World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I


World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I


If you are a former Prisoner of War or a next of kin of a POW, we invite you to sign and leave your email address so others that come may find you. Please mention camp, compound, barracks and room numbers if possible.

 Sign or view our Guestbook

Visit our
Online Store




If you would like to
  help us keep this website online, please click on the above PayPal link, where you may make a monetary contribution to this site using your credit card.  Thank you.



Stalag Luft I - E-mail us

Click to send us e-mail



Christmas in a World War II German Prisoner of War Camp     

 Perk Chumley's memories of Christmas 1944 at Stalag Luft I:

"The day before Christmas was a cloudy day about 20 degrees Fahrenheit the camps glee club and string orchestra presented a program of Christmas carols and excerpts from "Handel's Messiah". At midnight the Catholic’s were permitted to have mass and the Protestant’s had their Christmas service at noon on Christmas day.  During the evening one of our room mates played an accordion that we got from somewhere and we sang a few of the old favorite songs.  It looked to us like Christmas would be just another day.

   Christmas Day in "Kriegeland" a cold and cloudy day.  Roll call was a little later today.  For breakfast we had Vienna sausage and fried potatoes.  At 2:00 we had Protestant service.  It was a short service of prayers and Christmas carols.  This afternoon I cooked a soup using some of the tomato juice from my last parcel, a bouillon cube, dehydrated meat and rice and noodle soup mix.  It was really quite good.  The Christmas evening meal put the Thanksgiving meal in the back seat.  The menu was as follows: Turkey (very good), mashed potatoes and Pate gravy, boiled carrots, chocolate pie and coffee.  In addition to this the band put on a program, Chuck Wiest sang three songs and really did a good job, they had a Santa Claus and all.  It was a climax to a rather sad and lonesome Christmas Day.  As usual we had the Red Cross and the YMCA to thank for our pleasure."


 Clair Cline and the prison camp violin:

"My most memorable moment was Christmas Eve. As my buddies brooded about home and families, I began playing "Silent Night." As the notes drifted through the barracks a voice chimed in, then others. Amid the harmony I heard a different language.  "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, alles schläft, Einsam wacht . . . " An elderly white-haired guard stood in the shadows, his eyes wet with tears."


He carved a violin out of rough hewn bed slats.   Click here to read his amazing story.

The Bet at Barth

"We awoke on Christmas morning  for "appell" (roll call) on a bitter cold day.  After counting the "Kriegies," Major Steinhauer turned us over for dismissal. It was then we witnessed the payment of the debt by the man who had wagered the war would be over by Christmas. In September 1944, Stark had said to Johnson, "I'll kiss your a** if the war isn't over by Christmas."  Stepping out before 1,500 "Kriegies", Second Lt. Stanley M. Johnson of Port Allegany, Penn., lowered his pants and leaned over.  Second Lt. Richard D. Stark of Tampa, Fla., came forward with a bucket of hot water and a towel.  After washing Johnson's rear end, he folded the towel, placed it over the crack and gave the "cheek" a good kiss,

Fifteen hundred men let out with a cheering and clapping that could be heard in all the other compounds.  The German Major Steinhauer stood there with his guards, shaking his head in amazement, not believing what he had witnessed.  We were then dismissed."

Click here to read the full story.

Donald W. Overdorff  - North 2 – Barracks 3 – Room 6

As Christmas was near,  our room, headed by Charles “Mole” Wilson decided on a plan.  With material furnished from the YMCA, we cut letters from paper and on Christmas morning at roll call, we took the first row of the barracks waiting to be counted, and at a signal the letters were flashed in front of each Kriegie.  As the Jerries and the other eight barracks looked on, the front row spelled “MERRY CHRISTMAS, ROOM 6” much to the delight of all.  (note this in the sketch of the Bet at Barth - see above) 

From B-17’s over Berlin – Personal Stories from the 95th Bomb Group

Ken Williams of Murder , Inc. fame,  Christmas  1943 with the Commandant of Stalag Luft I

"On Christmas Eve, 1943, three German guards came to our room (about twenty men to a room) and said I was wanted by the German Commandant.  They took me to the German officer’s club.  It was decorated for Christmas with a Christmas tree and all the trimmings.  The Commandant was seated at a table with two other men.  He stood up, greeted me and shook hands.  He asked me to have a seat and offered me some wine.   I hesitated to drink the  wine thinking it might be drugged, but the Commandant assured me it was good German Rhine wine, so I did take a few sips.

 The Commandant said the man seated across from him had come up from Berlin to talk to me.  The Commandant then stood up and said he had to leave, and he and the other officer left the table.

 The man from Berlin was wearing a sweater (so no military rank) and military riding pants and boots.  I believe he was a general from the way the Commandant, who was a colonel, had treated him.  He was a good-looking man and appeared to be about forty years of age.

 He asked me about Christmas in the United States and at my home.  We wanted to know what I thought my parents would be doing at that time on Christmas Eve.  I told him about Christmas Eve at home, exchange of presents, Midnight Mass, and about my family. 

 He then showed me a Berlin newspaper with my picture on the front page, a front view and the back view with the “Murder Inc.” on the back of the jacket.  He said he had been sent up from Berlin to see if I were really a gangster.  He said it was obvious to him that I was not a gangster and he thought that I would probably hear no more about “Murder Inc.”  He wanted to know why we had given the plane this name.  I told him I did not name the plane and did not know why it was so named.

 He gave me the newspaper and said he thought I might like to have it as a souvenir.  I have that very same paper in front of me now at my desk."

To read the complete story of Murder, Inc. click here

Special Red Cross parcel received at Christmas


1 can Turkey, 12 oz.

1 pack Dates, 1 lb.

1 can Honey, 8 oz.

1 pack Tea, 1 3/8 oz.

1 can Butter, 3 ¾ oz.

1 box Bouillon cubes, 12 cubes

1 can Cheese, 4 oz.

2 Fruit Bars, 2 oz. each

1 can Deviled Ham, 4 oz.

1 Wash Rag

1 can Vienna Sausage, 4 oz.

 1 Pipe

1 can Cherries, 4 oz.

1 pack Pipe Tobacco

1 can Jam, 4 oz.

3 packs Cigarettes

1 can Nuts, 8 oz.

4 packs Gum

1 can Candy, 12 oz.

1 deck Cards

1 can Plum Pudding, 12 oz.

1 game 2 pictures

"Christmas was different from the yuletide at home.  Here in the country where many of our Christmas customs originated seemed very little like Christmas.  You soon discover that it is family and friends and the joy of giving that make Christmas worthwhile.  We tried hard.  We had the room decorated and a small tree but the spirit of the season was not present.  The Red Cross provided a special parcel for the season and we did have a fine meal."

"The religious activities of our compound were in charge of Padre Clark.  He had our services every Sunday afternoon.  On Christmas there was a special carol service."

"Cards were the most popular from of individual entertainment.  The decks of playing cards in the Christmas parcels were a most welcome addition to our stock." 

From Robert Swartz YMCA log.  Click here to read his log in full.

From Jack Murphy's memoirs - In the ten months that I was there, I can only remember one time I didn't have hunger pangs. That was at Christmas time. We had a special Christmas box that came in that had a British plum pudding, a type of cake. It was really good - heavy icing. I ate that, probably more than I should have, not realizing what would happen. For 2 days I couldn't eat another thing because I was so sick! In the two days, I made numerous trips to the toilet with stomachache. I was really sorry for eating so much cake.

John Cordner's handmade Christmas menu for his room


Prisoners of War Bulletin - Published by the American National Red Cross for the Relatives of American Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees - Christmas  1944.

 From the collection of Mark Kleinhanz.

POW rRed Cross Bulletin -  pg 1  POW Red Cross Bulletin -  pg 2  POW Red Cross Bulletin - pg 3  POW Red Cross Bulletin - pg 4  POW Red Cross Bulletin - pg 5  

  POW Red Cross pg 6  POW Red Cross pg 7  POW Red Cross pg 8 POW Red Cross pg 9  POW Red Cross pg 10 

 POW Red Cross pg 11  POW Red Cross pg 12


Hanns Scharff - Master Interrogator at German POW Camp Col. Zemke the Senior Allied Officer at Stalag Luft I and Hanns Scharff the famous German interrogator at Dulag Luft.

 Hanns Scharff was primarily an American 8th and 9th Air Force Fighter pilot interrogator.  He was considered the best of the interrogators at Dulag Luft. He gained the reputation of magically getting all the answers he needed from the prisoners of war, often with the prisoners never realizing that their words, small talk or otherwise, were important pieces of the mosaic.  It is said he always treated his prisoners with respect and dignity and by using psychic not physical techniques, he was able to make them drop their guard and converse with him even though they were conditioned to remain silent.    One POW commented that "Hanns could probably get a confession of infidelity from a nun."   Hanns personally stepped into search for information that saved the lives of six US POWs when the SS wanted to execute them.  Many acts of kindness by Scharff to sick and dying American POWs are documented.  He would regularly visit some of the more seriously ill  POWs and arrange to make their accommodations more humane.  At one time the Luftwaffe was investigating him.  After the war, he was invited by the USAF to make speeches about his methods to military audiences in the US and he eventually moved to the United States.  General Jimmy Doolittle was one of the first to extend the hand of friendship to Hanns after the war, inviting him to a luncheon where they compared notes.  Later he was invited to the home of Col. Hub Zemke who thereafter would send Hanns what he called a "Red Cross Parcel" every Christmas.  And 38 years after he was Hanns "guest" at Dulag Luft - Oberursel, Col. Francis "Gabby" Gabreski was a guest of honor at Hanns 75th birthday party.  In the United States Scharff worked as a mosaic artist.  His works are on display in Cinderella's castle at Disney World.

To read about Dulag Luft - the German Military Intelligence Camp during World War II click here.

Okay this one is a stretch to link to Christmas, but it is one of my favorite stories.

"In early 1992, disturbed at not having received our customary Christmas card, I called Rochester and spoke to Ted’s wife, Patricia.  She told me that Ted was suffering from terminal cancer and didn’t have too long to live.  In March my wife Irene and I flew to Rochester to see them.  Ted was fading rapidly."

Click here to read Honor Bound.

Another stretch, but a good story.

"At the reception, Hilde and I discussed how fortunate it was I didn't see her, when she followed me with the pick-axe. I had my forty-five, and if she had threatened me, I might have shot her. That would surely have been curtains for me when I was captured. The next day Hilde invited us to her home for champagne and cake.  We continue to exchange Christmas cards."

Click here to read Phil Wright's story.



This site created and maintained by Mary Smith and Barbara Freer, daughters of Dick Williams, Jr.