Kriegie Life

Kriegie Life: The Book, Part Two

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Unpublished Portraits and Illustrations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
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Here are more of the sketches and illustrations from Kriegie Life: 
 The Kriegie learned quickly in his new life that food and wearing apparel were the prime essentials for existence.  A few months of cold wet weather proved the importance of shoes and clothing.  When moving from camp to camp these items received preference as all belongings were limited to the amount a man could carry.
 Each day began and ended with "appel" when all prisoners were counted by the Germans.  Attired in all sorts of made-over uniforms, the Kriegies looked more like hobos than soldiers.  It was not unusual to stand for hours when the count was incorrect because a prisoner was asleep in his sack.  These roll calls became a convenient time to make the periodic searches of the barracks for escape activities.
Wooden clogs were surprisingly warm and dry but not practical for walking. The types shown were purchased from the Germans with prison marks.  

Washing clothes was difficult as cold water removed little of the grease and dirt. The "dobie stick" used with a  "jam bucket" became the washing machine.  It consisted of a small tin can inserted into a larger one with both nailed to any available stick.  Occasionally hot water was obtained at the cook house but was rationed, one jug to a room.  Upper picture is a washroom in Oflag XXI-B.

Cooking became a challenge to ingenuity since the German rations offered only the monotonous diet of potatoes, barley, black bread and "Green Death" soup, with a variance of fish-cheese, blood sausage, or turnip jam.  The Red Cross parcels provided the supplementary foods that added the necessary vitamins and minerals. 

All work was carried out according to a rotating roster drawn up by the room members. A daily "stooge" performed the duties of sweeping the room, peeling potatoes, preparing vegetables and fetching water from the cook house in a battered jug or lead "kein Drinkwasser".  Room members helped with the monthly floor-washing task but bunks were made up and cleaned by each occupant.

 The Kriegie's life was an empty, monotonous routine.  Bewildered as to his future, hungry from morning till night, he passed his days dreaming of home.  Moods of depression came in cycles developing from lack of mail, self-pity, and cramped living conditions.  Excessive brooding caused some men to go "around the bend"  while others occupied their minds with reading, studying, drawing and crafts.
During the winter lack of heating facilities in addition to food deficiencies compelled many prisoners to stay in their bunks in order to keep warm.  Others remained there "logging sack time" to become "sack artists".
 Parcel day was the Kriegie's dream of Heaven. It meant a "bash", chocolate bar or "condendo".

In the entire camp, the only place of privacy was the Kriegie's own bunk as nobody sat there without his permission. It consisted of a paper mattress filled with wood shavings, supported by six bed-boards and covered by two "ersatz? blankets. Nightly bed-checks by the Germans required that P.O.W. numbers be printed on the side of the bed. 
As imprisonment lengthened the Kriegie added more shelves, photographs and general conveniences.  Here, he read his letters and tabulated them on a mail chart. At night card games helped to ease the strain of being locked in at dark. However fourteen men who lived, ate and slept in one room taxed the nerves.

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