During World War II a group of German soldiers were captured in Africa and transferred to a POW camp in Stowell,Texas. I believe it was on Pear Orchard Road, but Mary Devillier said her husband Jerry can tell us where it was. The following photos of the soldiers are from the Ethyle White collection and the letter below is from one of the POWs to a Mr. Griffin in Stowell (I believe), whose plantation he worked on. The letter was in Buster Penick's collection of WWII memorabilia. I typed the letter as it was written.
Cherbourg, June 19, 1946
Dear Mr. Griffing, (Griffin)
Surely You will be wondering about the unknown voice from somewhere of the world. At first I beg You to accept my honest regards to You and Your family. Now I’m going to introduce myself to You. My name is Guenter Dresp. I’ve been one of the German P.W.’s, who worked at your plantation until December last year. Do you remember the tall, red-blonde German? If you could spare a little bit of time, reading my lines thoughtfully, I would be glad, because only then You would really comprehend what is urging me to remember You. I believe human beings are equal. Once they are bad off, they will indulge in memory their good times. I’m too true-hearted to conceal this. Doesn’t the Lord give this peculiarity into every man’s soul? Of course, He had given every human being a soul, which feels, comprehends, and recognizes, not only about himself, but to share luck, sorrow, hope, want, and misery of his fellow-creatures, too. Doesn’t we find these truths in the Holy Bible or in the life of Jesus Christ, our Lord, symbolized?
At this time I’m in French captivity, living near the town of Cherbourg. We’re housing in old tents on windy hills. Though summer is coming on, it rains and storms incessantly, due to the “Canal weather”! I’m looking upon the wide ocean and in memory I’m wandering back the times, which had been so eventful and disappointed to me. When we left China (Tex.) last year we rode to Camp Polk. Finally on Jan. 22 the train brought us to New York. On Feb. 1 in a clear night we were passing the white illuminated, Statue of Liberty. After a stormy 9 days crossing of the Atlantic we sighted the European coast. Le Havre was supposed to be our destination and so was our first disappointment. But nevertheless we didn’t give up hop of being at home very soon. How often and often we had been told that officially by the U.S. War Department! Then, as a lightening out of a clear sky we were surprised by the fact of being transferred to France. Now we’ve time to think about our new buffet of fate. I don’t have the intention to ask you as a U. S. citizen for an expression of opinion. I only am wondering why the U.S. authorities didn’t give us time to prepare ourselves for this new situation. Some days ago I received a letter from home telling me the destruction of my home in the last weeks of the war. My parents died some years ago. My elderly Aunt and my 20 year old sister remained alive. God be thank that I’m still single, despite of my 25 years, so I’ve a sorrow less.
Dear Mr. Griffing, (Griffin) now I beg you to imagine my situation as following. Since 1941 I’ve been separated from my relatives uninterruptedly. Under the hot sun of Africa we had done our duty as soldiers. Only the desert, the sun and the thirst companioned us every day. In May 1943, when the “golden sun of freedom” was leaving us, to physical hardships the physiological ones added. After 5 months of captivity in the “black continent” we changed over to the “New World.” There our fate had been far more bearable. We got good food and had a good lodging. But the longing for home and freedom remained. Now, after 5 years of absence we already saw the great circle closing, but the Fate said: “Not yet.”
My present “shelter” is situated in the British sector of Berlin, where my 2 relatives are living. Only by the fact, that represents of the Western Democraties are walking in my town, I’m willing to go behind the “Iron Curtain.” I’m also conscious of my duty to care for my 2 beloved ones. I hope to get a job because of my profession. ‘m a toolmaker, worked on precision tools, agricultural and general machinery and tools. I’ve knowledge in agriculture, too. Shortly before the war I’ve been getting an engineer. Nowadays my hometown is a heap of ruins, and everybody is supposed to begin reconstruction by suffering very much, maybe up to the next 10 years. The Frenchman treats us what may be called fair; though France is by now a poor country, as far as the food situation is concerned. That’s the trouble spot we’re involved naturally with.
Only one thought gives us vital energy every day: to be free very soon. For this we’re praying to the Lord. May He give us the possibility to start a new life, no matter where it may be or what the circumstances are. During this bad period of our life we accumulated a large amount of energy and cognitions, ready to use those ones in this New Epoch, in other words we’re ready to work for the peace and fortune of mankind.
If I should have the honour, to hear something from You, Dear Mr. Griffing, I would be very happy. Simultaneously I would be so glad for Your efforts to fulfill the Word of The Lord and for seeing Your active co-operation for the real understanding between the peoples of all over the world.
My new home address:
BERLING – SPANDAU
WOERTHER STR. 5
In thankful memory I am sending my honest regards to You and Your family. Might the Lord be mercy upon You and Your beloved folks and spare You from misfortune and illness!
Yours most respectfully
My dear friend Mr. Barber!
Your fine letter on April 3, 1950, reached us just in time for Easter, so we had much pleasure with it. I thank you very much for your greetings and we are glad to know you all in good health. The most pleasure we have with the nice pictures of you, my friend and your sons. It seems, you are stronger than in 1945 and your boys look very well. My boy doesn’t finish to ask, how such a little boy can already have his own horse and so I have to tell him lots of stories about the ‘Texas Riders’ and about the country, where children begin very early to ride like their fathers, maybe once in ten or twelve years, Charley-Henry will get the possibility to see the States and Texas!
But now, my friend, let me tell you about a great surprise my wife kept until Easter. In Germany on those holidays we are used to make little presents. And you know, your last package came some time before Easter. I wrote you already my thanks for that nice package. For Easter she made me a fine surprise with two pretty neckties and she herself wore her new Nylons. That was really fine, Mister Barber, and I thank you especially for that.
My dear Friend! I am sorry that you thought since December 24, 1949 I had forgotten you. Nevertime I wait more than two weeks to answer your letters and the long distance between the two letters I only can explain, that one letter got lost. If you once, especially during your farm-work, don’t have much time to write, send me only a card with some greetings. Myself I write you so often as I can.
Seeing your happiness about our maybe visit in Texas, we will keep planning to see you once. I am sure we will have a beautiful time. We would be the whole day together in your acres and our wives would surely have good friendship together. I know your wife is a good mother to the children like my wife and therefore they will have a good harmony. My wife is full of enthusiasm about my plans, for she never had been outside our little Germany.
Dear Mr. Barber! The most interesting in your letters for me is always about your farming-work. We only worked for a short while together, but it was enough to fix a deep friendship. And now you do your farm-work only with white men. ….. How are the prices for the rice now? Do you get enough money for your herd work? Over here all those things coming from overseas are very expensive and only a small group of people can buy for their money what they want. Prices are very high and if I count my money in dollars, I get 65. Dollars for the whole month. Ya, my friend, that is why there is always such pleasure when a package comes from Texas. Even in our poor Germany have the only wish, on Sundays to live a little better than in the week. My wife and I for instance like over all a good cup of coffee, but it still costs 16 to 20 Marks the pound. I have to work two days to get 18 Marks, but we can’t buy those expensive things and the children haven’t enough to eat. But I don’t like to tell you a lamentation, the hardest time is over and we all hope for a long, long peace. But if you once hear they are going to pamper the Germans, don’t believe it! Myself and my family will never lose the cheerfulness, so long we have so good friends like you. And that is the most important reason, why we are planning to visit you once. My wife would be so glad to shake your hands and to tell you, how much happiness you have sent in our home, not only by your packages but by your fine letters too.
You pretty soon will get a letter and at the same time some handwork-pieces for your wife.
Let me finish my letter for today and send you and your lovely family our best wishes, good health and much luck for this year in your farm-work!
With best wishes I am always
From: Heinz Krotwaart
Hofgartenstrasse ‘ 21.
Transcribed by Marie Hughes
Dear Mr. Barber and Family,
I was so glad to get your letter of August 7, about the little package with the needlework of my wife. We are glad to know you all in good health and I can tell you the same of my wife and the children. In the month of August children over here have had furlough, so Charles-Henry went for five weeks to his grand-parents, the town where he was born in 1943. An aunt has some faming-work over there and it is the greatest pleasure for the boy to stroll through the nature. When he came back home he was brown as a negro. At the same time my wife and Annelie were invited by my parents for they are so alone. They had a nice time together but I had to go in a restaurant for the mealtimes. It was a boring time for me without my wife and children but now it is over and we are together again in our pleasant home in Bad Kreuznach.
Dear Friend! There is nothing to forgive about waiting so long for your letter. I know it’s a hard time for you now to get the harvest in. My thoughts are often with you and I should like to realize a visit in Mt. Belvieu for the next year. I don’t think there are great difficulties to get a pass for two or three months, but another question is more difficult. For one person from here to you it costs about 500 to 600 dollars, inclusive backwards, and therefore it will take still some years to live some happy days together. It would be the greatest event for me or for my wife and me. Some weeks ago we visited the great airbase Frankfourt, 50 miles from here, the greatest port of Europe. When we arrived, we heard Gentlemen! The American Overseas Airlines number . . . is ready to start on box 3, please! Line: Paris-Dukar-Rio de Janeiro-Montavideo-Buenes Aires. And we saw people going in of different nations. Maybe one day the Clipper is waiting for us too, my wife was never in the air. And then, my friend, you will not have a visitor, but a helper and worksman as friend. And when my wife comes with me, she will do a good work for your wife. There is no doubt, they will be good friends together. Soon I will send you some new pictures.
Dear Mr. Barber! Since the war in Korea is on, it is a very nervous time over here. Russia is to near and the Germans know better than other nations, what they want to do. We all have to be clear, that the communism never can be overrun Europe, for at the same time America would be lost. Stalin speaks about peace and he means war. We want to keep our freedom you gave the German people in 1945. But there is some people again hoarding all the food and things they can get. Since some weeks there is no more any sugar to get and the prices are going high. And who has to suffer? Little children and families with small money. In the police for instance we are still paid by an order of 1927. Every worker gets 30-50% more than before the war, but we can’t strike as police and therefore nobody gives us more money. And the living conditions are 50-100 % more expensive than before the war. But I am a lucky man for my family is in good health and I never had to pay credit money to any doctor or hospital like other comerades.
Dear Friend! Since I am back home from USA I always had American soap or shaving-cream . . . terrible, all I can say. Please, send me some lather-cream soap, black tea, and some coffee-beans. Be so nice and make a little small package. I’ll send you some other things soon. Write me some wishes please!
I will leave you now with the best wishes of my family!
Hearty greetings to you and your proud family.
From: Heinz Krotwaart
Transcribed by Marie Hughes
Dear Mr. Barber!
My only excuse for not having written sooner is, that I hoped from day to day to get an answer to my last letter I wrote you after having received a fine package. But that was already several months ago and it is my wish now that we never more wait so long with writing. Since I left you and your proud Untied States, it was always so fine to have good friends on the other side of the ocean. My whole family was talking of Mr. Barber and his family, and often, before going to bed I had to tell some histories of my time as a prisoner of war in America. Sure, it was often very hard, but when I remember the harvest on Mister Barbers fields , my heart is going faster and my thoughts are in Texas. It is the time again now to bring the rice in, isn’t it? The whole time, when I was waiting for a letter, I saw you very busy and working for your proud family. Besides the life has become such nervosity in the last ten years, that everyone has enough to do with himself. But I hope, that we will never lose the golden ties of friendship. For that it is not necessary, to write every four weeks. I don’t forget, that we tried to see us again. Maybe that will take many years, but the world is small and when sometimes I am at the great international airbase of Francfort, about fifty miles from here, my thoughts are going with the planes over land and sea. And then it goes through the radio: “Attention please! The “Trans-World-Airlines” Number . . . is ready to start. “Paris-London-New York!” And then my wife says: “Well, Henry, it would be wonderful to see a part of the world?” Maybe one day, our children will visit each other. It would be fine, to change the boys for a year, when they are 16 or 18 years old.
Dear Mr. Barber! I hope you haven’t had any sickness in your family last year. Please, have soon some minutes to write me a small letter. I know it is very hard in the harvest, but in the coming winter we’ll have more time to write, I hope.
During this last year many things have changed over here, most political nature. Since the war was over, we had French Occupation Forces in this region. While the trouble between the United States and Russia came more and more, American forces took over this part of Germany. All young troupes of all parts of the United States. People is very satisfied with that fact, because it gives us a lot of security, while we don’t have yet our own army to defend us against Russia. Nobody knows the future and you know me, Mister Barber, that I never tried to tell anything about politiques in my letters. It would be terrible, when a new war would come over the world, but let us be optimists in this situation.
My wife and my children are all right and I hope the same of your proud family. My duty in the police is quite well but sometimes I regrette that by the lost war I can’t be in my old profession as a pharmacist. I am 35 years old now and the time is running very quick. The living-conditions still are very hard in Germany for working people. There is a small group of businessmen, who are living in great luxus, but the greatest part of the German people has to keep the pennies good together and feels very hard, that we lost the war. I heard in the newspaper that in the United States many has changed and the life is very dear too. Is that right?
Please, my friend, let me know something after so many months!
My best wishes for you and your proud family!
Yours in old friendship!
Heinz Krotwaart and Family
Address: Heinz Krotwaart
Transcribed by Marie Hughes
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