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Friday 30th July 2021  

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Card from Quorn POW Camp to Germany, 17th September 1945

Quorn POW camp was based in the grounds of Quorn House, with the entrance on Wood Lane, where Northage Close is today. In 2021 Marion Hartmann, the granddaughter of Robert Heusel (POW no 656781), a former prisoner of war got in touch with the museum team and shared her grandfather’s story. Marion continues:

My grandfather was Robert Heusel (15/10/1908 to 16/08/1984). He was a German soldier in World War II and stationed in the area of the Scheldt in the Netherlands. I think he was a senior grenadier in the Grenadier Regiment 1020, 70th Infantry Division, 15th Army, Group B. In autumn 1944 he was captured by Canadian troops and handed over to the British Army.

Firstly he was taken to camp 2375, which was probably Zedelgem Camp near Bruges in Belgium. Then between 28th February 1945 and 24th March 1945 he was transferred to Camp 183. He described this correctly as a camp near Leicester, as it was Quorn camp on Wood Lane.

Unfortunately his health was not good - he had been chronically ill before his war deployment and had therefore come to a ‘stomach division’ in which chronically ill soldiers were brought together. His poor condition was probably the reason why he was released from captivity at the end of 1945 and was allowed to return home to his family in the Odenwald. One of the things he brought with him at the time was a discharge certificate with the stamp ‘ORDERLY ROOM No. 183 P/W CAMP’ and a kit bag in which he transported his few belongings. Both are still owned by the family today.

From his captivity, Robert wrote 15 messages to his family, but they are very short ‘standardised’ texts.
Sometimes he talked about the past, so I am currently interviewing my older family members on the subject. Accordingly, he got to know ‘corned beef’ and ‘porridge’ back then - he still enjoyed eating both after his return!

The card below was written by my grandfather Robert Heusel on 17th September 1945 from Quorn POW Camp, no 183. He penned it around 10 months after he was captured. This probably happened in November 1944 near the Scheldt estuary in the Netherlands. He was initially imprisoned in a camp in Belgium, and in the spring of 1945 he was transported to Quorn. This card is the earliest of 15 existing messages that he wrote to his family from his captivity and the first since April 1945, i.e. since the end of the war.

The prisoners of war had the right to write two letters and four postcards every month. But both the delivery of this mail and the receipt of mail from home were very difficult due to the war conditions and even after Germany surrendered until autumn 1945. This lack of information and the resulting uncertainty was very difficult to endure for many POWs.

Nowadays we are used to being constantly up to date. Imagine not hearing from your loved ones for months or years – and having every reason to worry because of a war.

In September 1945, pre-printed cards were distributed in the British POW camps, nicknamed ‘brown cards’. POWs could not write down any personal texts, only basic information such as ‘I am still alive’. The cards also carried a pre-printed sentence (in the German language): ‘A member of the defeated Wehrmacht is looking for his next of kin’. This imprint was part of the British re-education efforts to remind Germans of their unconditional surrender. According to reports, some prisoners refused to use the cards and burned them. Others, like Robert, were grateful for any contact.

I find this card particularly touching, because I believe that at that time, after so many months, my grandfather still had no news from his family in Germany and that he still did not know whether they had survived the war and if so how they had fared.

When this card from Robert reached his family is unfortunately not known, but it was probably before his return home. Because part of the card was cut off along a perforation. The recipient should send this part back - and that is exactly what Robert Frau Frieda has done. She and their two daughters had also survived the war and his family was able to embrace him again in December 1945.


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 Submitted on: 2021-06-23
 Submitted by: Marion Hartmann
 Artefact ID: 2453
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page or just on its own.

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