (1943).

CarolynM writes in with an excellent research question: 
“It was common legend at my family's lake cabin that one of the nearby state parks in the area (Priest Lake, ID) had for a time during WWII been used as a Italian and German POW camp. According to the story the prisoners worked for the park doing park and trail maintenance, and some became so fond of the area they came back to visit multiple times. The University of Idaho just put up some archival photos from the Priest Lake region that includes pictures of Italian and German internees.   An initial search reveals little because this search is easily confounded by the presence of a wealth of online information regarding US POWs and their internments abroad. It's interesting, little known stuff, that I would imagine should be public information.”

Let’s use Carolyn’s question as the basis for today’s Search Challenge.  This comes in two parts.  The first is relatively straightforward (although it took me a few minutes, and slightly complicated for the reasons Carolyn mentions above).  

But the second part is really a challenge (or at least it was for me, maybe you’ll have a better time of it).  You need to find German resources to really answer this question.  

I like this challenge because it’s the kind of challenge that’s quite possible in the age of Search Engines, but was tough to do before.  As a teacher, I like this one because it asks you to view the world from someone else’s perspective—and that’s always a valuable skill to have. 
1.  What was the name of the WWII POW camp nearest to Priest Lake, ID?  (If you can, find the lat/long.) 

2.  We know there were a large number POW camps in the US for German and Italian prisoners.  While it’s pretty simple to find out what public opinion was in the US of POW camps for American soldiers, can you figure out what public opinion in GERMANY was of US POW camps during the war?    

This is a somewhat more subtle search task, but one well worth spending a few minutes doing. 

As usual, please when you send in your answer, please let us know HOW you found it (what was your search path and what tools and resources did you use along the way), and about how LONG you spent on this challenge.

Search on!


  1. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers

    [WWII POW camp Priest Lake, ID]

    Found 2 camps in Idaho:
    Camp Rupert and Camp Algoma. Later found there were 3 camps. Camp Farragut was the other one.

    [pow camp idaho]
    About 15,000 POws

    [Camp Rupert sign]

    [POW camp farragut]
    Farragut -


    1. What was the name of the WWII POW camp nearest to Priest Lake, ID? (If you can, find the lat/long.)
    A: Farragut camp. (47.950443,-116.603321) Found this searching in maps to find the nearest from Farragut and Rupert.

    2. Still searching

  2. So I somewhat recused myself from the initial part of the question because I already know the answer, I started with the second. I searched for “us pow camps” and the search autocompleted to “in Germany” but the first result was still a Wikipedia page listing WWII POW camps in the US ( ). I was surprised that the Wikipedia page didn’t have the camp I was referring to listed among the Idaho German POW Camps. The large camp was located at Farragut State Park and internees were often sent up to Priest Lake State Park, then Priest Lake State Forest, to perform park maintenance, it’s assumed they were put up on the south end of the lake, because that is where the returning German and Italian internees stayed when they held their reunions.
    For the second part of the question I decided asking my German roommate is cheating, so I queried the name of one of the lesser known Idaho camps, “Camp Algoma Idaho” because Farragut was also a Naval Station and there would be more confounding results.
    “Camp Algoma Idaho” returned
    Which contained instruction for 8th Grade Students researching Idaho’s POW Camps. The PDF contained a link to a German website that serves as a forum for German POW’s interned abroad.
    After a brief wander through the forums (fascinating!) I settled in on the home page for the US Camps, ( ) which summarized the German POW treatment in US based internment camps during WWII. Apparently, life in the US-based camps was quite nice, located mostly in mild climates, with sufficient rations and sports and activities during leisure time. Prisoners were expected to work, on farms or at parks and their rations were cut if they disobeyed an order. A 1978 article from the Virginia Beach Beacon on the Camp Ashby page ( ) contains more information. The article, by Peggy Haile, documents Willi Pusch’s return to his former camp. Willi Pusch, an anti-Nazi soldier, indicated on on the Camp Ashby page indicated he was the happiest man in the world while at camp. The article goes on to note that “Some German soldiers surrendered to Americans just to get out of the war and away from the threat of death or Russian imprisonment, Pusch said. American POW camps were reputed throughout the war zone as country clubs, compared to some other camps. U. S. camps were clean, the men were well fed, and they were given jobs on farms, on military bases and in factories.” However, the final paragraph on the US Camps page notes that treatment of German prisoners declined upon German surrender. Some believed it was because the US no longer had to fear for their own POWs, others believe that it was because opinions of German soldiers changed after pictures of concentration camps emerged.
    Just for fun and to see if I could turn up anything else, I did a domain search “german attitudes about US POW camps”. I found a pdf of a biography of another German soldier Josef Krumbachner, ( ) which confirmed that life in US internment camps was generally pleasant.
    Writing up the findings took longer than finding. I probably spent ~10 minutes to find the answer to the second question and then 5 more minutes finding secondary sources.

  3. Question 1:

    Google “POW camp Idaho” leads to

    leads to

    Answer: Farragut (David) Naval Training Station, Athol, Kootenai County, ID (47°57'55"N 116°34'56"W) today this is the Farragut State Park

    Time spent: Under 2 minutes ;)

  4. Question 2:

    A somewhat difficult question to answer, as a people's public opinion in such a matter is hardly a quantifiable measure. Also background information on the conditions and ultimately fate of German POWs in US American detention varies significantly.

    Source 1:

    From the German Wikipedia entry on POWs during WWII:

    (German translation of the term POW: Kriegsgefangener)

    Translation from German:

    Axis prisoners of war in the custody of the Western powers:


    Approximately 3,100,000 German prisoners of war were in American camps, mostly in the United States.

    Immediately following their capture, as well as after any change of location, all POWs were issued a postcard on which they could inform relatives of their current state of health and exact location.

    From mid-May 1945 the US began with the release of its POWs. However, some 740,000 were transferred into French, 123,000 into British, 14,000 into Dutch, 30,000 into Belgian and 5,000 into Luxemburgh's custody. Prisoners were also given to Poland and Czechoslovakia as part of reparations. France forced about 50,000 German prisoners of war to the high risk labor as deminers.

    General George S. Patton wrote, "I am so Opposed to sending PW's to work as slaves in foreign lands [in Particular, to France] where many will be starved to death".


    Losses among German prisoners of war

    The following table shows the number of prisoners of war of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS by country of custody and the rate of prisoners who died in captivity.
    These figures show that the mortality rates for POWs on the Eastern Front were extremely high, compared to that in the camps of the Western Allies. Yet even among the Western Allies, there were clear differences. In French custody, mortality was significantly higher than in camps of the United States or Great Britain.

    Country of internment POWs Wehrmacht and SS Casualties absolute Casualties %
    USSR 3,060,000 1,094,250 35.8
    Other (South-)East European countries 289,000 93,028 32.2
    France 937,000 24,178 2.6
    Great Britain 3,635,000 1,254 0.03
    USA 3,097,000 5,802 0.2
    other 76,000 675 0.9
    Total 11,094,000 1,219,187 11.0

    In American camps in France and Germany (for example, in the Rhine meadow camps) due to inadequate provisions and housing the death rate was 0.5 to 1 percent. However, these camps were resolved fairly quickly. In prison camps in the United States, the mortality rate was much lower.


  5. Source 2:

    The piece “A Time of Retribution: Paying with Life and Limb for the Crimes of Nazi Germany” is the English translation of an article from Germany's leading political news magazine Der Spiegel.

    While largely focusing on the fate of millions of ethnic German civilians fleeing the approaching Red Army and impeding retribution from the Eastern European countries that had been ravaged by the German Reich, the article paints a very clear picture that, realising that the war had indeed been lost, the predominant desire of the Germans was to escape the Soviet impetus and to rather try their luck with the Western Allies (ironically in many cases still facing opposition from the remnants of their own armed forces, that had been brainwashed into carrying on the fight).


  6. Source 3:

    Baques, James (1989) Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II. Toronto, Stoddart

    From Amazon's blurb:

    Other Losses caused an international scandal when first published in 1989 by revealing that Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower's policies caused the death of some 1,000,000 German captives in American and French internment camps through disease, starvation and exposure from 1944 to 1949, as a direct result of the policies of the western Allies, who, with the Soviets, ruled as the Military Occupation Government over partitioned Germany from May 1945 until 1949.

    An attempted book-length disputation of Other Losses, was published in 1992, featuring essays by British, American and German revisionist historians (Eisenhower and the German POWs: Facts Against Falsehood, edited by Ambrose & Günter). However, that same year Bacque flew to Moscow to examine the newly-opened KGB archives, where he found meticulously and exhaustively documented new proof that almost one million German POWs had indeed died in those Western camps.

    One of the historians who supports Bacque's work is Colonel Ernest F. Fisher, 101st Airborne Division, who in 1945 took part in investigations into allegations of misconduct by U.S. troops in Germany and later became a senior historian with the United States Army. In the foreword to the book he states: “Starting in April 1945, the United States Army and the French Army casually annihilated about one million [German] men, most of them in American camps … Eisenhower's hatred, passed through the lens of a compliant military bureaucracy, produced the horror of death camps unequalled by anything in American military­history … How did this enormous war crime come to light? The first clues were uncovered in 1986 by the author James Bacque and his assistant.

    This updated third edition of Other Losses exists not to accuse, but to remind us that no country can claim an inherent innocence of or exemption from the cruelties of war.


    Despite some widely disputed, newer research, that fatalities in US POW camps had been vastly under-reported, public opinion in Germany to this day appears to remain that the conditions in American (and even more so in British) captivity were far more favourable to those in the other Allies' POW camps.

    It is a fact that unlike most other belligerent parties of WWII, the United States were not experiencing similar food and energy shortages and (apart from the singular Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) had not suffered any infrastructural damages in direct consequence of the war.

    To any German troops as well as their relatives at home, falling into American captivity was significantly preferable to imprisonment by any other Allied nation, especially those that had suffered the most significant atrocities and losses at the hands of the Germans.

    Time spent: Approximately 45 minutes, but still reading more on the matter

  7. 1. What was the name of the WWII POW camp nearest to Priest Lake, ID? (If you can, find the lat/long.)

    "Click on Image" provided
    Result - Latitude 48.635122 Longitude-116.876222 (Priest Lake, Idaho, Reeder Bay) Inconclusive but why that location?

    Query [priest lake idaho pow camp]
    Result...Camp Farragut 1945 POW Germans- need more information to confirm.

    Query [mil:museum p.o.w.]
    WWII POW camps located throughout Idaho. The known camp locations are: Blackfoot, Franklin, Emmett, Farragut, Filer, Fort Hall, Idaho Falls, Marsing, Payette, Pocatello, Preston, Rigby, Rupert, Shelley, Sugar City, Thomas Upper Deer Flat and Wilder.

    Query [farragut p.o.w. camp]
    Camps were built to house them in Idaho and other Western states. Camp Rupert, near Paul, Idaho, was the base camp for the southern part of the state, with about 15,000 POWs divided among branch camps at Aberdeen, Blackfoot, Emmett, Filer, Franklin, Gooding, Idaho Falls, Marsing, Nampa, Payette, Pocatello, Preston, Rigby, Shelley, Sugar City, Thomas, Upper Deer Flat, near Nampa and Wilder....
    In February 1945, a POW camp attached to Farragut Naval Training Station on North Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille received 750 German and Austrian POWs. They were given light work as gardeners and groundskeepers. Some volunteered to help fight forest fires in the area. A German language newspaper named “Die Lupe” (the “Magnifying Glass”) was published by them.

    Next Result...
    Interesting site from Germany with pics of pow's and facilities at Farragut.
    Farragut south east of Priest Lake. Do I have the right pow camp, if so where was it located?

    Query [prisoners-of-war camps united states]
    Camp Algoma and Camp Rupert- only ones listed. Camp Rupert was near Paul Idaho which is in the southern part of the state. Camp Algoma is not well documented like Farragut.

    Query [google:news] Feb 1945 article announces Farragut POW Camp to open.

    Was my ANSWER # 1 Farragut Naval Base 47.965556,-116.5825 - Camp located in separated area by the base However POW Camp Algoma may in fact be closer to Priest Lake. Little info on this pow camp.

    Query [ historical map idaho 1945] Confirmed location of Algoma, Idaho

    Looking at a historical map of Idaho because the town of Algoma no longer exists. I find Sagle, Idaho has included Algoma. It is located at Coordinates: 48°12′09″N 116°32′52″W. This makes it closer to Priest Lake by my calculations by 10 miles. Final answer for name and location.

    I have been working on Question 2 but so far have only found personal accounts of pow's experiences. That not being public opinion in Germany during the war I will continue and come back later. Time Spent Searching 2 hours

  8. Good Morning!

    [Pow camps Idaho] to find
    Page names other POW camps in Idaho and has some interseting information about Farragut.

    Have a nice day!

  9. part two
    (Forgot to show this link in part one)
    Historical Map of Idaho Link

    Now on to Question 2-
    Is Google Search Engine the best source?
    Query [germany search engines]
    I mentioned in my first post this german newspaper. Die Lupe” (the “Magnifying Glass”). Good place to start. Found nothing.
    Query german newspapers 1945
    Collection of writings, speeches, books etc referred to as German propaganda.
    Link to
    While not public opinion the above site gives us an idea of what German P.O.W's in America experienced.
    Query [german online newspapers] Result...
    Tried a few sites, translated some, but I didn't find what I needed.
    Did check out a few museums but nothing helped.

    Researched several papers in existence back in 1940's such as der Speigel, Staats etc but not finding online archives.

    Interesting article on POW'S in America but not German public opinion

    Another interesting "personal experience" is highly critical of American POW Camp in Europe

    Query [ german newspaper archives site:de]
    Nothing found.
    Query [german public opinion ww2 prisoners]
    Result... [DOC] Final Paper KA Redfern -
    Most propaganda in Germany was produced by the Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Joseph Goebbels was placed in charge of this ministry shortly after Hitler took power in 1933. All journalists, writers, and artists were required to register with one of the Ministry's subordinate chambers for the press, fine arts, music, theater, film, literature, or radio.
    The Nazis believed in propaganda as a vital tool in achieving their goals. Adolf Hitler, Germany's Führer, was impressed by the power of Allied propaganda during World War I and believed that it had been a primary cause of the collapse of morale and revolts in the German home front and Navy in 1918. Hitler would meet nearly every day with Goebbels to discuss the news and Goebbels would obtain Hitler's thoughts on the subject; Goebbels would then meet with senior Ministry officials and pass down the official Party line on world events. Broadcasters and journalists required prior approval before their works were disseminated. In addition the Nazis had no moral qualms about spreading propaganda which they themselves knew to the false and indeed spreading deliberately false information was part of a doctrine known as the Big Lie.

    Conclusion-- Anything published in Germany during ww2 would have little credibility.

    Sources may be German museums, archives, interviews, collections which I have searched but nothing I could categorize as "public opinion". I have focused my search on German websites.

    I will continue on but maybe something I mentioned above will light a spark for someone else.

    1. Excellent searches. And yes, I agree with your last few paragraphs. Because the propaganda machine was SO effective during the war, it would be very difficult to separate out the "official position" from the rank-and-file's "popular belief" about POWs in America.

      Which is why I ended up looking a relatively recent books and magazine articles published in Germany (in German) over the past 20 years. That amount of time allows for a distancing which makes actual opinion easier to accept.