Marlag und Milag Nord
|Historical Name of Location||Westertimke, Weser-Ems, Germany|
Contributor: Hugh Martyr
ww2dbaseAfter some pressure from the International Red Cross, the Germans decided to separate naval prisoners of war from the merchant seamen that had been captured from vessels seized by German raiders, submarines, and land forces. A site at Westertimke in Lower Saxony, Germany which had been a Luftwaffe training Camp was chosen since two separate camps could easily be set up, having all the facilities already in situ. The two camps known as Milag (Marineinterniertenlager, "Marine internment camp") and Marlag (Marinelager, "Navy camp") were to house naval and merchant navy personnel, respectively. The camps were actually split into seven sections:
- Dulag (Lager I) was the special interrogation and transit for prisoners.
- Marlag (Lager II) was to house Royal Navy personnel. This was itself split into two. O Camp for officers and M Camp for other ranks. This camp began operation in Jul 1942. In late 1942, all ratings were sent to Stalag VIII-B at Lamsdorf, thus only non-commissioned officers were interned at M Camp. Marlag had 29 wooden huts.
- Milag (Lager III) was located 300 meters to the east of Marlag. It was for merchant marine internees of all nationalities. Like Marlag it was split into two for officers and seamen. This camp began operation in Feb 1942. Milag had 36 wooden huts.
- Milag (Inder) (Lager IV) was built later, in September 1943, to house Indian and other Asian seamen. It was located west of Westertimke.
- Wache (Lager V) was the accommodations for the camp guards.
- Kommandatur (Lager VI) was located just outside the gates of Milag. It housed the administration for the whole site.
- Stabslager (Lager VII) was housing and living quarters to all personnel administering the camps.
ww2dbaseAs in all prisoners of war camps, the area was surrounded by barbed wire fences with trip wires and no-go areas. Watch towers looked over the whole site which was divided by the wire fences. The old Luftwaffe barracks were in good condition with lighting and log burning stoves to heat them. Twenty-nine huts were in Marlag whilst there were thirty-six in Milag. Each hut had rooms to accommodate 14 to 16 men. Milag had at first 2,700 prisoners which grew up to 4,200 and at one time had 29 different nationalities, mostly from Great Britain and the Commonwealth with many Norwegians. A small number of Americans, both US Navy personnel as well as merchant seamen, had also been interned at this camp. In fact, this camp held most of the 5,000 Allied merchant seamen captured by the Germans during WW2. To ease overcrowding Milag (Inder) was set up for all the Indian and Asian internees. At first the camp was commanded by KapitĂ¤n zur See Schur, an Officer of the Old German Navy who was according to prisoners just and correct. He was replaced by FregattenkapitĂ¤n Schmit and his second in command KorvettenkapitĂ¤n Rogge. FregattenkapitĂ¤n Schmit was short and fat and looked like a pig. He weighed about 290 pounds, was five feet nine inches tall, about 54 years old and had grey hair. The security officer, Oberleutnant Schoof, was about six feet tall, weighed about 150 pounds and had a very thin long nose, dark skin and black hair. The prisoners did not come into contact with other members of the camp personnel.
ww2dbaseOverall the prisoners at the camps were treated well but towards the end of hostilities food and clothing was inadequate as it was across the whole of the Reich. The Red Cross and the YMCA were particularly helpful regarding the welfare of the prisoners. Recreational supplies, books and clothing were provided whenever requested, and whenever representatives of these two organizations came to the camp, the men had ready access to them and could usually obtain whatever they requested.
ww2dbaseLike other prisoners of war the inmates of the two camps made the most out of their internment, each camp had its own sports field and men organised their time with theatre performances, language courses, and sports events. Over time, due to having more visits by the Red Cross than some other camps due to having non-combatants, a library grew to hold of over 3,000 volumes. A "Milag Jockey Club" meeting would be held every Saturday evening when a track of 36 feet was used to race wooden horses controlled by dice. This weekly event became widely popular and later when the German Naval guards were replaced by older Army reservists some guards were known to bet on the outcome. Money was raised with a betting tax and donated to the Red Cross representatives on their visits.
ww2dbaseTowards the end of 1944, the camps' population started to swell as prisoners from other camps were brought in from the contracting German borders. On 2 April 1945, the Commandant announced that he had received orders to leave the camp with most of the guards. A small force would remain to hand over the establishment to the advancing British Army that were already in possession of Bremen just 40 kilometres away. However, this plan went awry when a force of SS-Feldgendarmerie arrived and marched over 3,000 British Naval personnel towards the east. The column was attacked on 3 April 1945 by RAF aircraft and several prisoners were killed. Finally, without food and shelter the Germans agreed with the British Officers, who offered them parole. The remainder of prisoners in the camps found themselves surrounded by a unit of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division which it seemed was using the prisoners as hostage. Fearing for their lives the prisoners started to dig trenches but soon reports that the British 11th Armoured Division was advancing rapidly had the result that the German soldiers just melted away to the west and surrendered. On 28 April, the column to the north east arrived at LĂĽbeck, Germany, where they would be liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division 3 days later on 1 May 1945.
ww2dbaseThe camp itself was liberated by British Guards Armoured Division on 27 April 1945.
ww2dbaseThe role of the camp was swiftly changed and German prisoners of war and high ranking Nazi Party officials all captured by the British were brought in and interrogated in the very rooms that the Gestapo and German Military Police had used for almost five years. One such prisoner was the Commandant of the Dachau Concentration Camp, SS-HauptstumfĂĽhrer Alexander Piorkowski. The O Camp, specifically, was renamed Civil Internment Camp No. 9 by the Allies.
ww2dbaseTwo British Officers, Lieutenants Denis Lelleher RNVR and Stewart Campbell FAA managed to escape the camp in early 1944 and arrived in Britain only 22 days later having been smuggled onto a Swedish ship in Bremen. Earlier, Lieutenant David James RNVR had escaped the Camp only to be re-captured in Lubeck; however in 1945, making use of the confusion in Germany, he escaped again and also took a Swedish ship to freedom.
ww2dbaseThere were some notable prisoners from the Royal Navy. Lieutenants David Hunter RM, and Ivan Ewart RNVR were both transferred to Colditz near Leipzig after making many escape attempts, and the two lieutenants, Donald Cameron RNR and Godfrey Place RN who had been captured after a midget submarine attack on the battleship Tirpitz were both held there.
ww2dbaseBetween 1952 and 1961 Milag was used as accommodation centre for female refugees from East Germany. The northern part of Milag was eventually built over with new housing, while the southern half was largely abandoned, with woods overgrowing the former camp. The Germany military took over the site of the Marlag in 1963 and operated it as the headquarters of the 31st Anti-aircraft Missile Battalion of the 4th Luftwaffe Division. In 1993, the German military moved out of the site, and the site was redeveloped as a business park.
The British Red Cross Society: "Reports From the Camps", multiple issues of The Prisoner of War, May 1942-Jul 1945
"War horse with a difference: How Merchant Navy PoWs passed time playing amazing horse-race dice game with 36ft indoor track", Daily Mail, 21 May 2012
Last Major Update: Oct 2020
Marlag und Milag Nord Timeline
|4 Feb 1945||About 3,000 men evacuated from Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany arrived at Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany. In order to accommodate them the entire population of Marlag's M Camp were moved into the O Camp.|
|2 Apr 1945||The commandant of Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany announced that he had received orders to leave the camp with most of the regular camp guards. In the afternoon, a detachment of over a hundred SS-Feldgendarmerie, who were outside the commandant's command, entered the camp, mustered over 3,000 men, and marched them out eastwards.|
|3 Apr 1945||The column of prisoners of war that SS-Feldgendarmerie personnel forced out of Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany on the previous day were strafed by RAF aircraft at about 1000 hours. Several prisoners were killed.|
|9 Apr 1945||The guards of Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany departed. They were replaced by older men, presumably local Volkssturm personnel.|
|18 Apr 1945||The column of prisoners of war that SS-Feldgendarmerie personnel forced out of Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany on 2 Apr 1945 crossed the River Elbe near Hamburg, Germany.|
|19 Apr 1945||Units of German 15th Panzergrenadier Division positioned tanks and artillery next to Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany. The remaining prisoners of the camp responded to the threat of a battle by digging slit trenches.|
|27 Apr 1945||British Guards Armoured Division liberated Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany.|
|28 Apr 1945||The column of prisoners of war that SS-Feldgendarmerie personnel forced out of Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany on 2 Apr 1945 arrived at LĂĽbeck, Germany.|
|1 May 1945||The column of prisoners of war that SS-Feldgendarmerie personnel forced out of Marlag und Milag Nord prisoners of war camp in Westertimke, Germany on 2 Apr 1945 were liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division in LĂĽbeck, Germany.|
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|WW2-Era Place Name||Westertimke, Weser-Ems, Germany|
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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945