GHDI logo

The Psychological and Physical Condition of Prisoners of War Returning from the East (undated report)

page 3 of 3    print version    return to list previous document      next document

4. Returnees enter the door, wait until they are spoken to, and then follow all orders willingly and eagerly.

5. One confesses after weeks that he must make a great effort to pass by a garbage heap without rooting around in it for “useful stuff.”

6. At meals, all rush to the bowls, overload their plates and do not ask whether the next person will get something, even though they can all eat their fill.

7. They have become “stubborn,” do not make any independent decisions, shirk work if there is nothing to be “had.”

8. The work ethic that is otherwise part of the Germans has been lost through years of meaningless activities. (Raking leaves during a fall storm, only to have the wind immediately disperse them again; erecting walls that are then torn down the following day because of different orders . . .)

b) The physical state. All show serious famine edemas (face, abdomen, feet), some have heart and lung ailments, muscular atrophy. Ten percent were amputees.

II. The care

a) Medical care. Following admission (creation of a personal file), a medical check-up takes place on the first day. The necessary medications are procured. The following supplementary nutrition is granted:

1. From the Office of Economic Affairs, a predetermined amount of butter, meat, cheese, and nutriments, as well as 1/3 of a liter of whole milk every day.
2. Supplements from the Protestant Relief Organization in the form of a daily morning soup (per day 100g grits, 25g sugar), and each month a total of 10kg flour for sauces (for 40 men).
3. Additional potatoes from voluntary donations.

Treatment of dropsy: Carell milk day, 3/4 liters of whole milk, excretion of up to 5 1/2 liters water, low-salt fare, little fluid intake (no drinks in the evening), medication.
For those whose lungs are at risk: examination at the lung sanatorium Brillon-Wald, on average 1/3 of returnees.
Those suffering heart ailments: 15%, dental treatment: 80%, directives for those wearing glasses: 10%

Success: Initially weight loss (excretion of water), then rapid weight gain within the first week. In four weeks, 25 pounds on average. The water disappears from the face, later from the abdomen, for the most part not completely from the feet. The appearance becomes fresher, the strength soon increases. In general, substantial improvement but not yet complete restoration of the former strength. Physical work begins in the third week. (Help around the house, chopping wood, helping local residents).

Source: Die psychische und physische Situation der Ostheimkehrer. (Beobachtungen und Erfahrungen im Heimkehrerhotel Willingen). [The Psychological and Physical Condition of Prisoners of War Returning from the East (Observations and Experiences in the Returnee Hotel Willingen)], Evangelisches Zentralarchiv Berlin, 39/29/47, 2/529.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

first page < previous   |   next > last page