Saturday 9 June 2012

German POW - the diary

Upon learning about my research, some friends kindly lent me a diary written by Helmut Weissenborn, a German POW. It's still in excellent condtion and as you can see, the cover looks like the uniform that the WWII German POW's here in Manitoba wore.

This book has beautiful penmanship and was illustrated by Karl Kafka - his illustrations go well with the author's sense of humour. It's written in rhyme which of course adds to the humour as well. For example, being behind barbed-wire (Stacheldraht in German) is described as staying in a Draht-Hotel. It took me a while to get used to the handwriting and the 'Berlin slang', which it's written in, so I'm sure some of the humour was lost on me.
 Nevertheless, I learned that everything in the book is about the author's time in England. And it's not like the book ends abruptly. It clearly doesn't. On the final page, Helmut tells his readers that even though the account of his time spent behind barbed-wire is recorded in a humous way, it's best to read between the lines, as it was not always easy. -- Seems like he used his sense of humour to help him cope with a difficult situation.


 I haven't been able to find out if Helmut and Karl ever came to Manitoba. He mentions briefly that they're heading for Canada at some point, but it's not clear when. But, I'm assuming he did, since this book is in Winnipeg. 

This was given to my friends by an acquaintance who would have liked to have it translated. It was misplaced and thus forgotten for many years, and was just recently found. So my friends asked if I wanted to see it. Hopefully, I'll be able to learn more about this sometime... Where it was from and how the owner got it? Did she know the author perhaps, or his family?

Along with this diary was another little red booklet. It's full of POW illustrations and has no name in it. So I'm not sure if it was the same illustrator as the diary. As you can see, the sketches in the diary are not coloured as the illustrations in the little red book are.

I know, this does not have anything to do with my own research, but interesting and intriguing nonetheless. So I would appreciate any light anybody can shed on this.

To read my previous posts on this topic, you can click on German POW in the lables.


  1. This is a great document Linda! Quite an idea to write the story of captivity in rhymes and verses! I wonder whether you'll find out when and if the author came to Canada after the war and where he settles.
    Liabe Griass aus der Schweiz.

  2. Hi: I have stumbled upon this article while doing some family genealogical investigation. I am hoping to connect with the owner of this diary (the author of the writing), as I am convinced this is my great uncle, whom I knew well as a child and prior to his passing. If it is in fact the work of my family member, I have specific details on experiences in POW in Canada and his eventual return (and life) in Germany.

  3. Hi, WJG. Send me an email with the contact me form on the right side of this blog, and I'll try to connect you to the person who has the diary. Thanks for visiting my blog.


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