GERMAN SAVOIR FAIRE
It was early Spring,
1945, at Stalag Luft 1a, Barth Germany. The Germans decided to ration
our water supply. This meant that there would be less water for showers,
etc. Someone in our Compound, North 2, decided, since we were near the
coast, that the ground water level would be near the surface. Krieges
from one of the barracks across the open space from our Barracks- #2 ( I
donít remember their barracks number ) asked for permission to dig,
collect ground water, let it settle, then use it for bath water.
The project was approved and digging
was started out in the open area where we always gathered twice daily
for "Roll Call" (head count).
At four o'clock that afternoon we all
gathered by barracks in rows of five men deep. "Roll Call" occurred
when, as we stood at attention, the German Commandant of the Compound
goose-stepped down the front of each group, his head turned 90 degrees,
counting the number of rows of five and assuring himself that there were
really five in each row. His Sergeant duplicated the count marching
behind us. Upon completion of each count, the Sergeant would march
around the formation, face the Commandant, salute and report his count.
If his count corresponded they would move on to the next group of
Halfway down the count, the Commandant stepped off into a void. When the
Sergeant popped his salute to report, there was no one to report to. The
Commandant was still clambering out of a hole in the ground. Up and out,
he stood erect, brushed off his breeches, and continued his count. Then,
his check with the Sergeant completed, they both silently continued on
to the next barracks formation.
You guessed it! The group next to our
barracks had lined up directly behind the hole that had been dug for
ground water. It was still dry, so the Commandant did not get wet, just
a little soiled. Probably the greatest surprise to us all was that he
ignored the incident and moved on. There must have been over 1000
Krieges choking to avoid laughing. Once the Commandant continued to the
next group, grins spread wide over the great multitude of faces behind
him. I'm sure , however, that he actually won a lot of respect for his
savoir faire and the reaction by which he resolved what might have been
an explosive situation. Needless to say, within the next half hour the
hole was refilled. Nothing like that was ever tried again.