Saturday 18 November 2017

Survivor spoke of terrible sights he had seen in camps on his return to Ireland

a SEPARATE account of the treatment of the Irish prisoners was given by a survivor from Arklow interviewed by the Irish Times following his release from an SS camp in 1945.

In an article published on May 17, 1945, under the headling, 'Irishman's Story of Horror Camps,' the newspaper said the experiences of 32 citizens of Eire, all merchant seamen, in an SS camp in Germany, where five of them died, were described to its reporter by one of the survivors William English, of Arklow, 'who has just arrived in Dublin after his liberation'.

Mr English said the camp was at Bremen Farge, outside Bremen, and that the camp commandant - named Schaubecker - a month ago shot 16 prisoners after announcing that he knew he would be shot or hanged by the Allied armies, and he 'would take as many as he could with him.'

Mr English saw a naked Belgian prisoner beaten to death with rubber hose for attempting to escape.

A Pole was shot in the thigh while trying to escape, and the SS guards rubbed salt into the wound and beat him with electric cable.

He walked from the end of the camp to the hospital, but a Russian doctor, also a prisoner, was refused permission to attend him, and gangrene set in.

The doctor said it would be more merciful to shoot the man. The guard did so. Next morning a French prisoner who refused information was shot.

A Russian prisoner was thrown into the camp refuse heap and Schaubecker forced some of the muck from the heap into his throat with a wire before throwing him back on the heap.

He was struck with a rifle butt on the head and killed. His body was left for three days on the heap.

The five Irish citizens who died in the camp were:

W.H. KNOX, Dun Laoghaire;

Owen CORR, of Rush, Co Dublin;

Gerald O'HARA, Ballina, Co Mayo;

Patrick BREEN, Blackwater, Co Wexford, and

Thomas MURPHY, of Dublin.

Mr English said that he was a seaman on the Blue Star liner, Africa Star, and in January, 1941, while they were bound from South America to London, they were intercepted by the German surface raider, Steinmark, which took the liner's crew aboard and then sank her.

The men were taken to Bordeaux and sent to Germany to camp Stalag XB, 10B Sandbostel.

The prisoners whose homes were in Eire were segregated and questioned by German intelligence officers and urged to work for Germany.

They all refused.

In September, 1941, about 50 Irishmen, all seamen, were taken to Marlag, Nilag Nord, another camp, and 32 of them were sent to Bremen Labour Exchange.

They were brought to a factory and again refused to work.

Their guards suggested to them that, being Irish, they ought to work against Britain in the war.

They were taken to Hamburg and asked to work on German ships, but again refused, and they were returned to Bremen Farge.

In the camp they worked 12 hours a day, mostly at carrying rail tracks. Russian girls, aged from 16 to 18, were doing the same kind of work. In Bremen Jewish girls of from 15 to 18 worked in demolition squads.

Mr English said that, apart from the effort to get them to work for Germans, the prisoners from Eire got no special treatment as citizens of a neutral State.

They repeatedly wrote to Mr Warnock when he was Eire's representative in Berlin, but received no answer and did not know if the letters had reached him.

On August 18th last, Mr C.C. Cremin, the new representative of Eire in Berlin, visited them at the camp, and their treatment improved. He made every effort to get them sent home.

After 26 months they were put on a train for Flensburg, but were forced back because Allied planes had destroyed a bridge on the route, and a repatriation ship, which they had expected to meet in a Swedish port, sailed without them.

They were sent to the camp at Marlag Nilag Nord, which was captured in April by a Guards armoured regiment.

Former county and Wexford borough councillor Padge Reck said he believed that the two Wexford men who survived the labour camps, Thomas Cooney and James Furlong, were captured when their 'liberty ship' was seized by a German surface raider.

He said the liberty ships were considered neutral and following a campaign led by James Joyce, the two Wexford men were released, only to be captured again when the Swedish ship they had been transferred to, was intercepted by the German navy.

The names of the 27 men, who came out of the camp alive, among them the two from Wexford and five from Wickow are:

William ENGLISH and C. BYRNE, Arklow;

Valentine HARRIS, Pearse House, Dublin;

J.J. MOFFAT, Rosses Point;

Bernard GOULDING, Skibbereen;

Harry CALLAN, Derry;

Noel J. LACEY, Howth;

Richard FLYNN, Tramore;

Thomas COONEY, New Ross;

Edward CONDON, Passage West, Co. Cork;

William KELLY and J.J. RYAN, Waterford;

Patrick REILLY and Patrick KAVANAGH, Wicklow;

I.C. RYAN, Tramore;

T.C. BRYCE, formerly of Clontarf, Dublin, who lived in Australia before the war broke out;

Thomas KING, formerly of Clifden, now living in Newcastle;

Peter LYDON, Tralee;

P.J. O'Brien, Armagh, now of London;

Michael LOWRY, formerly of Galway, domiciled in Scotland;

J. O'BRIEN, of Kinsale, living in Wales;

James GORMAN, Clogher Head;

P.J. O'CONNOR, Carlingford;

Michael O'DWYER, Cork;

Robert ROSEMAN, Bray;

James FURLONG, Wexford.

William KNOTT, Ringsend, Dublin.

Wexford People

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