German POW Exhibit to Visit Here June 3 with Michigan Sugar Sponsorship
Traces "Buseum" to Highlight Wartime Prisons Like Bay City, Freeland
January 30, 2009
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By: Dave Rogers
During World War II German prisoners were held in Bay City in a building on Salzburg Avenue and in barracks at Tri-City Airport near Freeland.
Little is known locally about these prisons since their existence was not highly publicized. And information about them has only lately been trickling out.
But now the Bay County Historical Museum is hosting a traveling exhibit about these prisoner of war centers during its upcoming Midwest tour.
"We will host the Traces 'Buseum' on the afternoon of June 3rd," said Eric Jylha, development director of the Bay County Historical Society. He explained that Buseums are school buses converted into mobile museums/classrooms.
The exhibits consist of narrative panels illustrated with photographs and documents, audio-DVD documentaries, artifacts and more. With these traveling exhibits, TRACES reaches tens of thousands of people in hundreds of Midwest communities.
"And, we are proud to announce that MICHIGAN SUGAR will underwrite the exhibit's visit," he added. "The topic of this year's tour hits home: German POW?s held in Mid-Western communities during WWII. That was the case in Bay City, where prisoners were housed in a building on Salzburg at night and worked in farm fields across the Saginaw Valley during the day."
During WWII, the Midwest housed about 250 prisoner of war camps for the 380,000 German POWs imprisoned in the United States. While Axis and Soviet POWs were perpetrators and victims of dictatorial governments and state-sponsored violence, POW experiences on all sides embody ageless, timely themes of war and peace, justice under arms, issues of human rights, and the reconciliation of past and avoidance of future conflicts.
German POWs held in Army-operated camps across the U.S. were sent out to harvest or process crops, build roads and waterways, fell trees, roof barns, erect silos, work in light non-military industry, lay city sewers and construct tract housing, wash U.S. Army laundry and do other practical wartime tasks.
With the high rate of 19th-century German immigration to the Midwest, many of those who worked with POWs spoke to them in their native tongue. Some had relatives or former neighbors among them. In the process, they formed significant, often decades-long friendships with "the enemy" and underwent changes as individuals and as a group, thus influencing postwar German values and institutions, and American-German relations. Some POWs later even immigrated to the U.S.
History Article 3507
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at email@example.com)
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