• Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society Meeting

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    Name: Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society Meeting
    Date: November 11, 2018
    Time: 2:00 PM - 2:00 PM CST
    Event Description:
    The Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society's November meeting will be held on Sunday,November 11th at the Lincoln Learning Center611 3rd Street, Sterling, IL at 2:00 PM.
    Carol Chandler, a retired hospital nurse and a member of the Lee County Historical and Genealogical Society Board of Directors. will present a program titled
    "German POW's in Northern Illinois."
    During WW II, many of young men were fighting overseas leaving our factories and farms without the needed labor. Thousands of young German Prisoners of Wars were sent to the U.S. and their hard work had a profound effect on our prosperity, especially in the Midwest where agriculture is a mainstay. The program will show you, surprisingly, how these young men fit into our society                     
    These German POWs were a very much-needed labor force as there was an acute shortage of production workers. At first they were housed in former Civil Conservation Corps camps; fairgrounds; sports halls; schools; other public buildings. As prisoner numbers increased, they were held at military bases.
    News coverage of the camps was intentionally limited until the end of the war. Initially, prisoners worked in camps doing construction and maintenance. The National labor shortage soon led to requests from business owners for help in canneries, mills, farms, and other places not related to National security. Many camps were in the South, because heating costs were lower there. To make labor available where it was needed, the U. S. Army added 511 "branch camps" to the existing 156 main camps at military bases. Some prisoners lived in the homes of the farmers who needed their labor.  From August 1943 to May 1945, prisoners at Camp Grant could work 12 hours a day. Other examples of local POW work are:
    • Prisoners aged 16-to-25 worked in Sycamore, canning peas.
    • Laborers from Barbados first worked at a Sterling cannery, but they were replaced by German prisoners.
    • POW's harvested hemp in Polo, to make twine and ropes for ship rigging.
    • In Lanark, 375 Germans were sent to a cannery and food processing plant.
    • The Swiss Milk factory in Dixon is believed to have had a prisoner workforce.
    Between 1942 and 1945, 1073 escaped. Because they had been brought to the U. S. against their will they could not be prosecuted. They were not illegal aliens. Germany's "Great Escape" was from Camp Michaux, Cumberland County, PA. On Christmas Eve 1944, 25 prisoners escaped through a 200-foot tunnel. Georg Gartner escaped from Camp Deming, NM, on September 21, 1945, and finally surrendered in 1985--on the "Today" show. Gartner had remained at large for 40 years and now lives in Boulder, CO. He was the last German POW to be discovered and is now 93 years old.  
    The program is free and everyone is invited to attend. Refreshments will be served.
    Contact Terry Buckaloo at 815-622-6215 for questions or additional information.
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