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South African Forced march Casualties

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Hi all,

Wondering if anybody has access to the war crimes reports filed by prisoners from stalag 8c?

On the 27th of February 1945, 12 South African prisoners who were on the March from stalag 8c at Sagan, died.

I have only found 17 South Africans total who are buried in Germany and Poland who died in Feb 1945 and 12 of these were on the same day and are buried in a mass grave together all having been recovered from the same site in the early 1950s.

3 of these 12 were of the same battalion and were captured together at Tobruk.

Is it likely that these men were shot attempting escape or as reprisal for escape? I find it unlikely that they all happened to die of starvation or the cold on the same day in the same location?

Any help or speculations would be appreciated!

Rob

 

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If we're open for pure speculation - then I have doubts about an escape attempt.  Typically the forced marches were from east to west, so why try to slip the leash when you're going in the right direction anyways?  Plus, in winter, in hostile territory -- it's hard to imagine anyone thinking escape is a viable option.

Perhaps more likely are summary executions for not keeping up on the march - happened by the thousands for concentration camp inmates on those end-of-war winter marches.  I would have thought western Allied PoWs would be a more privileged group, though.

That's it for my speculation.  Eagerly awaiting anyone with facts.

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Hi,

A very plausible explanation, I agree. There were a lot of reports of men being shot for collapsing or falling behind, even stories of the guards themselves being so exhausted that they asked the prisoners to carry their weapons which were promptly thrown off the sledges when the guards weren't looking!! 

However, I have 3 groups to POW's who escaped from the forced marches despite being marched to the west who met the Russian and British lines a couple of weeks before the collumns were liberated.

I feel both the summary executions and the escape are plausible so I might try to find some of the 'Form Q's' to prisoners from this camp to see if any war crimes regarding the march occurred.

Thanks for your speculations, would be very keen to hear some other people's opinions on the subject too! 

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hi rob if you go to this www.samilitaryhistory.org/vol1086ig.html there is a very interesting article on south African pows on the long marches 1944/45 mainly from the camps in Poland westwards as noted in the article attempted escapes started almost immediately the site is run by the south African military history society and has some very good info if you have not already seen it

if the link doesn't work go to the south African military society website and look for volume 8 no 6 December 1991

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Hi Rob

This sounds like a Blue on Blue event. Many of these columns were straffed by trigger happy Allied airmen unfortunately. Being companions for so long it would have been likely that they were together when bombed or straffed. From all the reports I have read very few prisoners were shot while attempting to escape, One of the accounts I read was that one group were caught and after all the other prisoners had passed shots were fired into the air...however no killing took place and the same group later joined their mates a few days later. It was a scare tactic. Most of the guards were old soldiers and not of the fanatic SS Types. However saying that there were no doubt cases of shootings, especially if it was found the prisoners were abusing civilians along the routes.

Hope this helps.

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Hi Chaps,

Thanks very much for your input, i've read the article which mickey sent (very interesting to read to many thanks!) and i agree that there is a decent chance that it was a Blue on Blue incident.

If you guys are interested, I posted some info along with the pictures of the medals to one of the 12 men who died on that march on the 27th of Feb 1945 on my post called 'My Prisoner of War Collection' which is on the Great Britain section of the forum along with the rest of my pow stuff! (Brian, i really enjoyed seeing your collection on the forum too!)

Rob

 

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Hi Rob

Thanks, yes and ongoing albeit with brakes on, now have over 50 POW groups but still need to do lots of write-ups. My spare time has diminished of late but will get back into the groove when the pressure lifts.

I also had a family member of one of the groups I posted contact me as the GMIC is an "open forum", people Googling a name can get a hit off this site, the chap became quite offensive and despite me having correct dates with paperwork he maintained I had wrong info....sadly another reason I stopped posting here. I got the feeling they wanted the group despite me paying for it legitimately, it appeared to me that they felt as a family they were entitled to it. He had just been a great uncle, so far removed from immediate family!

Brian

Edited by brian conyngham

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Hi Brian,

I look forward to your upcoming write ups! I saw that on John's collection post, you mentioned that you had an SAAF pilots group which i look forward to!

My favourite of you collection is your group to Sgt Wilkinson who was M.I.D for his escapes! Such a cool story, on my list of things to tick off is the medals of somebody who escaped wearing a pow made or stolen axis uniform!

Ive got a couple of interesting groups which is need to write up, but im about to start my uni exams so time is the issue!

Take care,

Rob

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