Kriegie Life

Kriegie Life: The Book, Part One

Kriegie Life: The Book, Part One
Kriegie Life: The Book, Part Two
Kriegie Life: The Book, Part Three
Kriegie Life: The Book, Part Four
The Story Behind the Book
Unpublished Portraits and Illustrations
About Carl Holmstrom
Contact Page
Links and Other Material

Here are the complete contents of Carl Holmstrom's book, Kriegie Life
"For you the War is over." 
With this strange introduction, the newly-imprisoned soldier met his German captor. Dazed by his capture and the speed with which a strange new life of lost freedom confronted him, realization came gradually. The ugly truth that complete mental, physical and emotional readjustment was necessary became a stark fact.  

The first ordeal was solitary confinement which lasted from six to thirty days, depending on the amount of information that the Germans thought they could obtain from the prisoner, particularly if he had been in underground activities or in Intelligence work. Questioning was done by a German officer who spoke excellent English (usually because he had lived in the United States) and who had a plentiful supply of American cigarettes. The "Kriegie" (Kriegie language, appearing in quotation marks in the text, is listed at the back of the book) tried to keep his sole visitor with him a long time in order to smoke as many of the cigarettes as possible.  
The prisoner was interned in a building which was divided into a series of cells, four feet by eight feet. Each room had for its only furniture a dilapidated bed, a chair and a small table.
Food given to the prisoner was an indigestible, small amount. For breakfast, there were two pieces of black bread, dyed in the middle to resemble jam, and "ersatz" tea. At lunch, there were a few small potatoes and a weak cabbage soup. In the evening, the prisoner received the same unappetizing meal as at breakfast.
Interrogation in solitary confinement in solitary confinement ended with assignment to a Stalag. Upon entering the barbed wire enclosure, the new Kriegie found a community with its own language, customs and code of ethics. Being captive on enemy soil made a bond that held these men together and was strengthened by a common cause. Tolerance and consideration for others grew from the confinement and restricted life. 
Since the English officers were the first prisoners to be captured, they originated most of the rules. In the camps, officers of all Allied nations were represented. Some Kriegies were slow to adapt to the social conditions established by fellow prisoners who had been in captivity two years or more. Any reluctance to adapt to these rules was usually cured by the "Silent Treatment."
A cartoon by the Belgian officer, Fl. Lt. Henry Picard, who lost his life in an attempt to escape from Stalag Luft III.
To exist, the prisoner had to develop talents and latent skills to provide the necessities of life. Materials from Red Cross parcels were converted into tools such as hack saws from the steel bands around the cardboard cartons.   Canadian packing crates of plywood yielded cupboards and room furniture.  Another source of supply was the heavy wooden boxes in which the Y.M.C.A. shipped school supplies.
Tin cans supplemented by barbed wire were converted into practical appliances such as cracker-grinders, stoves and even ovens.   Thus, assorted types of packaging furnished the prisoner a variety of materials.
Prison life is a phase of war of which little is generally known although it was history in the making.  These drawings made during imprisonment represent a sincere effort to portray, to the American people and especially to relatives of prisoners, intimate glimpses of Kriegie daily life.  Many of these pictures had to be concealed in the prison camp to safeguard them against confiscation by the Germans.
A number of sketches were lost on forced marches and in attempts to mail them home.
All drawings shown in this book were carried in preference to food and thus preserved for publication.


The author is a native of Branford, Connecticut, studied art at Pratt Institute, New York and graduated in 1940.  After enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps on March 6, 1941 and completing his training as a bombardier at Midland, Texas, he was commissioned a lieutenant and sent overseas.  On January 3, 1943, he was taken prisoner by the Germans on a Tunisian desert in Africa when his plane crashlanded.
After being shipped to Frankfort, Germany (Dulag Luft) for interrogation, he was placed in an enemy prison camp in Schubin, Poland (Oflag 21-B).  Upon the expiration of six-months time he was transferred to another prison camp at Sagan, Germany (Stalag Luft III).  Later he was on the infamous two-hundred mile forced march in a winter blizzard to Nuremburg, Germany (Stalag Luft III).

The approach of the American Army caused another forced march, this time to Moosburg, Germany (Stalag 7-A )  which is north of Munich.  He was finally liberated by General George Patton's Third Army on April 29, 1945.

Kriegie Life: Sketches by a Prisoner of War in Germany
© 2009, by Elizabeth Holmstrom, John Holmstrom, Susan Kohnowich and Anne Shumate.