Deposition of Capt. Henry J. Wynsen for the Judge Advocate Generalís Investigator

 

On 20 July 1945, Capt. Henry James Wysen, Youngstown, Ohio, was interviewed regarding hospital facilities at Stalag Luft IV, Pomerania, and also as to general conditions existing at the hospital and in the prison compounds.

          Wynsen was a Prisoner of War of the German Army from November 1942 to 26 April 1945. He was held at Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow, Pomerania from June 1944 to 6 February 1945. He was required to work in the camp hospital, rendering such assistance to American Prisoners of War, as he was able. Wynsen described Stalag Lift IV as consisting of four lagers, named A, B, C and D. Each lager was made to accommodate approximately sixteen hundred 1,600 prisoners, but crowding pushed the lager count from 2,300 to 2500 each. The total camp strength by January 1945, was approximately 10.000 prisoners. Rooms in barracks were at least fifty per cent (50%) overcrowded. Men were required to sleep on the floors and tables. The barracks were new but they were very difficult to keep clean because of lack of brooms, mops, and cleaning materials. The barracks were inadequately ventilated because of blackout regulations prohibiting the opening of windows and doors.

 

Latrines:

Each barracks had inside two‑hole latrines with urinals to accommodate two hundred and forty (240) men. Each lager had two outside latrines with approximately twenty (20) holes each. Each latrine was a cement lined stagnant pit, drained periodically by Russian Prisoners of War. This was drained and spread on a field adjacent to the camp.

 

Water:

Each compound had two large outside wells with pumps. This provided the drinking and washing water for the compound. According to German doctors, samples of the water were tested periodically and results showed the water to be potable. While at this camp, there were no cases of typhoid or cholera.

 

Bathing:

            There were no facilities available for bathing or delousing* Each barracks room had a pan for washing hands, face, body, and dishes. All water had to be carried into the barracks from the pumps outside in the compound.

 

Parasites:

Fleas lice, scabies, and bed bugs were common. The Germans furnished no insecticide or delousing powder. There were no cases of typhus in the camp.

 

Food:

Food consisted of daily ration of bread (approximately 300 Grams), margarine (30 grams), and plain boiled potatoes or a soup mixture made up of potatoes, and some other vegetables; usually cow turnips, carrots, or dehydrated sauerkraut. Meat allowance was 15 grams (one‑half ounce) daily. Barley was usually served every week. Cheese and ersatz jam was an occasional issue. Sugar (100 grams) was issued once each week. When Captain Wynsen arrived at Stalag IV, all Red Cross suppliers (food, clothing, and medical supplies) were under direct control of the Germans. The Germans refused to tell Cpt. Wynsen how many parcels were available in camp. It became necessary to make direct protest to the Red Cross representatives, but this was not effective. Captain Wynsen stated he estimated the prisoners at this camp received 1,200 calories of food daily. He arrived at the estimated number of calories, by using all food contained in Red Cross parcels, as well as, food furnished by the Germans.

 

Clothing:

While Captain Wynsen was at Stalag Luft IV, no American or British soldier was ever Issued any German clothing, socks, underwear, etc. It was the policy of German officers and enlisted men, at this camp, to purposely hinder the issuance of Red Cross clothing to American Prisoners of War.

 

Medical and Dental facilities:

 The hospital at Stalag Luft IV consisted of two buildings with a total bed space of 133 beds.  The number of beds available at this hospital was not sufficient to render proper medical care to the 10,000 men imprisoned at this camp. Shortage of hospital beds made adequate treatment difficult. At times patients were required to sleep on the floor, because of the bad shortage. In order to make room; the German doctor would sometimes discharge patients who were not well, in spite of protests of Cpt. Wynsen and other American and British doctors. Wynsen cited one case in which an American Prisoner, by the name of Steele, who was suffering from jaundice, was ordered out of the hospital by a German doctor, in spite of protests made. Several days later, Steele was readmitted to the hospital, in worse condition.

 

Drugs, Supplies and equipment:

      The hospital had double‑decker beds, except for a few single iron cots. There was one bathtub in the hospital. When Wynsen arrived at Stalag Luft IV, the hospital had bed sheets, but later on, while he was there, bed sheets were denied the hospital except where it was absolutely necessary for skin diseases. The dispensary was fairly well outfitted for medical examinations, treatment and minor surgery. There were no facilities for major surgery. All x-ray patients and major surgery patients had to be sent elsewhere as they could not be accommodated at the hospital. Sick call was held from 1030 hour to 1200 hour daily, in the lagers. Each. Lager had a make shift dispensary. Medical officers were accompanied to sick call by German guards and an English speaking interpreter. Germans generally gave a weekly issue of drugs. Influx of American and British Medical parcels was good and these, together with the German issue, made medical supplies adequate (except for such items as diphtheria anti‑toxin, syringes, gauze and thermometers).

 

Dental Facilities:

There was one British dental office, at this camp. Dental equipment was brought from the German revier to the Prisoner of War hospital, two or three time per week. There were practically no facilities for repair of bridgework. Silver alloy was difficult to get. Novocain was available.

 

Confiscation of medical Books:                                                                         

            When Captain Wynsen arrived at Stalag Luft IV, 28 June 1944, his medical books, clothing and fountain pen were confiscated by the Germans. He was told that these would be returned to him very shortly. In spite of aII protest, the Germans refused to return these items and told him that he should be glad to be live. The medical books were returned to Captain Wynsen, the first week in September 1944.

 

Bayoneting and Injury to Prisoners in the Course of "Runs" from Railroad Station to Stalag Luft IV:

            Captain Wynsen stated that on 17, 18, 19 July and 5 and 6 August 1944, he and Cpt. Wilber McKee treated injured American and British soldiers, who had been bayoneted, clubbed, and bitten by dogs, while on route from the railroad station to Stalag Luft IV, a distance of approximately three (3) kilometers. Most of the injuries were bayonet wounds, which varied from a break in the skin to punctured wounds three inches deep. The usual site was the buttock; hit sites included the back, flanks, and even the neck. The number of wounds varied from one to as many as sixty. One American soldier suffered severe dog bites on the calves of both legs, necessitating months of treatment in bed. The first bayonet patient seen by Dr. WYNSEN was in a hysterical condition with a punctured bayonet wound in his buttock. A medical tag was      fastened to his shirt with a diagnosis of ď sun stroke". For his "sun stroke" the man had been given tetanus anti‑toxin. This diagnosis was made by a German Captain named Summers.

None of the American prisoners died of bayonet wounds. It was estimated that there were over one hundred American and British bayoneted during the course of these runs to the Stalag.

 

General Physical Condition of Prisoners:

At no time was the camp without Red Cross food. The physical condition of the prisoners was fair. There were no cases of severe malnutrition. The average lose of weight per man was approximately fifteen pounds, up to the time of a forced march on 6 February 1945, at which time a portion of the camp personnel was evacuated.

 

Locking up of Medical Personnel:

When Cpt. Wynsen arrived at Stalag Luft IV in June 1944, prisoners were locked up at approx. 2130 hours. As the winter months approached and daytime shortened, the lock up time came earlier and by November 1944, the entire camp, including medical personnel, were looked in from 1600 hours to 0700 hours the next day. The working time for the doctors was limited from 0700 to 1600 hours. This was insufficient time for proper medical care of patients. After 1600 hours, patients in one hospital building could not be visited or attended by medical personnel living in the adjacent hospital buildings. These security regulations were not lifted, in spite of strong protests, until January 1945. In January, medical personnel were permitted to walk from one hospital building to the other until 2100 hours, provided they wore the Red Cross brassard on their arm.

 

Diseases Suffered by Prisoners of War:

1. Upper Respiratory: Coryza,  tonsillitis, pharyngitis, grippe. 30% to 40%.

2. War wounds to include fractures, 15% to 20%

3.Gastrointestinal.

Diarrhea: 5% average but as high as 50% during month of July. No typhoid, amoebiasis, or true dysentery.

                   Gastritis & Gastric Neuroses:10%

                   Peptic ulcer: None to 5%

                   Appendicitis: one case per month

4. Skin diseases:10%. furunculosis, pyoderma from infected scabies and lice bites were the most common. Trichophyton infection extremely common in summer months.

5. Contagious: Diphtheria: 3% to as high as 10%, with approximately 20% complicating post‑diphtheria paralyses. One emergency trachetomy. No deaths.

6.Jaundice: l%

7.Tuberculosis: Captain Wynsen had none, but other doctors had several cases. Ono death from miliary tuberculosis ending in tuberculosis meningitis.

S. Miscellaneous:10%          Paronychiae, hemarrhoeds, polyarthritis, arthritis, etc

 

German Medical Personnel at Stalag Luft IV, Pomerania:

Captain Summers (other possible spellings: Sommer or Sumer) was a medical officer and a captain in the Luftwaffe (Stabsarzt). Sommers was about forty years of age, five feet ten inches tall, had black hair, graying at the temples. He spoke some English, but would not admit it. He was chief of Prisoner of War Hospital at this camp.

            Birtel was a German sanitator, born in Vienna of Austrian descent. He was about fifty years of age, six feet tall, and weighed from 150 to 160 pounds He spoke good English, but had an accent. This man learned to speak English in China. He wore glasses for reading, but did not wear them all the time. He had dark hair, which was graying, a long thin face, and gray eyes.Birtel was a medical orderly with rank of Pfc. He was liaison man between Prisoners of War and German doctors.