Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Researching German WWII POW Visits to my Hutterite Colony

Thanks to inspiration from a friend, I've been spending much of my free time working on an intriguing project: During World War II, thousands of German prisoners of war were kept at a number of camps in Canada. During harvest many smaller satelite camps were set up in farming areas. From there the POW were assigned to help the farmers during this busy season. These camps, each with about twenty POW were guarded by WWI vets. One such camp was located just a mile east from our colony during summer and fall of 1945 and '46.

When the German prisoners learned about a Hutterite colony where people spoke their language, they lost no time acquainting themselves with them. The Hutterites were happy to make their acquaintance, since they hardly ever got a chance to speak German with non-Hutterites, but always English. So, with the bond of a commom language, coupled with Hutterite hearts feeling sympathy for the men who were kept in a strange land, they were warmly welcomed. Thus, this group of German men spent a lot of time at our colony, and the people who were here at the time still have very fond memories. It is for them, that I'm working on documenting this time in our colony's history.

While interviewing people I was able to learn some names:
  • Ernst Werdermann (settled in Manitoba after the war)
  • Kurt Sonntag
  • Hans Schwarz
  • Paul Schwarz
  • Fritz Wanderberg (settled in Manitoba after the war)
  • Hans Winter
Unfortunately, some of the others, only the first names were remembered: Bruno, Rudolf, Bubi, Rudi, Heinrich, Henry and one last name, Franz.

I can't help wondering if some of these men are still alive, or if their families know about their time spent at a Hutterite colony. It would mean a lot to me, as it would certainly enhance my article, if I'd be able to add some former POW perspective to it.

When I decided to post this to see what the world wide web comes up with, I knew it was like trying to find a Deutsch Mark in the Rhein, but I thought it was worth a try anyway. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Right? For who knows what this post will mean for my research! 

I'm hoping my readers will be kind enough to help me. If you have any German contacts, especially if they have the above mentioned surnames, could you please pass this post on to them? I would appreciate this very much and if anything developes, I will be sure to keep you posted. My heartfelt thanks in advance!

Should you have questions and/or thoughts about this, but don't want to leave a comment, feel free to click on 'contact me' right above my bio to the right of this post.


  1. I hope you get lost of responses.

  2. I'll be thrilled if I get even one, Katie. But yes, let's hope!

  3. A few years ago my husband and I visited a former WW2 camp for German POW's in Nebraska. We knew nothing about this part of American/German history. It was very interesting. Good luck with your project!

  4. The German POW who were in Canada apparently still have reunions in Germany every second year,but I don't know much about that.

  5. You might want to check out Library and Archives Canada. The website has a lot of interesting information and searches that you can do, I don’t know about POWs though.
    Check out whatever the Manitoba equivalent is to LAC, or get in touch with newspapers from your community and Winnipeg, there is probably archived reports there.
    Because they where military prisoners of war in WWII, their information might be hard to get because there are still servicemen alive from that conflict and privacy issues might turn up. Though you might want to check out episodes of “Ancestors in the Attic” television series on the internet for information on how to find different things, particularly the early episodes, later ones got theatrical and got away from a lot of the genealogical searching aspect of the show premise, that show was produced for “History Television” in Canada. There were a lot of German POWs in Canada so I hear.
    Another thing is to simply just ask, people love to talk if only one just asks.

  6. Hi Linda, this really is a great project! I don't know any people by the names mentioned but I'll try to think about means of finding out about those people! Keep me posted on the outcome of your research! good luck!

  7. If you know any Germans, could you please pass this on to them, Manuela. Who knows, maybe this will find its way to the right people.

  8. Hi Linda,
    After I wrote my initial reply a couple of other sources came to mind after I shut down for the day.
    You could check out the local Royal Canadian Legions in your area because there are most likely still people alive and going to these organizations who knew a thing or two out about your POWs, or at very least know how to get at the information you want to find. Similarly Historical Societies are good too for this because, frequently, you find you’ll meet people who are doing their own projects, and someone might be doing something similar, or maybe the same people as you.

  9. Thanks Shom, I tried both these places with no results. I've been told there's not too much written about POW, especially the about the ones in Manitoba.


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