Rhinelander, Oneida County, Wisconsin
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Camp Rhinelander, German POW Camp
If you didn't hire them, you didn't know that German prisoners of war were in the area. The farms near Rhinelander were far apart with lots of woodland between them. Back into the woods an abandoned CCC camp hid and housed the 190 PW's that arrived in Oneida County, in a federal nursery two miles west of Rhinelander hear Highway 8, the U.S. Forest Service LobLolly Pine Tree Lab stood adjacent to the PW Camp. The abandoned camp needed only a good cleaning to prepare it for new occupants. The largest building became sleeping quarters for the PW's. German speaking camp Commander Captain Kunze and his forty or so guards slept in another dormitory type buildling. This work battalion found the old CCC mess and bathing facilities still usable. While some food arrived from Fort Sheridan, most of the food was purchased from a local A&P in downtown Rhinelander. Captain Kunze negotiated a deal with the A&P to buy quality beef and call it "bologna." This gesture proved well worth the money. The PW's appreciated the "bologna suasage" and responded with excellent cooperation throughout their stay. With no cleared level area large enough for soccer, there was little recreation available here, other than cards, reading and letter writing. The local Dr. Van Komaszynski contracted with the camp to provide medical services and tended the PW's and guards as needed. At Camp Rhinelander security was minimal, with neither a fence, guard station or tower. Dispatched each morning in Jeeps, U.S. Army MP's stationed with the PW's accompanied the prisoner work details to the area farms. Always visible for show, the gun were not loaded, as the guards never worred for their own safety or about escapes. [Fn: Anthony E. Beres. MP and staff officer stationed at Camp Rhinelander and Camp Fedonia, married Rhinelander woman. Correspondence and telephone interview with author. Dunedin, Fla. February-March, 2001.]
The PW's came to Rhinelander in two waves, the first ninety arrived on August 29, 1945, with the additional 100 trucked in on September 4th. The Oneida County Farm Labor Association Cooperative had arrangements with the government for their assistance to pick beans and harvest portatoes at the going wage of fifty-five cents per hour. [Fn: "75 German Prisoners Arrive to Work in Bayfield. '//Ashland Daily Press//. 27 August 1945. 1.] Thirty five U.S. Army MP's accompanied the first contingent of prisoners when they arrived with their gear in twenty-four trucks and two jeeps. Major Elmer A. Ward, assisted by German speaking Captail A. I. Kunze, was in charge of this company of PW's. [Fn: "Ninety German Prisoners Here," //New North// (Rhinelander), 30 August 1945, 1.] School buses and trucks used to pick up and deliver the PW's to their work sites each morning, returned them to camp again in the evening. Even with the additional 100 prisoners that did arrive later, the potato growers still had a serious labor shortage and put a pleas ofr help in the October 11, 1945, edition of //The New North//. [Fn: "Need Help for Potato Harvest," //New North// (Rhinelander), 11 October 1945, 1.] The farmers recruited high school teens for Saturday work to help save the crop. Camp Rhinelander closed at the end of October as the potato harvest ended. [Fn: "Prison Camps Close," //New North// (Rhinelander), 1 November 1945, 1.]
The chapter contains "Recollections" from:
Lynn Bell, Milwaukee, WI. Sgt. Anthony E. Beres, Dunedin, FL. (With photo of Sgt. Beres.) Juanita Spafford Kichefski, Rhinelander, WI. Betty Kuczmarski, Rhinelander, WI. Marvin Spafford, Eagle River, WI.
In addition the chapter contains a photo of PW's picking up rocks in a field, courtesy of W. C. Schroeder.