TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1800 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP : : SEARCH SITE
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

POW’s in East Texas

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
An intriguing slice of history long overlooked is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

In the late 1940s, during World War II, the U.S.. government established seven camps in East Texas to house German prisoners-of-war captured by Allied forces in Europe.

Through the efforts of the Texas Historical Commission and the Pineywoods Foundation of Lufkin, historical markers are being placed at the sites of each camp at Lufkin, Alto, Center, Chireno, Tyler and San Augustine.
The marker inscriptions are based largely on Mark Choate’s excellent 1989 book, “Nazis in the Pineywoods.”

Most of the German prisoners came to East Texas when the East Texas timber industry nearly ground to a halt when its employees were drafted for the war. Others were used for agricultural work.

Ernest L. Kurth, who ran a sawmill and paper mill in the Lufkin area, and Arthur Temple, Sr., who owned a sawmill in Diboll, persuaded the government to locate German prisoners in East Texas to harvest timber.

When brought to East Texas, the Germans did not mind the work because it alleviated the tedium of incarceration.
Order Here
By the end of the war, some of the prisoners wanted to stay in Texas, but government policies sent them home. A few did return to the pineywoods. One, a German national who served as a camp translator, even assumed a role as an economic political figure in San Augustine.

Stories about the POW’s abound in East Texas.

When a little girl wandered away from her home in Chireno, townspeople searching for her found her in the arms of a German. They were petting a cow.

It turned out that the prisoner, Hans Klepper, saw the little girl standing too close to a railroad track as a train rumbled by. He gently picked her up and, as they walked toward Chireno, they stopped to pet a cow. That’s where the searchers found them.

Using only shovels, German prisoners built at Center an Olympic-size swimming pool that was used for years by the town. Center Mayor John Windham, who helped dedicate Center’s historical marker in January, recalled that County Agent John Mooseburg was instrumental in bringing the POW’s to the town as labor for agricultural work.

With a peak capacity of 700 prisoners, Camp Center was the largest POW camp in the U.S.

Few prisoners tried to escape from the East Texas camps and, as time passed, most of the Germans established good relationships with East Texans.

One POW, Otto Rinkenhauer, fell in love with an girl living with her family near the camp. The two married after the war and made their home in Shreveport.

Another POW left his mark on East Texas in another manner.

Known only as Rothhammer, the German etched his name and the date 1944 on a stone gate leading into a POW camp at Lufkin.

The signature remains today as an enduring reminder of a unique time in East Texas.
All Things Historical
September 15, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers

(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a past president of the Association and the author of more than 35 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

Related Topics:
East Texas
WWII

Historic Murders of East Texas, Book 3
By Bob and Doris Bowman
18 more famous murders
Order Here
 
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | TEXAS HOTELS
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | HOTELS | USA | MEXICO

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright ©1998-2008. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: September 15, 2008