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5  "A hole in the ground releases its occupants . . ." (Günter Eich)
Prisoners of War in the "Golden Mile"



On May 8th, 1945, according to American statistics, there were 252,592 prisoners of war in the camps near Remagen and Sinzig.  Conditions were devastating.  There was no drinking water or food, only a few prisoners had a coat or a tent canvas.  Life took place on the bare ground.  In order to protect themselves from the elements, the prisoners dug holes in the ground.  Due to the catastrophic hygienic conditions, disease became rampant.  There was not enough medication.

Following both crossings of the Rhine by Allied troops, at Remagen on March 7th, 1945 and at Wesel on March 23rd, 1945, the entire Ruhr Area was encircled, including over 300,000 German soldiers.  The number of German prisoners of war taken grew with each day of the American advance.  The three camps set up west of the Rhine, called “Prisoner of War Temporary Enclosures (PWTE), at Rheinberg, Remagen and Bad Kreuznach, were soon too small, though they had been set up to accommodate 50,000 prisoners each.  14 further PWTEs were set up.