Continuation of the file on Oflag XB (carried out starting from documents of Mr. Jacques Draper and Mrs. Coralie Aublanc Burlot.
This document was also carried out starting from a typist script of 12 pages (whose extracts are presented to you in bold characters, Italic, located by “DS”). This dactyl script was written neither by the Captain Draper nor by S/Lt Boursat. It is of unknown origin (unknown of the son of the Captain, which holds it in its personal records). It was written by a captive officer between on May 29th, 1940 and on January 1st, 1941. This last writing this text intended for families of captive officers. We will regard this document as a rough testimony and will not thus make any comment as for the value judgments which mark out it and which could be prone to polemics. (ER Cima)
Oflag XB: daily life
One day standard
One day standard
One of the rooms
DS. One rises when one wants. Around 7 hours discreetly of the doors open. Then towards the wash-hand basins people accustomed move to rise early: those which like to rise at ease, the thinkers which like to make solitary a turn of camp in silence, amateurs of beautiful sunrises, those which want to go to the mass called around 8 a.m.
Soon after resounds, in the corridor, the step weighing of the ordinances which come to seek the pitchers for the “glandine” (the equivalent? of our “juice”). They will seek it with the kitchen. For quite hot drinking, most officers rise as soon as it arrives at the room, around 7:30 at 8:00.
Around 8:30 an officer of the room of day passes to note the number and the name of the patients.
At this time, it is large crowd with the wash-hand basins where one must make the tail.
One does not make the tail solely with the wash-hand basins. On the door of the WC of hut 7 a sign confirms it, with humor.
Officers of hut 7. You hasten! We are approximately 460 and we have only 4 seats what makes 460/4=115 by seat.
We cannot use them that 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. is during 15 hours. By deducting 1/2 hour for the meal and 1/4 from hour by call it remainder 14 hours.
We thus have for our operations of draining 14/115= 7 minutes 18 seconds.
Let us think of the comrades who wait and press us!
With 8:45, first ring, given by the room of day: the lazy ones are stretched in their bed. At 9:00 minus 5 second and last blow: the lazy ones leap, get dressed while running. At 9:00 everyone is gathered in front of or beside the hut, by row of 5, packages of 50. The German officer arrives, accompanied by an non-commissioned officer or a soldier. The French “Baraken-Führer” presents Kompagnie, announcing the figure of the present, of the laid down patients, tightens the ticket of call. The German officer passes then in front of the rows including. During this time the soldier who accompanies it will check the presence of the patients in the rooms.
Each German officer passes the call to 3 or 4 huts. One breaks the rows only when they finished. That does not prevent, while waiting, to cause or make parts of snowballs.
The timetable which follows depends on the hour of the lunch, this one varies each week. One passes by groups of 500 every 45 minutes, of 10:15 to 2:00 approximately. In turn, one eats at 10:15, 11:00, 12:30. The service of 11:45 is reserved for the ordinances.
usually, the morning starts with a walk of 3 or 4 turns of camp: approximately an hour of walk with some “countries” come to join you. At the end, if it were not done the day before, one will read the news posted by the translators. Huts 2 to 9 had a very attended “newspaper”.
Those which have parcels precipitate towards hut 12, with their haversack, a bag. the distribution of the morning starts after the call.
During the walk, the room is swept, put in order, the lazy ones will be washed finally.
If one eats in the first, one waits the hour while chattering, if not one will make purchases with the canteen (when it opens), one begins a bridge, one makes his hour of German, of Latin, while waiting for the first distribution of letters, around 11:00. There is not always, alas!
When it tower of the hut arrives, by room one goes to the refectory, touch his lunch box or his plate of sauce. One assied by 6 front the table charged with “kartoffeln” (potatoes) out of dressing gown.
The finished meal, return to the room where it is supplemented, if one can, where one stuffs his pipe by reading the German newspapers distributed at the beginning of the afternoon.
Then, it is the moment of the reading (of the nap), it is the time of the courses and conferences. There is of them always one which attracts. If it does not take place in the room one has there with the stool with the hand or on the head.
Around 3:30 again “glandine” or herb tea. In the evening, the room of day went to perceive, with the kitchen, the evening meal, which will be taken in residence. It proceeds to the distribution by room; the officers of day, in each room, bring empty containers to him, will seek them full (?) with the bread. Then the distribution by officer takes place.
In the evening, second distribution of the parcels and letters.
With 5:00, call like the morning. Immediately after, some groups are formed for the prayer of the evening. One makes the last turn of camp before the doors are closed. The room of day closes the shutters. The cooks put themselves at work. Between 6 and 7:00 one dines.
After having played, read, worked, sung, around 10:00 one lies down. The baited workers, the impassioned readers, will settle in the corridor until 11:00 - midnight. Then it is rather frequently the calm one, disturbed by the siren: the English planes are on Bremen, Hanover. Much, accustomed, did not understand anything. Nobody moves. There is no danger, the shelters built originally between some huts were used to make fire.
Meal in rooms
DS. They are one of the principal occupations of the day. I already indicated the schedules. Here the menu:
To the “glandine” of the morning, that nothing accompanies, those which can it add sugar (or saccharin sold with the canteen), condensed milk, pulverized chocolate.
For the lunch, been used for the refectory, there are two kinds of dishes: the “lunch box” and “potatoes”.
The “lunch box”, been used for the counter in a container of a capacity of one liter, consists of a soup with potatoes, soya, Swedish turnip, noodles (lunch box centers), with rice. There are sometimes traces of meat or bacon.
The “potatoes”, cooked out of dressing gown, are deposited (a jam bucket by table) nearly one kilo per officer. One passes to the counter to seek a plate of sauce to bacon or cod. Sat by 6 with table, the potato heap is divided, they are peeled and one crushes them in sauce. One always keeps some for the evening of them. On the tables one finds salt. It is all. No bread, not of dessert.
Counter of distribution of sauce
The potato heap
DS. To the tea of 3:30 one adds some cookies of war if one in A.
The evening meal, if one sticks to the distribution, consists of a “entry” or a “dessert”. With the bread 225g, one perceives, indeed, only one piece of pie or roll, with one or two spoonfuls of grease. Happy are the days when the pie is true pie!
Thanks to the ingeniousness of some stove setters, one could manufacture small frying pans with limp of preserves, or to arrange the large stoves of the rooms, thanks to the parcels, one managed to eat something hot, either a Kub soup, or of apples gilded in ebullient grease or with choked.
All that is dry vegetables, noodles, starches, can be used. With chocolate and cookies, one makes very good cakes.
During the autumn, the canteen provided us salads, gherkins, cucumbers, celeries, cabbages, carrots, all that quite useful and was used.
Like water, one perceives two beer bottles per week. There are 3 to 4 times some bottles of wine of the Rhine, in Christmas especially where one could have a Christmas Eve party thus with dignity.
On the back of this menu of Christmas, in addition to some signatures it is noted: “To our sympathetic nerve and very skilful Boursat which for us each day of the wedding at Cana renews the strange one and useful miracle and returns edible an infamous meat to us.”
Occupations. Course, conferences, music.
Play of bridge
DS. How to kill the trouble do the meals enter? How not to waste its time with always playing bridge? It is necessary to be informed. As of the beginning, in spite of the throbbing pains of the hunger, one puts oneself under investigation of German. Soon conferences are organized. Now they any more are not counted. One studies German, English, Italian, Spanish, Arabic… One speaks about all… one professes on all: Sciences, Mathematics, spaces of Riemann, History, Philosophy, Right, Theology, Pedagogy, Vine growing, Arboriculture, Geography, Colonies, Exposures of dogs, Drives out, etc etc There were talks on Pascal and the “thoughts”, on “Morals and religion”. The national circle of studies organized a series of conferences on teaching in France. Thanks to the contributions of various officers, one could reconstitute the history of the battles of the Meuse, of Belgium, of Lorraine.
Room of reading
DS. All that is done by increasingly documented specialists.
Thanks to the many supplies of the service “drawing”, the artists could organize 3 exposures. They were remarkable, continuously in progress. All the kinds were represented: portrait, still life, caricature, plan of a church, oil-base paint, gouache, charcoal, etc
The sculpture had there also its place. Ah! pretty sets of failures, beautiful service of kitchen that I saw there! The French ingeniousness and talent triumphing over all poverties.
“Expoflag” of June 1942. Various objects
DS. With all that, one cannot really be bored with the camp; one would rather miss forces that of work.
If one adds to that many are the professors and the enthusiasts of gymnastics, one sees that it is not necessary to fear that faculties of the prisoners are atrophied or that they are let “go” to the tragic direction of the mot.
Sportsmen of the camp (the S/LT Boursat is in the forefront, on the left)
“Us them large”
DS. Artists succeeded in getting musical instruments: piano, violins, violoncellos, etc and of the music. All the dimanches there is a concert with explanations.
Other artists assembled a troop of “cabaret”. The truck drivers will sing and make from room in room sing their so rich repertory. They gave, with the participation of the choral society, a beautiful meeting of Christmas, comprising the representation of a mystery of the Nativity by the team of dramatic art of the Clan Notre-Dame de France.
In October 1941, representation of “the flower of Orange tree” of Andre Birabeau and Georges Dolley.
Meeting of repetition for “the flower of Orange tree” (Repetition of the scene above)
On the back of this photograph, Captain JM Mercier wrote: “Concert of varieties 1940”
Arrival of the parcels, out of leaded bags
DS. At the base of all this activity, there are the parcels suppliers of food and books. As long as they did not arrive, it was necessary to remain on the beds. Without them one is hungry and words are wasted on a starving man, even for most beautiful of the conferences.
At Oflag XB, they arrive well. With beginning, the services of distribution were bottled a little. Since December, one could distribute to 5000 parcels per day, during a double distribution.
I do not think that parcels were lost with the camp the coaches arrive leaded. The leaded bags are discharged by French soldiers, opened with the camp by French officers who sort them under the direction of German. The parcels then are classified, driven, numbered. At midday and 5 o'clock in the evening, one posts the lists of numbers (followed by the name of the recipients) which will be distributed the evening even or the next morning.
At the time of the distribution (9h30 and 3:00) the parcels are brought to the room reserved for this purpose. 3 counters function: the first for the letters A-F, the second for letters G-M, 3rd for the other letters. French officers pass the parcels, an officer calls in the order the numbers, two others cut the strings, a German soldier opens the parcel under the eyes of the recipient to whom it gives the authorized contents.
Limp of preserve must all be open in theory. In fact limp them industrial: sardines, pies, are to it only some times and are given immediately. For the others, the recipient has the choice between the immediate opening or the placing on tip in a special cupboard from where it will be able to come to withdraw it, open, when it wants. Limp are labelled, the depositor receives a double. The chocolate envelopes are often half-opened. The paper labels of limp of preserves are removed. The breads are cut into two or several pieces.
All my parcels arrived well and intact into 15 or 20 days.
Is what one happy to find there? What is necessary to put at it? What it is necessary to live, to supplement the mode: ox, calf, stew, sausage, bacon, chicken in mince, stew, chocolate, condensed milk. Thanks to the stoves, they can cook, make cook dry soups, vegetables, pastes, rice, semolinas, flours of vegetables, tea, coffee, etc etc
Assemble to them a small grocer. They have little sugar and greases. Do not forget the cigarettes, the tobacco for the smokers and their comrades. I would never have believed that the deprivation of tobacco was so painful to support. That irritations dissipated by a good pipe… and some books of reading… besides the books of work that they ask you.
That supposes many parcels. The reasonable principle for France is that of a parcel of one kilo per week and correspondent, plus a parcel of 5kg per month when one puts the substantial one or linen. Which is the prisoner who does not have several correspondents? Not to forget that all is shared; the officers of the occupied zone should not suffer from the lack of supply.
DS. I will say similar thing for the dispatched letters of France. The German censures had adopted this measure with our camp, I think. I received for my part, by week, 5 or 6 letters or charts of different correspondents. I believe that those which did not have any that one received from them only one or two.
The prisoners of Oflag XB did not have charts - notice of receipt. They must devote part of their mail to it. They should be excused if they do not thank all their shippers for parcel.
In theory, since January, the German authorities had promised to let leave 4 correspondences per month: 2 letters and 2 charts. They held word.
Postcard (Postkarte) addressed to the mother of the Captain Draper.
DS. It is necessary to be at ease with the prisoners in their writing. Not to say riens. Of course they know that you like them, do not forget them. Give them news of your family, your commune, city, France, news of their army pals, etc without sentences. No the lies which raise false hopes. Tell them your faith in France. You can send photographs with your address to them, without inscription in the letters.
The moral one
The moral one
Extract of the “Hyphen”, N° July 3rd, 1940. French newspaper, printed in Germany and distributed free in all the camps.
DS. Your letters can to maintain it much with the high level which is it his usually. It is delicate to make a general assessment in this matter, whereas the officers are so numerous and extremely restricted. On the other hand the figure of those which one can know. However I do not believe to mislead me, I am sure that over there all think in French. Thanks to the conferences, with the courses, the walks, the charts, there are not time to be bored and ruminate his sorrow. The crises of “cockroach”, the nostalgia which follows the reading of a letter, the contemplation of a photograph, cannot last, so much are clever the comrades to help you to remove you from the “animal” mortal.
Of course, it disabled there, there are young people, the hesitant ones, but as a whole, the mass, made officers of career, engineers, catholics, of French, sees and thinks just and French.
There are the news by the German newspapers and the “hyphen”, this newspaper in French printed in Germany, which is distributed free in all the camps 2 times per week. They now have the French newspapers of the occupied zone (official journal, the illustration, the Sheaf, the Morning, Paris-evening), of the Belgian newspapers. One does not understand large thing with the events of France. One knows what occurs to Africa.
One likes Pétain, the legitimate chief, the saver of France. One is held and the heart remains hot to be liked France. Ah! the long glances which I surprised, often posed on the photograph of the mother, the wife, of the children, the evening before falling asleep. That it is large, that it is beautiful men like these, these true interdependent comrades in the hunger and abundance, rounding the angles unceasingly, so that they do not want to be left any more when the rooms should be loosened.
The religious worship
The religious worship
DS. Much, to support the test, has the force of the religious helps. There is a very enthusiastic group protesting: about thirty officers meet around two pastors (the Gothie Captain and the Bost Captain). As of the beginning they had very facilitated; the camp being in Protestant country and the German colonel ordering Oflag being it too.
For the catholics, the organization of the worship was slower to come in spite of the number of priests to the camp (70). At the beginning, not of mass as a public: only one daily mass in the room of the military chaplains. One had then the mass Monday, every fifteen days, called by Mister the priest of Nienburg. After August 15th when we pumes to sing the French mass, the mass was weekly. Finally one comes to the currently perfect organization: daily mass accessible to all. Two masses Sunday with songs and sermon. Being given the shortage of wine, the priests could say the mass in January, only once every 5 days.
RP Rimaud of the “studies”, specialist in the scout and teaching questions, took in hand, as of the beginning, the spiritual direction of the camp RP Doyere, police chief of the navy, Benedictine of the Abbey of Nisque, must succeed to him. There were courses of theology for the seminarists and the laymen. By talks, individual conversations, it does a work of deepening in the already Christian hearts, a deliberation at much of others, which gave results already.
The catholic Scout-truck drivers, full with energy, creating in the camp a merry young atmosphere, render much services and knew to gain many comrades with the movement.
The life continues
The life continues…
DS. The prisoners have an ordinance for two rooms; it waxes the shoes, lights the stove, sweeps, makes the crockery at the ones, sometimes at the others, goes seek the “juice”.
Every ten days, they touch balances it, a sum fixed as of the beginning, proportioned with the gallons, exceeding to it final balance for those which made a complete assignment of pay. All will be to readjust. They do not spend the third of what they touch. They leave in deposit at the German military command the surplus and can send it in France. They do not require that money is sent to them.
Behind the barbed wires, they turn in round, the wearied eyes of the same flat, dull landscape. Where thus is it the French sky, the charm of the Pyrenees, the sun of Provence? Hardly one sees this protesting bell-tower which takes shape over there in the west, with the top of the trees, on the right of the barracks. The large wings moving of a windmill stare at one moment. One stops listening to the cawing of hundreds of corbels. Towards the east dark mass of the forest, on the hill, a little, especially inattentive with the same white task that one sees there (stone quarry). One is delayed to look at passing the trains while going along the barbed wires of north.
Up there, in its watchtower with machine-gun and projector, the “Posten” types foot. Let us return quickly in the room. “Pipe” shouts everyone… I announce to you that everyone leaves tomorrow. Colonel Klein said it to a French officer who makes his portrait.
Alas, no one does not know when they will return. They aspire only to that but in the honor. That Pétain does not buy them to the detriment of France. Can they return soon there to work with its rectification in the freedom and the joy of the found family.