John C. Schumacher’s
Story of
WW II Shoot Down
and POW Experiences

Chapter 8

The Prisoner Relocation to Stalag-Luft I

The assembly for those picked to move began the morning of January 30, 1945. We were given one Red Cross parcel per two individuals. Joe and I were together again and so we shared the parcel. As we moved out of the gates in columns of four we started down the tree-lined road with the guards manning the machine guns in the woods. The train was waiting for us, all boxcars with guard boxes on each car and guards everywhere. Joe and I climbed aboard and took a corner for more room. Hay and straw had been placed in the boxcar to sit and sleep on. There were so many men packed into this small European boxcar that we could not all lay down at the same time. To make more room, we took our shoelaces and made a hammock with them. The hammock was stretched f rom a vent window to a tie looop of sort and worked out very well. But my feet would get cold from the vent, as it was winter, snow on the ground and cold, especially at night.

We could not find out our destination as the train started out of the siding and headed west. We noted the trains did not run when there was a possible air attack. The fighter planes on their way home from escort duty with the bombers enjoyed targets of opportunity and railroad engines were one of the main targets.

The train stopped. We did not know why until much later, and for the next eight days we sat in these boxcars, our prison on the railroad. The food ran out by the third day and there was no water. The train moved to an area of open fields and, after guards were posted, we were allowed out of our boxcar to relieve ourselves and get some movement in our legs. Only so many boxcars at a time were let out. It seemed the only movement the train had was to find a new place for us to fertilize.

The evening of the fourth day, the boxcar was dark (black) and I got so sick and came both ways. We had buckets for this and I was not the only one to be sick like that. After I finished, I do not recall anything for the next 40 plus hours. Joe and some of the others put me in my hammock and I slept through the next day and awoke about midday and was too weak to get up. Also, there was no need to. My feet were very cold. Joe had been checking on me but there was nothing he could do to help. He also added some clothing around my feet. It did not take long to find that I had frozen them as the nights had been cold according to Joe and the others. The train started to move again and before long we were in the city of Stettin.

We traveled very slow as the railroad had been bombed and heavily damaged by the Allied air force. After clearing the town, the train speeded up and sometime during the night we arrived at our destination which turned out to be Barth, Germany. The prisoner of war camp was Stalag-Luft I, officers’ camp

Above: Enlarged section of POW map illustrating all POW camps in Germany and (at that time) controlled territory. Note Stalag Luft IV at upper right. Stalag Luft I is above, left of center. The POWs at Staleg Luft I were able to view the Baltic Sea when they looked in a northernly direction.

End of Chapter 8

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