Historical Re-enactment Event Demonstrates Life at a former World War II Prisoner of War Camp

 
Historical Re-enactment Group “Green Light”, (Photo courtesy Dorota Maik vel ‘Winnie - the photographer’)
 

Historical events depicting the daily life as well as escape attempts of former WWII American POWs held in Oflag 64, a POW camp for American ground force officers, will be re-enacted on Saturday, September 16, 2017. The Living History re-enactments will be held on the site of the former camp, located on the current premises of the MOAS (Młodzieżowy Ośrodek Adaptacji Społecznej) Home and School for At-Risk Youth in Szubin, Poland.

This unique event was organized by the Mayor of Szubin Artur Michalak, the Municipal Office of Szubin, the Regional Museum of Szubin and the Historical Re-enactment Group “Green Light” in conjunction with the MOAS Reform School in Szubin, The Szubin Culture Hall, the Schools Complex in Szubinie, the Club of Photography Lovers “Flesz”, and Mariusz Winiecki, the local historical researcher of the Szubin WWII POW camp for allied forces and author of “The Oflag 64 Record” blog. Besides the Historical Re-enactment Group “Green Light” members, approximately 70 re-enactors from many other Poland-based re-enactment groups are expected.

The gate of the former POW camp will open at 10:00 a.m. Ceremonies will begin at 1 p.m. with three main historical re-enactment shows scheduled for 1:30, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

The first historical show entitled “Arrival of American POWs” will present the arrival of US Army officers to Oflag 64 in June 1943. During the following months, new American officers continued to arrive at the camp after being captured at various WWII battlefields. After D-Day, the camp population rapidly increased by over one thousand additional American officers, eventually reaching a maximum population of approximately 1550 POWs in January 1945.

Historical Re-enactment Group “Green Light”, (Photo courtesy Dorota Maik vel ‘Winnie – the photographer’)

The second historical show entitled “The Fake Drunk Party” will present the clever escape plan masterminded and carried out by 5 officers held in Oflag 64. In the middle of May 1944, Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet II, 2nd Lt. Frank N. Aten, 1st Lt. Roy J. Chappell Jr., 2nd Lt. William F. Higgins and 1st Lt. Richard W. Secor convincingly feigned an alcoholic drinking event. The officers brewed wine from fermented raisins and after the afternoon Roll Call, they poured the stinking liquid on their faces and uniforms and rinsed their mouths with it. The officers began yelling and singing, took a cart filled with metal trash into the cobbled camp courtyard and began to make loud unbearable noises. The provocation proved to be effective and they were immediately arrested. They were quickly sentenced: “10 days in solitary on bread and water for drinking and rowdiness” as they cunningly anticipated. As soon as they reached the confinement cells located across Adolf Hitler Street outside of the barbwire fence, they immediately began sawing the bars on the cell windows with the saw blade smuggled in by Secor. On the morning of the ninth day, all the bars were cut enough to break them easily. Four of the five officers escaped, but were recaptured a short time later.

The third historical show “The Escape of a British Aviator” dates back to the time when the site was called Oflag XXI-B and held the POW officers of the Commonwealth Air Forces who were later moved to Stalag Luft 3 in Sagan in April 1943. After breakfast on September 26, 1942, Flt/Lt. Robert Howard Edwards announced that he was fed up with being held, lit up a cigarette, walked to the barbwire fence and started to climb over it. He was shot to death at point blank range after refusing a challenge from a German guard. It is probable that one of the scenes in the Hollywood motion picture “The Great Escape” could have been directly inspired by this event. Edwards was buried at the Szubin cemetery, but after the war was over, his body was disinterred and moved to the Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery.

In between the three historical shows, the re-enactors will recreate the Kriegy’s daily life with scenes depicting his normal work and recreational activities. Period musical selections will further establish the atmosphere that existed 70 years ago in the former POW camp. Excerpts of recordings of the camp Swing Orchestra, Swing Band, Symphony Orchestra, Glee Club, POWs talking about their cultural and educational activities in the camp, and a portion of a chapel service recorded by the Swedish YMCA delegate Henry Söderberg in June 1944 will be aired as well.

A mock-up of the POW camp built by MOAS students supervised by MOAS teachers Tomasz Kmieć and Mieczysław Luchowski will be displayed in the main hall of the MOAS Correction and Juvenile Detention Center. The 1:125 scale model was built during the 2012 “Oflag 64 – Save From Oblivion” educational project created by the Principal of the Reform School, Mr. Wiesław Guziński.

The Szubin Regional Museum has organized two premiere open-air exhibitions, which will be shown at the site during the event:

The first exhibition entitled “Scenes from POW Camp Life” presents the watercolors painted in captivity by Yves-Marie le Bot, a French POW of Oflag XXI-B Szubin in years 1940-41. The watercolor paintings were found in 2016 at the estate of his grandson and donated to the Szubin Museum.

The second exhibition entitled “Stalag XXI-B, Oflag XXI-B and Oflag 64 as seen by the ICRC Visitors” presents the photographs taken during the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) delegates visits in Szubin POW camps. The photos from the archives of the ICRC Photo Library in Geneva depict interviews with Oflag 64 POWs and their daily lives.

Szubin school complex students will perform excerpts from the Leo Brady “Brother Orchid” play staged during Thanksgiving in 1943 by “The Little Theater” POW actors. The students will also recreate how the handwritten news announcements were prepared for the “Daily Bulletin”.

The photography club “Flesz” will photograph the reenactment sessions. Flesz plans to create a photo essay scheduled to be presented at the Szubin Public Library exhibition this fall.

The historical shows will conclude at 5:00 p.m.

Confirmed attendees includeDavid H. Weinstein (Pittsburgh, PA), great-nephew of the late 2nd Lt. Leonard Feldman, and members of the Oflag 64 Hall of Remembrance US Advisory Council, Susanna Bolten Connaughton (Washington, DC and Palo Alto, CA), daughter of the late 2nd Lt. Seymour R. Bolten, Cindy Sharpe Burgess and Glenn Burgess accompanied by Lauren Burgess (Oak Hill VA), daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter of 2nd Lt.Wilbur B. Sharpe, and Dave Stewart (Austin, TX), son of the late Capt. Donald B. Stewart.

Organizers:

Municipal Office of Szubin, Website

“Green Light”, historical reenactment group, operating out of Poznan, Poland. Link

Regional Museum of Szubin, Website MOAS Reform School, Szubin, Website

The Szubin Culture Hall, Website

Schools Complex in Szubin, Website

Flesz, Club of Photography Lovers, Website

Mariusz Winiecki, the local historical expert for the WWII POW camps for Allied Forces in Szubin, and author of “The Oflag 64 Record Blog”. Website

For more information, contact:

In Poland, mariusz.winiecki@interia.pl or The Oflag 64 Record blog. In the US, marlene-mcallister@att.net or Website.