Liberation – of a kind…..
15th April 1945
“After two days hanging around at the Goods Yard at the Luckenwalde Station, we are back at the Camp again, as the Germans realised that they would be unable to move us to the new Camp due to the speed of the Americans advance on Leipzig. The Country is almost cut in half so it looks as though we will now remain in IIIA until we are taken by the Allies or Russians, who we have just heard have also launched a large scale attack on Berlin.
The two days that we were in the town were quite a pleasant change. The weather was good, and we were given a surprising amount of liberty, such as talking to the German civilians, and walking up and down the railway tracks. We were exchange soap for eggs and bread from the civvies, soap being the only thing we have plenty of, and a thing of which the Germans are very short. A tablet of English soap will purchase the half of the town. The Germans are getting very slack and easy with us now that it is near the end of the War, they know that they have lost and are doing their best to be friendly with the prisoners, but we won’t wear them. All the young men have been put in the front lines and only sixty year old Volk Sturm (Home Guards) guard the camp, some of them are almost too old to carry a rifle.
20th April 1945
Strong rumours are running round the camp that the Russian Army is within eleven kilometers from the Camp, so if it is true they should be here by the morning.
21st April 1945
Apparently the rumours were true regarding the Russians, as all the guards have got their kit packed, and are ready to move out this morning, some of them have gone already, and the remainder are more or less on their way.
We can hear the Russians fighting in the town already and the last of the Germans are leaving the camp. The k’g’s are breaking down the wire, and roaming all over the camp, great excitement is everywhere.
A Norwegian General has taken command of the camp, with an R.A.F. Wing Commander as second in command, guards were organized to prevent the food stores being looted by the Russian prisoners who have gone berserk.
The sky is full of Russian and German aircraft engaged in combat, it is very thrilling to watch but very dangerous, occasionally one comes down and strafes the camp, and it is not very funny, especially as the buildings are so flimsy and are no protection from cannon shells.
22nd April 1945
At six o’clock this morning a Russian tank entered the camp, and at last we were liberated, the fellows went mad, cheering their heads off. An Officer jumped out of the tank and the R.A.F. lads mobbed him, he was very embarrassed at the enthusiasm shown him, and I gave him my last cigarette, and was happy to do so.
At ten o’clock a whole armoured column moved into the camp, they were also mobbed. Some of the tanks had Germans riding on top, they had been taken in advance. I am very pleased that we are fighting with the Russians, and not against them, they are a very ugly, bestial crowd, half savage and very badly clothed. In the town of Luckenwalde they looted, and wrecked everything, shooting all the German civilians that they met and destroying the shops and houses. I can almost feel sorry for the Germans.
The camp is now completely in the hands of the Prisoners with a Norwegian General in camp, great excitement is everywhere.
A Norwegian General in command, he being the senior Officer at the camp, and the second in command is W/Cdr. Collard R.A.F…..”