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Dave G
Halifax, NS, Canada
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E-4 Specialist


Posts: 92

PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/23/2017 8:13:15 AM
When I was in northern Ontario I would hear about the many Nazi and Japanese POW camps that were established up in the wilderness during WWII. Almost all traces of the camps are gone now. I put together a map showing the locations of as many of the camps as I could find over the whole province based on online searches and rumour. [Read More]

I believe I may have posted this before, but it still might be of some interest. Some links to sources might be outdated.
---------------
Dave G

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/23/2017 9:00:00 AM
Thanks for that Dave.

Many of those camps in the north were abandoned but some were repurposed.

I think that we should say however that there were no POW camps for Japanese soldiers in Canada. (I don't believe)

What we did have were internment camps for Japanese nationals and Japanese-Canadians. But that is another topic.


There were quite a few camps in the north of the province but many were pretty close to populated areas like Gravenhurst.

And of course we know of the famous Camp 30 that was on Lake Ontario at Bowmanville. That's where the top German officers were housed in comparative luxury.


Among the largest POW camps in North America were the ones located in Medicine Hat, and in Lethbridge, both in Alberta.

But there were a lot of camps dotted around Ontario as your map shows and we don't really know that much about them.

POW were treated quite well in Canada. Many were allowed out on work passes and actually worked on farms at 25 cents a day.


Putting on a gymnastics display in Monteith, Ontario.

[Read More]

Red Rock, near Thunder Bay on Lake Superior






CBC archives contain some interesting stories on POW camps in Canada.
There are a number of them here.

[Read More]


George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/23/2017 9:19:20 AM
There are some interesting stories of Jews who came to Canada very early in the war, being housed in the same camps as German POW.



The British asked Canada and Australia to take some of these refugees but the degree of anti-semitism in Canada led to the internment of these Jews in 8 camps. In 2 of those camps there were also Nazis. Some of the people who spent up to 3 years in the Canadian camps said that the British didn't tell the Canadians that there were Jews among the people to be interned.

The Canadians were told that there were "dangerous type" individuals among those being shipped over.

It wasn't until the Brits sent people over to explain that these Jews weren't enemies and could be valuable to the war effort that Canada's immigration department started to process them. I would suggest reluctantly too.

The Brits offered to take anyone back who wished to enlist and the internees were given the option to seek a sponsor in Canada. Many chose that option.

We weren't at our best here.

[Read More]

[Read More]

This is the internment shirt of one of the Jews kept in one of our camps. Yes, a target on your back.



[Read More]


Cheers,

George


George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/23/2017 9:21:36 AM
d

Dave G
Halifax, NS, Canada
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 92

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/23/2017 10:32:04 AM

Quote:


I think that we should say however that there were no POW camps for Japanese soldiers in Canada. (I don't believe)

What we did have were internment camps for Japanese nationals and Japanese-Canadians. But that is another topic.
--George


Yes George, When I found any Japanese internment camps, I included them on the map. These camps served much the same purpose although it's a black mark on Canadian and USA history that a little more thought was not put into that project before they got paranoid and started dragging those people, mostly from British Columbia, off to such confinement.
---------------
Dave G

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/23/2017 12:03:33 PM
Thanks Dave. Some of the people didn't even speak effective Japanese. They had been born in Canada and grew up westernized.

I recall that when the British were seeking Japanese speaking interpreters that they asked Canada if the could enlist some of the men in the camps.

The Canadian government said no, arguing that these men were Canadians and not reinforcements for the British.

That is ironic. Not good enough to serve or be trusted but these were our Japanese, not Britain's.

As well, a few of the interned Japanese were actually veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force of WW1 and had been decorated. My goodness, it is difficult to recount just how shameful the treatment of Japanese-Canadians was.

And then the army asked whether there were men who would volunteer for this duty and many of these young guys, bored with internment life, actually enlisted in the Canadian army.

But it was discovered that the quality of the Japanese spoken by too many of them rendered them ineffective as interpreters.

The army actually had to send them to Japanese language class for upgrading.

They then served in the Pacific with the British who were woefully short of Japanese speaking linguists.

In fact, Britain had set up a special language school in England to teach Japanese to Brits.

A couple of Canadian Nisei were on the teaching staff.


Cheers,

George


Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2960

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/23/2017 9:46:45 PM

Quote:
When I was in northern Ontario I would hear about the many Nazi and Japanese POW camps that were established up in the wilderness during WWII. Almost all traces of the camps are gone now. I put together a map showing the locations of as many of the camps as I could find over the whole province based on online searches and rumour. [Read More]

I believe I may have posted this before, but it still might be of some interest. Some links to sources might be outdated.
--Dave G




Hi Dave,

This is what I love about MHO, I checked out your map to see how close to Michigan, these Canadian based German Prisoner of war camps were, I see a Camp near Sault Ste Marie, and another not far from Windsor! So I think that's pretty close, then I see this tent symbol in the middle of the Michigan ( I click it) and I find out there were dozens of POW camps housing +6,000 German Prisoners in my own state, including several camps here in West Michigan! And get this I have never heard anything about them before!? I read all the info you had on this and It's amazing that a History major from Michigan knew nothing about this? Well, I do now!

Thanks for opening my eyes!
Dave
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/24/2017 8:02:01 AM
Dave, I don't know what the US policy was with respect to POW but in Canada many of them were allowed to work on farms or lumber camps. They were all sent home but many of these POW didn't want to return to Germany.

Often the farm family for whom they had worked would sponsor the former POW as an immigrant and many of them made their way back to Canada.

They had been told of the horrible fate that awaited them if they were captured but on the whole they were treated humanely.


The tough part for the Canadians and I would imagine any country that harboured POW was to separate the ardent Nazis from those who were not so brainwashed.

Canada used a colour code system to rate the POW. Designation black for ardent Nazis, white for low risk and grey for somewhere in between.

Camp 30

Camp 30 in Bowmanville on Lake Ontario housed a lot of high profile Nazi officers (designation black) partly to keep them away from the rank and file.
This is the camp where the inmates rioted and a donnybrook developed between the army guys sent in to re-establish order. But they decided not to shoot and went in with baseball bats and hockey sticks. The Germans had made weapons too and a brawl ensued with a few banged up participants on both sides before it was over.

party camp
There was another camp called Whitewater, which was in what is now Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. The area was remote and the prisoners had a lot of freedom.

This was the only POW camp in North America that had no fencing and barbed wire around it. Apparently the prisoners could roam and make contact with the few locals. Some of those locals have said that the prisoners would come into a local bar for a few drinks.

The prisoners were members of the Afrika Korps and many had been captured after 2nd El Alamein
An archeological dig has been taking place on the site of this former camp by a Canadian researcher working out of Stanford Univ.

[Read More]

He has characterized this camp as "Hogan's Heroes", German style.
Apparently the POW had a still and use to bribe the guards with booze.

The prisoners had pets including a baby black bear.

"“eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa"




Some camps had to be well guarded because of their position in the country, closer to escape routes.

But in some cases, the camps were in remote areas without access to rail or major roads. In those cases, prisoners would be allowed day passes which they signed, agreeing to return at a specific time. From what I understand, these men honoured their commitment.

I recall one story of a camp in northern Ontario and the Canadian commandant always addressed the new intake of prisoners by pointing out the direction of travel if they wished to escape. He took great delight then in adding a description of the environment and conditions that they could expect if they attempted to escape into the Canadian wilderness. This camp, whose name escapes me, had no escape attempts. Where would they go?



The Legion Magazine published a very good article on the POW in Canadian camps. The title is, "The Happiest Prisoners". Worth a read.

[Read More]


And in 2003, Eva Colmers, the daughter of a former POW, produced this documentary about the German prisoners who had been sent to Canada to live out the war.
It is a National Film Board production and NFB has produced many award winning documentaries.
This one is 53 minutes long.

I enjoyed this. It includes interviews with several former POW and I like to think gives a human side to these German soldiers.

At the beginning, quite a bit of German is spoken but sub titles are used. Easy to understand.

And then, the former POW who emigrated to Canada, speak English throughout the film.

So this is The Enemy Within

[Read More]


On a personal note, while the documentary director seems to indicate that the Germans were welcomed back when they applied to emigrate, that is not always the case.

My Dad returned home from the war with a bitterness bordering on hatred toward anything or anyone that was German. He had lost a brother in Italy and another wounded at Dieppe and he was appalled that the Canadian government was allowing Germans to come here.

I recall one time when we were driving in Toronto. I was just a little boy and from the back seat I heard my Dad begin to swear at someone on the sidewalk. The man was wearing a grey German army great coat. My Mom had to stop my Dad from getting out of the car. He was ready to beat the hell out of this guy. Pretty stupid on that man's part to wear his German army coat, in Canada, in the mid-50's but I'm glad that Dad calmed down and we drove off.

Fortunately, and over the decades, my Dad mellowed and I think partly because I had a German school mate who came to our house often.

War made my Dad into a hateful man but with time and contact with a person who wasn't much different than his son, I like to think that he put that hatred behind him.


Cheers,

George


Dave G
Halifax, NS, Canada
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 92

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/24/2017 8:09:23 AM
Hi MD,
I came across information on the States' POWs while searching for Ontario camps and included links for states next to Ontario. For some reason, I never got around to the adjacent provinces. They were added years ago so I'm surprised the link still works. I had not realized that the USA got their share of POWs too. I suppose there must have been many camps over the northeast USA. And what happened to all the Japanese combatants captured in the South Pacific?
---------------
Dave G

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2960

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/24/2017 9:33:55 AM
Hi Dave,

Yes that is the million dollar question where were the Japanese POW kept?? Well for one thing hardly any of them surrendered so they probably could keep them in one compound? Probably somewhere in the secured Pacific, or Western US, anyone know?? Also I understand your dad's feelings, my dad also hated X Japanese soldiers too, but as I said not many survived.

And George, Yes I heard about the German POW up-rising at that Ontario POW Camp, that's pretty radical that the Germans felt they could escape in a totally different continent!?

In general I know POW's in America were treated far better than our boys in German POW Camps! It was no Hogan Heroes type places, my Uncle Leo, US B17 Airman was shot down and put in a POW Camp in Germany and it was no picnic!?

Also German POWs in the US Camps were treated very well they even got a few beers every week, & were allowed to work , helping at Farms, & Lumbering among other things! And much like Canada many wanted to stay, but weren't allowed to, a few made it back after the war.

fascinating topic!
Cheers,
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/24/2017 12:12:53 PM
Given that the number of Japanese who were willing to be taken prisoner at all was small, I suspect that the numbers were low.

Most were taken at the time of surrender but I suppose that that was to be expected.

The Soviets took a lot of Japanese prisoners. I'm not sure what happened to them.

The Chinese captured a bunch. Again, what happened to them?

Does anyone know the total number of Japanese captured while the war was still on?


I think that the Japanese captured by US forces were sent to camps in Australia and New Zealand.


A few were brought back to someplace in the US if they were high value prisoners and possibly full of intelligence that could be useful.

Cheers,

George

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/24/2017 12:52:42 PM
Escape from Angler Camp

Angler POW camp was just north of Lake Superior. It was pretty isolated.

A German prisoner, Paul Mengelberg described it this way:


Quote:
Paul describes winters with snow up to a metre high, with temperatures sinking to minus 45 degrees C, and summers plagued by mosquitoes, black flies, and no-see-ums. It was a country of endless forests and no roads, “not even a path that went anywhere”. The only connection to the outside world was the Canadian Pacific Railway line, where the dispatcher lived in a hut with a telegraph key, and a phone link to the isolated village of Peninsula (now named Marathon).



There were some die hard Nazis in the camp population and these men planned a daring escape to coincide with Hitler's birthday on April 20.

They had dug a 150 foot long tunnel and were getting ready to go. But the rains came and the POW were concerned that the tunnel could collapse so 28 of them escaped two days earlier than planned, on April 18.

100 were supposed to get out but the guards heard noises and stopped the escape.

5 were found sleeping and two were shot and killed. Two others were wounded. Some accounts say that they attacked the soldiers who found them but other accounts say that they were shot on the ground, while asleep. In fact, the official archives confirm that the guards panicked and fearing that there were more around, started shooting.

The Mounties found four on a train that they happened to be on.

2 POW hopped another freight train and got to Alberta. That's quite a distance.

2 were found in downtown Montreal and another one was sitting in a barber shop in Ottawa.

It took about a week to get them all back.

From CBC archives, a 5 minute radio interview from 1981 with Paul Melady, who has written about the Escape from Camp X (or Angler or 101)

[Read More]

There were about 600 escape attempts in Canada throughout the war and the government tried to hush it up so that the citizens wouldn't be alarmed. A young reporter named Scott Young heard about the escape at 101 and it was his scoop that led to the public hearing about it.

And there was a bit of panic with reports from all across the country that citizens had seen a Nazi.

Cheers,

George

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/24/2017 3:23:36 PM
Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, The one that got away.



German fighter pilot ace Franz von Werra is purported to be the only POW to ever have escaped from Canada and who made it home.

There was a story of POW who jumped from his ship into the St. Lawrence but I do not know whether that was verified or whether he ever got home.

Von Werra was already a seasoned escaper from his time as a POW in Britain. That is why they decided to ship him to Canada where he was destined for a POW camp in northern Ontario. In one escape attempt in Britain, he was sitting at the controls of an aircraft, ready to take-off, when he was recaptured.

So off to Canada.

While in transit on board a prisoner train, von Werra jumped out a window along with a few other men, who were quickly caught.

The jump was made near Smith's Falls, Ontario, near Ottawa. He made his way to the St. Lawrence River and it being January of 1941, the river was frozen at the place that he chose to walk across. That would have been near Prescott, Ontario which is directly opposite Ogdensburg, NY.
But the river was open in the middle and he had to walk back to steal a row boat from a cottage. He dragged it to the open area and paddled to the US.

At this stage of the war, the US was seen as a safe haven for POW because it was neutral.

Von Werra turned himself in to authorities and contacted the German consulate. The German vice consul managed to get him out on bail.

EDIT: His only crime was illegal entry to the US.

Canadian authorities were negotiating with US authorities to have him extradited though I do not know on what grounds. The US was neutral after all.

Meanwhile the German vice consul spirited von Werra to Mexico. From there it was Brazil, Spain, Italy and finally home to a hero's welcome.

Hitler made a big deal of the escape of course and awarded him the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

The man was already an ace and he was deployed again to the eastern front where he claimed 13 more kills.

His unit was sent home for a rest and while there he experienced engine failure and crashed into the sea. His body was never recovered.

[Read More]


Cheers,

George


Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2960

Re: PoW Camps in Ontario
Posted on: 11/24/2017 8:30:52 PM
George,

So his escape was bad for the Allies, (13 more of their planes shot down by this guy! But it was worse for him, if he would have stayed put, as a POW in Canada, he would of survived the war, instead he was killed in battle!

to bad,
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1451

Re: POWs and Internees
Posted on: 11/24/2017 8:31:56 PM
I no longer try to understand the treatment of Japanese residents after Pearl Harbor, either in the US or in Canada. It is easy to talk about "hysterical responses" to PH, as it is about "rage against the Jap" after Hong Kong, of course, but it is also a fact that no such treatment was implemented against either German or Italian residents.

Increasingly, I've come to believe there was a large element of racial and cultural bigotry involved, at least in Canada. Whether this was also the case in the US I can't say, though recent "tributes" to those interned in the US that I have seen seem to try to make Japanese internment a government edict rather than an even remotely popular civic program. The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, placed on the site where the first 200+ Japanese Americans were taken into internment, from an island just west of Seattle, WA, is a moving tribute to those torn from their homes, and Wikipedia offers a decent but incomplete encapsulation of the story the memorial tells:
"Japanese immigrants first came to Bainbridge Island in the 1880s, working in sawmills and strawberry harvesting, and by the 1940s had become an integral part of the island's community.[3] Because of the island's proximity to naval bases, local Japanese Americans were the first in the whole country to be interned. 227 Japanese Americans were ordered to leave the island with six days' notice. They departed by ferry on March 30, 1942. The island had a total of 276 Japanese American residents at the time; those who were away from the island at the time due to study, military service, or other business were not permitted to return. Most internees were sent to Manzanar, California, though some were later transferred to Minidoka, Idaho.[1] Local newspapers such as The Bainbridge Review (made famous by the novel and film Snow Falling on Cedars) spoke out against the internment and continued to publish correspondence from internees. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer photograph of Bainbridge Island resident Fumiko Hayashida and her 13-month-old daughter preparing to board the ferry that day became famous as a symbol of the internment.[4] 150 returned to the island after the end of World War II. By 2011, about 90 survivors remained, of whom 20 still lived on the island.[3]"

Unmentioned in this is the fact that for administrative purposes the West Coast of the US was divided up into collection zones, and they numbered the zones from north to south. Bremerton was, I agree, an important naval base. So was San Diego, which was in the southern-most collection zone. I think the Japanese Americans on Bainbridge were collected first largely for administrative neatness.

A matter of perhaps 100 miles north of Bainbridge Island, Canada's Japanese citizens were facing similar internment practices. My memory and reading about the Canadian process is much less clear-cut than the picture painted for Bainbridge.

Canada had a vicious, ugly exclusionary policy that existed from the decades before Canada was created in 1867 until too long after the end of WW2. There were variations depending on whether you were East Indian, Chinese or Japanese, but it was clear that although you had been needed from time to time you were not welcome. The story of the Kamagata Maru is worth a search, just to get an idea of how badly white Canadians were willing to treat others.

The Japanese who came to Canada in the years after Japan was opened to the west still, in 1941, had no voting rights provincially or federally and could not be considered for various types of work. They faced routine discrimination, with their Chinese counterparts, because of their appearance. An like their Chinese counterparts, they often tended to live in "closed" communities in relatively few locations: Vancouver; Victoria; Prince Rupert; and certain areas of the Fraser River delta. They were market gardeners, supplying what would grow for their traditional foods. And because seafood was such a part of their diet, they became fishermen.

Canada interned some 20,000 Japanese with Canadian links of one sort or another. Honestly, it may have been in support of US decisions. Or it may have been in response to the butchery at Hong Kong. But it may also have occurred simply because Canada "didn't want Japs". Or because Japanese land would be auctioned off. Or because the prized and valuable fishing licenses and the boats attached to the licenses would be put on the block. IIRC, at least two of my uncles bought fish boats and licenses once owned by Japanese Canadians for a fraction of their market value. In all honesty, this smells of bigotry and racism and white arrogance rather than of military necessity.

I started school in 1946, in the whitest of white communities near Vancouver. Not a big municipality, but at the time filling 3 primary schools and one high school beyond capacity. Starting in 1947, Japanese students started appearing: the internment camps were being broken down, and some Japanese were returning to their location before the war. And they were also slipping back into a "closed" society. I don't blame them, to be honest. They knew they still weren't wanted.

When my brother's marriage broke up in the early 1970s, he was living in Prince Rupert, BC. It has some Japanese living there, largely linked with fishing. He won custody of his kids and decided to head to Vancouver for better job opportunities. A young Japanese Canadian woman offered a trade-off: she would become the children's nanny for one year with no pay, if my brother would provide her with room and board and some time off each week. She was trading money for opportunity. My father advised against it, because "you never know what kind of nastiness those Japs might indoctrinate your kids with!" My brother left for Vancouver without a nanny. You can't trust those Japs, after all!

How long can shit like this go on?

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: POWs and Internees
Posted on: 11/25/2017 7:01:50 AM
Brian, we as you know, are spending a lot of time and energy in trying to come to grips with our treatment of minorities and our indigenous people.

PM Trudeau just yesterday, apologized to the Innu of Labrador who were subjected to the seizure of the their children who were then sent to residential schools.

Now these schools were started in Newfoundland and Labrador by the colonial government, not Canada. But they were perpetuated after 1949.

It is good that we remember and reconcile, but I also think that we have to understand the mindset in Canada from the time that colonists started to arrive.

There was a belief in Empire, whether French at first and then British. There was a belief in the superiority of the white race.


There was a desire to create a society reflective of the mother country and that meant that inferior human beings had to be excluded.

I don't like it but homogeneity, white homogeneity was valued and lesser groups had to be marginalized. It is embarrassing to acknowledge it but we must.


If I may correct one of your first points. There was a sizeable Italian community in Ontario as the war began.

Many of the men were interned when Italy decided to become a combatant. Much of it was unfair but I can understand the rationale on the part of the government.

Italians like to join social clubs. They still do in the Toronto area. But many of the clubs in Ontario were on a watch list because the RCMP knew that they were sympathetic to Mussolini.

Some of the internees were high profile businessmen who had been lauded by the Ontario government for good works.

Members of the Canadian Union of Fascists were also interned. This association was based in Winnipeg.

There are a couple of accounts by Italian-Canadians who describe the day that Dad was taken away. I have read them and the authors tend to downplay the significance of membership in these social clubs. I don't believe that the Canadian government could afford to do that.

These men may have been going to the club to chat with people from their own part of Italy, to smoke and drink a little wine but there was sympathy expressed for Mussolini. The men may not have been serious threats and many were released after a few months but it was war time and there was concern.

[Read More]

Germans who were members of the Canadian Nazi Party were also interned.

Canadian members of the Communist Party were interned as well.


So it wasn't just the Japanese but the difference in motivation for the government seems clear. The Japanese had shown no interest in supporting the cause of Imperial Japan unlike some members of the Italian and German communities who may have indicated sympathies.

The internment of the Japanese seems most assuredly to be racially motivated and the numbers interned in comparison to German or Italian Canadians is far higher.

And there was no investigation on an individual basis. Being Japanese was sufficient to cause suspicion which led to internment and the theft of property and homes.

Cheers,

George



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