In November 1943, a new subcamp (compound) for members of the US Army Air Force was opened. It was located north of the adjacent German fore-camp at the right site of the road, initially known as the North Compound, later North I. Due to the arrival of many more POWs the camp complex expanded again northwards with two more compounds, “North II” and “North III”.
Senior Allied Officer, Hubert Zemke
Zemke was born as child of German immigrants in Missoula, Montana. He became not only one of the best American fighter pilots, but had also gained international experience in various theaters of war since 1941. Further, in co-operation with the Soviet armed forces he learnt about their techniques and the mentality of their leadership.
On a mission on 30 October 1944, while flying in not forecasted turbulences, the wing of Zemke’s P-51 tore off. Zemke had to bail out and became a prisoner of war in October 1944. Escorted by a lieutenant of the German Air Force, he arrived in Barth by train. As he was the highest ranking officer in the camp, he replaced the previous Senior Allied Officer, Colonel Jean Byerly. Colonel Hubert Zemke’s headquarters (Head Shed) was located in Barrack 9, Room 21 of North I.
The Jewish POWs
One group of prisoners of war in Stalag Luft I who were subjected to the Nazi racial ideology were 400 to 500 Jewish airmen, mainly officers from the USA. They constantly and not unjustly feared being separated from the other prisoners and losing all protection. According to an order of the German High Command they were basically treated as correctly as the other inmates. They did not have to wear a yellow star and were allowed to receive letters and parcels – both from family members and the Red Cross – and were given basic medical care when needed. Religious services were also permitted, but without the traditional Jewish rituals.
In January 1945, the Germans segregated the Jewish prisoners from their comrades in two barracks of compound North I. Many feared that this was done to send them to an extermination camp and asked their non-Jewish comrades to inform their families if they did not return home with them. Colonel Zemke, as Senior Allied Officer, made it abundantly clear to the German camp commandant that the responsible would be accused as war criminals after the war, if they did not treat the Jewish POWs correctly.
The separation remained in place and fortunately no further repression took place. However, it remains unclear why the western Jewish POWs were not mass murdered like the civilian Jews in Europe or the Soviet POWs (Jews among them had a mortality rate of over 60%).
Senior Compound Officer North I, Lt. Col. Ross Greening
Charles Ross Greening was born on November 12, 1914 in Carroll, Iowa. He made his first flight in June 1921 and flew 27 missions during the Second World War before being shot down over Naples on 17 July 1943. He was seriously wounded and taken prisoner in Italy. On 18 April 1944, he was transported from Italy to Stalag Luft I. After the war, his cartoon book about his time in Stalag Luft I, “Not as Briefed”, was published.