|DEVELOPMENT OF THE CAMP
based on a postwar report by Colonel Berger of the German Army.
During the war, there was a considerable lack of farm workers, with POWs filling in for the missing men. The POWs were often the only male person in the house, and were generally treated as one of the family. The situation was similar in the small trade and craft shops and, the prisoner, if he did not actually have to take on the position of the called-up master, was usually a journeyman. The prisoners appeared to be as interested in keeping the shop going as if it had been their own business. Of course, not every prisoner found a job to suit him, and there were chores which were strenuous and disliked.
The camp administration was sent reports from all sections of the population full of gratitude for the friendly and helpful behavior of the prisoners. Officially, the camp remained free of any direct influence by the Party. Obviously, those prisoners working outside the camp came into contact with normal workers and were thereby constantly in the public eye, and the eye of the Party. However, here again, the Party achieved little. There were no punishment commands. Special commands were merely those prisoners who needed special watching for various reasons. For example, anyone who had made at least three escape attempts. These prisoners required watching even during their work, though all other conditions remained the same as for other prisoners.
The development of a black market amongst the POWs caused the camp administration considerable concern. The intention was to give Red Cross parcels to the most needy of the prisoners - especially as the parcels arrived so irregularly. Prisoners in the camp tended to get more than those who worked on the farms, and the sick were given extra rations. Generally, food (bread and meat) were exchanged on the black market for money or clothing. For example, a tin of Nescafe cost initially 60 to 80 Reichsmarks, and later, even 100 RM or more. In 1943, when the black market had gotten too strong a hold on the camp, the administration took severe measures to stamp it out, but was not completely successful.
Towards the end of the war, there were about 2000 guards and administrative staff caring for about 80,000 POWs, with another 80,000 prisoners and 8000 guards on outside work duty. Up until the end of 1944, the prisoners continued to pour in. The camp commander did his best to ensure that the lot of the prisoners was alleviated as much as possible.
An additional cause for worry was the future of the prisoners and their German staff when the camp should be finally closed. Before that, was the problem of what to do with all the prisoners taken during the final period of the war, and the ever decreasing area available for their safe accommodation. Prisoners in such outlying areas had to be transported to Germany, as Hitler had ordered that no prisoner should fall into the hands of the enemy. The prisoners then ended up in Bavaria, if they had not already been freed by the Allies. The prisoners in Bavaria were considerably helped by the Red Cross, which provided over a hundred trucks for the transport of additional food. The POWs were often in a sorry state, having walked all the way, carrying their worldly goods on their backs, or having taken any form of transport they could lay their hands on, such as hand-pulled carts. The commander requisitioned tents for 30,000 prisoners.
Vast formations of enemy planes flew over the camp and helped to boost the morale within. They stuck it out, followed camp orders and safety measures, and waited patiently for freedom.
THE CLOSING OF THE CAMP
Thanks to Col. Berger's intervention via the Red Cross, Moosburg was not bombed. The safety of the POWs automatically meant the safety of the town. Berger also received orders to deport all officers and to send as many of his own men to the defense of Moosburg as he could afford. Both orders, however, would have meant a contravention of the rules of the Geneva Conference, and would undoubtedly be dangerous for the safety of the prisoners. General Command seemed to have an ear for Berger's plea, but, on April 28th, 1945, the local command was taken over by the SS "Niebelungen" Division, and the officer in charge was tricked into believing Berger was going to carry out the deportation orders.
When the officer had left, Berger assembled all the POW officers (15,000 American, British, and Russian - including 200 Generals), and informed them, in the presence of the head of the guard, of his decision to hand over the camp en bloc to the approaching Americans. A delegation which included a Swiss delegate, two POW Colonels, and the SS officer of the night before as Parlamentar (negotiator), was sent off for talks with the Americans in hopes the U.S. troops could be persuaded to go around Moosburg. As it turned out, the Americans agreed to not attack Moosburg, and accepted Berger's offer for taking over the camp peacefully. This transfer was planned for noon on the 29th of April. Berger and Koller, the head of the camp guard, managed to hoodwink the SS into believing they were preparing for defense, and planned the details of the handing over of the camp with the interned officers.
Berger's daring plan succeeded, and the hand over at noon took place without any untoward incidents. Catastrophe had been completely avoided, and the lives of the prisoners, and the people of Moosburg, had been saved.
No sooner had the camp been emptied of its uniformed inhabitants, than the next group moved in - civilian internees. In 1948, the camp was finally disbanded as a place of internment, and was taken over by the Bavarian government and, later on, by the Bund. Since then, it has been a place of shelter for German expellees and has formed the center of the New Town.