Nazi POWs in Texas: Five Facts, Including the Most Inept Escapes Ever

Categories: Texas

HearneTexasPOWCamp1201.jpg
A scale model of the POW camp in Hearne.
Texas used to be dotted with prisoner-of-war camps in World War II, a temporary home to thousands of Germans and Italians.

Texas had far more prisoners than any other state, mainly because the first batch came from the North Africa campaign, and the Geneva Convention said prisoners should be housed in a climate similar to where they came from. Eventually camps were set up in more German-esque climates like Minnesota and Wisconsin.

5. Not-So-Great Escapes
Most Axis POWs, especially after things started going badly for their side, were content to be a long, long way from the fighting, being treated tolerably well. Others tried to escape. Arnold Krammer, who wrote a book on Texas POW camps, notes that the escapees weren't exactly Steve McQueen and crew:

Motivated by boredom, the need for privacy, or a desire to meet girls, the prisoners often simply wandered away from their work parties and were picked up within a few hours, confused and helpless. Most escapes were comical affairs: a prisoner from Mexia calling for help after having been chased up a tree by an angry Brahman bull; three from Hearne who were found on the Brazos River in a crude raft hoping somehow to sail back to Germany; and another from Hearne who was picked up along U.S. Highway 79, near Franklin, heartily singing German army marching songs.

Of the raft escape, a Web site dedicated to U-Boats is more admiring:

Six German prisoners spent part of every day constructing a makeshift boat in a hidden area along the nearby Brazos River; it was a remarkable craft made of waterproof GI ponchos with umbrellas for sails. One night they escaped and sailed their improvisation down the Brazos, hoping to reach the Gulf Coast.

"It was an ambitious project, but they were apprehended less than five miles downriver from the camp," the site says.

4. They're all but gone

CampHowzeTX07SReveley7.jpg
Foundation supports for Camp Howze near Gainesville.
Once the war ended, there was little use for the camps. Some survived by becoming state health facilities or parts of schools, but most just faded away. The PBS show History Detectives tried to track a few.

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9 comments
mcmannis12
mcmannis12

Not all Germans are Nazi's playa

Allison
Allison

I'd be interested in learning the differences between these POW camps and the Japanese internment camp in Texas. Specifically if the United States citizens held there against their will also considered it the one of greatest adventures of their lives.

Rosic
Rosic

Part of history should show that some of the German soldiers ended up "amongst us" andnobody questioned that.  What questions? Are you documented to be here in the USA?   Are you here legally?  Did you agree with Hitler?Who would question a white man in the 1940s about his status in the USA?   

CEPrince
CEPrince

I was in Stuttgart Germany in the 70s. My taxi driver spoke excellent English, which I commented on.  I asked him where he learned to speak English. He told me he was a prisoner of war in Texas for 3 years. Lucky man, I think.

Maggie_Mae
Maggie_Mae

This article's title is inaccurate. 

You cite the excellent History Detectives coverage of POW camps in Texas.  In it, we learned that not all the Germans were "Nazis."  That episode mentions an incident in which Nazi prisoners killed another who was, if not anti-Nazi, just a German soldier waiting to go home.  Later, our side segregated the diehard Nazis from the rest of the population.

HO-GAAAAAANN!!!
HO-GAAAAAANN!!!

In the 40's they were, whether or not you agreed with their politics or their methods. Not being a party member had consequences.

Maggie_Mae
Maggie_Mae

Well, they were in POW camps.....

MadMac
MadMac

And you're here swimming in this "sea of hacks," because?????

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