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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - December 7, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta District The Uthbridge Herald Local news Second Section The Lethbridge Herald, Saturday, December Pages 13-22 New foundry site once confined German soldiers Listen just the wind. Or is it? The sound of marching feet and shouts of guards might be heard echoing out of the past. The wind can do funny things, take a sound and hold on to it, and remind us that the war came here. About this time 32 years ago the end of November and early December, 1942 thousands of German soldiers and airmen were brought to Lethbridge by train and plac- ed in a one-square mile piece of land on the northside of the city. Surrounded by three barbed wire fences and guarded by 800 members of the Veteran Guards of Canada, it was call- ed Camp 133 and was the largest-prisoner of war intern- ment camp in Canada. Camp recycled The war ended and most of the buildings were taken down. The barbed wire was given a new task as fences on farms. Prisoners and guards alike, went on to new lives. The square mile lay barren. What was left behind gradual- ly became covered with tall grass and weeds. Camp 133 was forgotten. Now, memories are being stirred as graders and workmen clear away the grass and weeds to build the new Lethbridge Iron Works foundry plant. As workers prepare the site of the POW camp for the new plant, footings, concrete floors, sewer pipes, barrels and pails, and pieces of benches are being uncovered. The foundry plant is ex- pected to be completed by the fall of 1975 at an estimated cost of million. The section of land was once owned by the Canadian Government and ad- ministered by the Canadian Army. Camp 133 was constructed in 1940 at a cost of million. Until the graders went to work, Caragana hedges mark- ed places where the prisoners barracks and other buildings once stood. Big as city Camp 133 was almost as large as Lethbridge itself. At times it accommodated more than prisoners and the 800 guards. At its' peak, the camp held men. In 1941, a year before the camp opened, the population of Lethbridge was people. The internment camp was divided into six sections, with each section having its own barracks, mess hall and ad- ministration buildings. Each section contained six barracks, all painted grey with black asphalt roofs. Only three buildings still stand to- day and are used as warehouses for Superior Propane. Besides barracks and ad- ministration buildings, there EARTHMOVERS CRAWL WHERE GERMAN PRISONERS WERE CONFINED DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR was also two large recreation buildings, which could hold up to men each. There was also a hospital, a jail and guard houses. Along each side of the camp were three large soccer fields. The fields and all buildings were enclosed by barbed wire. Guard towers were located about every 200 feet around the enclosure. Outside the barbed wire were a number of guard houses and storage buildings. Supplies for the camp were brought by train or bough't locally and hauled in trucks. A railway spur line came into the camp for unloading supplies and prisoners. Arrogant prisoners When the first train load of German prisoners were brought into Camp 133 on a particularly cold November day in 1942, the majority of them showed their arrogance in every move. They scoffed at their enemies, much like the Allied soldiers who were captured and placed in German camps. They looked at the Canadian guardsmen around the camp with contempt. Many believed Hitler was close to destroying the Allies and that they would be the vanguard of Germans coming here to rule Canada for "der Fuehrer." Those days at the end of November and beginning of December 1942, as the German prisoners poured into the camp from temporary prisons like Ozada, near Banff, were days many local residents would long remember. Same picture Each day they presented the same picture of Nazism. Most of them, Nazis to the core, marched into the camp ridiculing the small group of Canadians who watched them as "you damn fools" and "swine." They held on to their arrogance for at least two to three years after coming to Lethbridge, despite the fact that many had been captives for two years before then. A few even held on to their beliefs even until several days after Germany's surrender Some still were confident that Germany would triumph. They branded allied reports as lies. But as time wore on most began to change their outlook. During the years 1942 to 1945 many Germans in Camp 133, as well as in other camps in Alberta and across Canada, openly cursed Hitler. Some paid Some paid for that at the hands of fanatical Nazis and Gestapo types in the camps In the Medicine Hat intern- ment camp, which opened in the spring of 1943, four prisoners were convicted of killing a fellow prisoner in 1944. They were hanged together in the Lethbridge Provincial jail in 1946. Three other men were charged with executing another said to be anti-Nazi by hanging, in the same camp in 1943. Two were con- victed. One had his sentence commuted. The other was hanged One Canadian, a medical orderly in camp 133 hospital, who didn't want his name published, said there were quite a few" deaths in "the Lethbridge camp. get him into the hospital for a checkup, then transfer him to another camp." They were "marked" men, the former orderly com- mented, and some, rather than wait for their execution, By MICHAEL ROGERS Herald Staff Writer The records indicate Camp 133 was a fairly routine opera- tion "with no major distur- bances." But the former medical orderly said he believed many of the "accidental" deaths were really executions of anti- Nazis. "They used to take sand- bags from the gymnasium and hit them in the back of the neck. There were never any marks. The cause of death could never be found and the murders could never be he claimed. He recalled instances when they would learn of a German soldier proclaiming to be anti- Nazi and to save his life, "we would use some pretence to attempted to commit suicide. But for most of the prisoners at Camp 133, life wasn't all that bad Many felt they were treated well by the Canadians. They had recrea- tion facilities, they were allowed to keep pets, grow their own vegetable gardens and were well fed. Many forgot about brooding behind the barbed wire fences and went to work in the wheat and sugar beet fields. There were a few escape attempts made from Camp 133 as well as some attempts from the beet fields but none were successful. Most were content with life in the prison camp. At one time, more than prisoners were working on Southern Alberta farms, out of nine manpower hostels es- tablished in the Lethbridge district. Several hundred more went to farms daily from Camp 133 and returned each night. Hostels were in Barnwell, Coaldale, Turin, Iron Springs, Park Lake, White School, Welling, Stirling and Magrath. Most of the German soldiers and airmen were bewildered at first with Canadian freedom and democracy, but they gradually became used to it and began to appreciate it. English lessons Canadian and American newspapers as well as educational books were made available to prisoners that re- quested them and with the help of the guards, many of the German prisoners learned to speak English During a local election, the prisoners were even given an insight into Canadian democracy Most of the men wanted to stay in Canada, since here they were fed more and some of the prisoners even claimed they earned more money than they ever did in Germany According to the Geneva convention, the captives were returned to their homeland after the war. first evacuated to Britain and then to Ger- many The evacuation to Bri- tain occurred in 1946 and by the next year the men were in Germany a torn, broken and defeated country. Some came back Many returned to Canada Hans Pfeffel, of Coaldale, was one of those to return in 1953 Captured in North Africa in November 1942 at age 22, he was first transported to South Africa, then to New York and fromthere to Lethbridge. Like most of the 200 other German soldiers who arrived at Camp 133 with him, Mr Pfeffel remembers his treatment as fair His home was at Camp 133 for a year and a half, before he was transferred to another camp "We were treated well and fed well We were able to work in the fields and earn the former prisoner recalled. Mr. Pfeffel remembered some of the fanatics in the camp but declined to talk about it, saying. "I was for my country not for Hitler There were dirty characters, but there were those types on both sides." Liked Canada He liked the country, the Canadian people and the freedom. He returned and made it his home. Hans Schulz, of Riondel, B.C., another former "resi- dent at Camp returned to Canada in 1952, for the same reasons. He recalls the treatment of himself and his fellow prisoners as good and general- ly speaking, the men received more food while imprisoned than while they were fighting. "I was 20 and was on a German destroyer fighting near Narvik, northern Norway, when I was wounded and Mr. Schulz said. That was in 1940, and by the end of May that year, Mr. Schulz was in a Manchester hospital. From there he went to a POW camp near Oldham, England, then to another camp near Sudbury, Ontario, where he spent three years. In July, 1943, he was brought to Lethbridge. There was more than prisoners at Camp 133 then. Most were Germans, but there were a few Italian soldiers, and a number of Austrians and Czechs. Dust storm "I remember coming here. It was my first experience with a dust Mr. Schulz said. He was at Camp 133 until January 1944 when he was transferred on a voluntary detail to work in a Quebec lumber camp. In December, 1946, he was back in England and by April, 1947, he was home in Germany Five years later Mr. Schulz immigrated to Canada, lived in Lethbridge for several years and recently moved to Riondel, B C. Many of the prisoners that were detained in the 15 camps across the country eventually immigrated to Canada. At its peak, Camp 133 held prisoners. Other camps in Alberta brought the total prisoners to making Alberta responsible for most of the prisoners held in Canada. British request The prisoners were transferred to Canada at the request of Britain when she was being threatened by inva- sion in the summer of 1940. Some of the men had been fighting for only months when they were captured. Most of the German airmen that were prisoners were shot down dur- ing the Battle of Britain and most of the soldiers were cap- tured in North Africa while serving under Rommel. Several thousand of the prisoners in Alberta were cap- tured on the Western Front and were taken by Canadian troops near Caen, France. After the war, Camp 133 was demolished and much of the material in the enclosure was used in the construction of homes in the city. Camp 133 had a population of prisoners that almost equalled the population of Lethbridge. It could have been a terrify- ing experience if a mass es- cape had been planned and ex- ecuted or if the prisoners had obtained weapons. Keeping an eye on exploration crews is government man's job By AL SCARTH Herald Staff Writer BLAIRMORE Harold Ganske is the provincial government's man on the spot when it comes to coal exploration in Southern Alberta. Mr. Ganske works out of a basement office in this Crowsnest Pass town at the heart of some of the richest coal deposits in Alberta. The 43-year-old land-use officer must decide whether proposals for mountain coal explorations meet his standards. If not, they don't get his crucial nod. "We look at jt with the goal in mind of total he said in an interview. STRICT "I am quite strict and they sometimes shake their he says Some companies have abandoned exploration plans because of the strict reclamation regulations. Under those regulations, and with the help of experience gained since the latest coal boom hit the 'Pass six years ago, Mr. Ganske says prime recreational land in the region can be successfully reclaimed after exploration activities are com- pleted. In that vein, the Environment Conservation Authority has recommended that the region above the confluence of the Oldman and Livingstone Rivers be protected for recreational use. Granby Mining of Vancouver is now exploring in the region under Mr. Ganske's watchful eye. "Considering the present situation, we can reclaim it so it won't interfere with that he says. SITES IMPROVED "I can safely say that in some cases, sites have been left in better shape than when the companies went But the environmental history of this and previous coal booms has not been all rosy. "We've made mistakes, there's no doubt about says one land-use official. "Back in '68 and '69 we were in our learn- ing this official says. "We were a little bit inexperienced and there have been some significant improvements." Some exploration scars are only now beginning to heal Abandoned mining operations present an even grimmer picture of scarred alpine terrain. INDICTMENT The Environment Conservation Authority offered this in- dictment of surface coal extraction in its major report on the slopes handed down in October: "The damage and devastation left behind in the process of surface mining, from the coal washing plants on the sides of brooks and rivers which release coal fines that settle out on brooks and streams and smother the young trout fry, the dangerously dammed lagoons high in the mountains, the incredible devastation of the mountainside invoked by the giant machines, and the spoil and spill piles exposed to erosion on the steep slopes pouring down into the valleys and destroying the trees, the other vegetation, and the river beds; make it possible to wonder why this particular resource is exploited at all." The authority said the coal should be left in the ground "un- til required to service Alberta's needs." RE-LANDSCAPING The goal then was not what it is now total re-landscaping, says Mr. Ganske. "Our reclamation requirements are now much more stringent." Gone are the bulldozer blades as far as actual exploration sites are concerned, although 50 miles of 75 slashed through a 36-square-mile area at the headwaters of the Oldman and Livingstone rivers have not yet been reclaimed. "Bulldozing has not been permitted for two Mr. "We can now feasibly recover the overburden so we can get Ganske says. Access roads are limited to 16 feet in width, ex- total re-landscaping ploration sites are excavated by backhoe or by hand, and the "Right now we're rea ly pleased with the degree of sites have shrunk considerably in size. reclamation we can accomplish "The companies realized that they didn't need their Ian- If i wasn t getting anywhere, he adds after eight years in dings so big when they had to do total he says the post, "I wouldn't be here I have a conscience. ________ A RECLAIMED COAL EXPLORATION TRENCH NORTH OF CROWSNEST PASS ;